Updated: Feb 4
And they heard the sound of the LORD God walking in the garden in the cool of the day, and Adam and his wife hid themselves from the presence of the LORD God among the trees of the garden.
Adam and Eve, our oldest ancestors “hid” as a response to their own feelings of shame and pain. And we seem to have this tactic wired into our DNA. Hiding as I will define it, is a way to avoid dealing with the truth. We do this through a variety of techniques psychologists call defense mechanisms.
When we engage in a variety of defense mechanisms ( and some of them are actually helpful in the short run) we are preventing ourselves and others from absorbing the full impact of the truth. And we know that when we hide the truth the consequences come out often in painful ways through destructive habits, and sometimes in broken or unhealthy relationships.
It can be difficult to come out from hiding. When we drop the defense mechanisms that protect us, we can feel vulnerable, raw, exposed and shame filled. However, God calls us to come out of hiding, not to punish us but to heal us. And he calls us to accountability with those who love and care for us and can see our blind spots and can recognize and remind us when we are hiding.
That is the work of healing relationships. These relationships can be found in friendships, family, our places of worship. And they can be found in a good therapeutic relationship as well.
The keys that help people open up and come out of hiding, are feeling accepted, cared about, and often validated that their experiences make sense. When we sense warm acceptance first, we can be open to gentle, curious challenges to unhealthy behavioral or thought patterns. Within the context of a warm accepting relationship, we can be willing to make changes in unhealthy habits and coping skills and learned behaviors if there is hope being held out for something far more life giving than what we experience in our hidden state.
It is difficult for anyone to expose the underbelly of shame and pain if there is fear of punishment, ridicule, disgust or contempt, and many people fear that reaction from others, and sometimes from themselves as well. That’s why compassion is such a necessary ingredient from a “healing other.” And that is why self compassion is necessary for the beginning of self reflection. We need to look at ourselves and others with kind eyes. Kindness moves a heart far more profoundly than criticism.
It is hard to get that sense of self compassion without experiencing it first from another first. The originator of this compassion is God himself and one of the best books on the topic is Gentle and Lowly by Dane Ortlund. This beautiful book describes eloquently the heart of Christ as he seeks out and enters the hiding places of those sinning and suffering to heal them and to bring them out of the dark and lonely places in which they hide to reconcile His hearth with theirs.
Those who have experienced the radical life changing compassion become a source of it to pass on to another, much like a flame can be passed from one to another without diminishing the original light. It is in a spirit of compassion that we are able to stop hiding and to love well those whom we long to coax out into hope, healing and light.
This post has been part of the FMF community. A group of writers who write for 5 minutes on a given prompt each week.