Fear - Part 2: The Origin

So when the woman saw that the tree was good for food, and that it was a delight to the eyes, and that the tree was to be desired to make one wise, she took of its fruit and ate, and she also gave some to her husband who was with her, and he ate. Then the eyes of both were opened, and they knew that they were naked. And they sewed fig leaves together and made themselves loincloths.

So when the woman saw that the tree was good for food, and that it was a delight to the eyes, and that the tree was to be desired to make one wise, she took of its fruit and ate, and she also gave some to her husband who was with her, and he ate. Then the eyes of both were opened, and they knew that they were naked. And they sewed fig leaves together and made themselves loincloths. And they heard the sound of the LORD God walking in the garden in the cool of the day, and the man and his wife hid themselves from the presence of the LORD God among the trees of the garden. But the LORD God called to the man and said to him, "Where are you?" And he said, "I heard the sound of you in the garden, and I was afraid, because I was naked, and I hid myself.'

-Genesis 3:6-10

Imagine the terror that Adam and Eve felt as the weight of depravity bore down upon their consciences. In an instant the only reality that they had ever known fractured. Rhythm and harmony collapsed. Hearts that once leaped in anticipation for the presence of their Creator now lurked in anxiety at the sound of His steps. Trust dissolved into trepidation. They were undone.

They must have felt at least a fraction of what the writer of Hebrews declares, "It is a fearful thing to fall into the hands of the living God" (Hebrews 10:31). I shudder to think how many times I have merely ignored or suppressed this thought and yet Adam and Eve could not escape or numb the truth of their guilt and shame.

Rather than ridicule Adam for his choice of refuge, I am struck by the thought that his response was actually quite rational (though rational and right are not synonymous). The pursuit of protection is an innate reaction. Fear reveals our vulnerability and we thus naturally seek covering. The one watching the horror film recoils and covers his or her eyes (my sister closes her eyes and covers her ears - she wants no stimuli whatsoever). The child sees the shadows of the approaching monster and pulls the covers over the head. Such cover offers no protection and yet we instinctively cling in vain to our valued refuge.

The problem with Adam's solution was not his desire for protection, nor his acting upon that desire, but rather the direction in which his desire led. Rather than run toward the One Whom he feared, he ran from Him. Rather than harbor himself within the sanctuary of the Creator, he hid within the shadows of the creation. We all do this. We all suppress the truth of God and worship, serve, conceal and pacify ourselves with the things which He has made (Romans 1). We are just like Adam.

It is interesting to think about life before the Fall. There existed no danger (beyond the possibility of sin) and thus no need for an instinctive reaction to danger. I think therefore that the very desire for protection is God's gift of grace embedded into the now fallen human nature. This longing for shelter should lead us like Adam to run to a tree, only this tree is covered with blood and not leaves.

Though my intention in this series is to address fear in its negative sense, I think it is helpful to begin with the fear of the LORD, for it is the beginning of all wisdom (Proverbs 1:7) and is the whole duty of man (Ecclesiastes 12:13). Perhaps if I feared the LORD a little more I would fear lizards a little less.