Come Out, Come Out, Wherever You Are!

A sermon based on Genesis 2:4b-9, 15-17, 3:1-11, 21-24a preached on June 7th, 2015

Come out, come out, wherever you are!

Those words are as old as time itself. We know them because as children we said them teasingly after counting to 50 or 100—as we finally were able to uncover our eyes and seek for the one who hid in some corner or closet—hoping, maybe, we could coax them out of their hiding space and into broad daylight, or maybe get them to betray their location if they laughed at those words.

Come out, come out, wherever you are!

This summer, for a couple Sunday mornings at least, we’re going through Brené Brown’s book The Gifts of Imperfection. It’s a guide to wholehearted living.

Now, I’m not a fan of the self-help section of the bookstore. I think most books shoved into those aisles are fluff. The covers have the author’s overly smiley face plastered on it as well as a promise to cure you from whatever ails you in 5 easy steps. The Gifts of Imperfection isn’t that kind of book.

Brené Brown is a shame researcher. She has spent most her career interviewing woman and men (mostly women), sitting down and having conversations with them about what sorts of things get in their way from living a wholehearted life. And after 1,000’s of these interviews, what Brené realized is that she was just like most of her interviewees. She realized she spent most of her life thinking she wasn’t enough, that she had a tendency to shortchange her abilities and yield to others around her who, she supposed, knew how to do things better than she did. Brené looks back and realized that for most of her life, she got in her own way, she didn’t claim her strongest voice or her rightful space among colleagues, and family, and friends. And she realized that shame, the thing she set her life to study in others, was the very thing that was getting in her way from living life whole-heartedly. Brené says this about shame: We all have it—it’s universal. And we’re all afraid to talk about it; and the less we talk about it, the more control it has over our lives. She defines shame as the fear of being unlovable.

Shame, Brené writes, is the intensely painful feeling or experience of believing that we are flawed and therefore unworthy of love and belonging.

Shame is that thing that has us wonder if others would still like us if they knew the real truth about who we are, where we come from, what we believe, and how much we’re struggling. And even though every single one of us knows shame, for some reason we have all convinced ourselves that the shame we feel inside is something nobody else ever experiences. We have also convinced ourselves that if we ever dared to share aloud our shame, that would alienate us even more—alienate us from friends, family, and the people we live our lives with. But, Brené Brown has actually found that the opposite is true. Through both her research on shame and her own personal experience in sharing her shame and vulnerabilities with others, she says that when we share ourselves, warts and scars and all, with others—even with strangers, we open up new and safe spaces for everyone who’s listening to be their honest selves and share themselves with you.

Come out, come out, wherever you are!

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Whether or not you believe Adam and Eve were historical people—the very first 2 people to walk the planet or not—is besides the point. This story is a profoundly true story whether or not you believe that. This story is profoundly true because Adam and Eve’s tendencies are also our tendencies. God gives an entire paradise to them—there’s plenty there to sustain them, plenty of trees and plants to eat, water to drink, but Adam and Eve want more. And once God says to them,

Everything here is yours except for that one tree over there.

Guess what happens? They want that one tree “over there” more than they want anything else in the Garden. They become curious, and their curiosity becomes their fixation, and before we know it they’re diving headfirst into the fruit that it grows. We know that feeling. We experience that feeling every single day of our lives. We are Adam and Eve. And what happens in the Garden of Eden always happens. Adam and Eve represent all of us. This story is about our tendencies.

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There are many things we have to unlearn about the story of Adam and Eve, the most important of which is this: Based upon this story—one of the very first from the bible—we have sin all wrong. We think of sin, or sins, as immorality, doing what’s wrong, or a refusal to be good or law-abiding. We think about sin as the breaking of moral codes or rules. Now, being a moral and law-abiding person is all well and good—in fact, I’d recommend it, but that’s not what sin is. According to this story and many others throughout the bible, sin is something much deeper than all that. Sin is really about relationships. It’s about our relationship to ourselves, to others, and to God. Sin is our unwillingness to love ourselves and others, as well as our unwillingness to let ourselves be loved by God. Sin, at its heart, is broken relationship. t’s our age-old tendency to run away from God and hide. And, according to Genesis 2 aInd 3, that tendency of ours goes all the way back to the very beginning. Only when we understand sin as our unwillingness to love and be loved will we understand the power of sin in our lives. And if we see sin in this way, as a sort of hiding away, doesn’t it sound a whole lot like shame?

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At the very beginning in the Garden of Eden, God went for walks. He strolled the garden, seeking to walk alongside Adam and Eve—to share life with them. That’s the thing that God wants most: to be in relationship with us. But our tendency—and remember, this is a story about our tendencies!—is to go it alone, to try to live life independently, apart from God. And in order to understand that tendency of ours fully, we first have to understand all this business about the Tree of the Knowledge of Good and Evil. That’s the tree Adam and Eve are so curious about. What harm would come us to if we ate from a tree like that? Knowledge is good, and knowledge of what is good and what is evil sounds like a perfect thing for human beings to know and be able to discern on their own, so what’s going on here? What’s the big deal about this tree?

This is the big deal: Adam and Eve and you and I, we want to know about what’s good and what’s evil on our own so we can live our lives independently and autonomously. What God wants is something different than that. God doesn’t want us to know good and evil all on our own. God wants us to ask Him everyday what’s good and what’s evil. God would much rather have us rely upon Him daily for that than for us to try to figure that out on our own—pretending like we’re self-governing—like we’re all islands unto ourselves, in no need to look God’s way for everyday guidance. So, by taking matters into their own hands and eating from the Tree of the Knowledge of Good and Evil, Adam and Eve did just that: they struck out on their own, choosing to live their lives and do their own thing without God’s help.

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God craves relationship with us. God wants to walk beside us everyday, just as He loved to stroll the Garden with the very first human beings. God wants us to learn afresh from Him every day, to rely upon Him for our daily sustenance. That’s why Jesus prays, “Give us this daily our daily bread,” and it’s why he says we shouldn’t worry about tomorrow when the birds of the air and the lilies of the field don’t. But our tendency is to try life out for ourselves—to go our own way. And in striking out on our own and living life under our own determination, things go off the rails. And that’s when we find Adam and Eve hiding. They’re naked and ashamed, the text says. After who knows how many days or weeks or months of strolling naked through paradise without one ounce or thought of shame—not even knowing what shame is—suddenly we find Adam and Eve hidden away, afraid to come out and show themselves to the God who is calling them.

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Brenè Brown says that shame and guilt are two different things. Guilt is “I did something bad.” Shame is “I am something bad.”

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Joy Williams is a musician and singer. Many of you might know her as one-half of The Civil Wars, but she’s been recording albums for years and years, and she has an album called Genesis and a song on that album called Hide. Here are some of the words:

To anyone who hides behind a smile

To anyone who holds their pain inside

To anyone who thinks they’re not good enough

To anyone who feels unworthy of love

To anyone who ever closed the door

Closed their eyes and locked themselves away

You don’t have to hide

You don’t have to hide anymore

You don’t have to face this on your own

You don’t have to hide anymore

So come out, come out, come out wherever you are

To anyone who’s trying to cover up their scars

To anyone who’s ever made a big mistake

We’ve all been there, so don’t be ashamed

Come out, come out and join the rest of us

You’ve been alone for way too long

Friends, we don’t have to hide. We don’t have to live our lives with any kind of shame. And as Brenè Brown has discovered, the more we talk about shame, the more we step out from our hiding places and let others see it, the more we will shame shame itself, and the healthier we will become.

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One last thing: Look at the verse 21. God sees Adam and Eve’s shame and vulnerability in being naked and he soothes it by making clothes for them. See, in the beginning of the story God says if they eat from the Tree of the Knowledge of Good and Evil, they would die. But in the end, God doesn’t punish them. God comforts them in their shame, and gives them what they need to emerge from their hiding place and into the light of truth and beauty—right where God wants each of us. So, come out, come out, wherever you are!

All praises to the One who made it all and finds it beautiful!

Alleluia! Amen.

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