As an OB/GYN resident I would meet for rounds in the conference room at the hospital with the head of the gynecologic department and the other residents every weekday morning. The head of our department was a slight man no more than 5’6″ tall. I’ll call him Dr. Jones to protect his privacy. As residents, we were responsible for examining our hospitalized patients, developing a plan, and making recommendations for further treatment as necessary. We were to be ready for questions about our patients’ diagnoses and any related medical issues. It was intense as Dr. Jones would ask searing questions and demand complete, but concise answers. If a resident’s answer did not satisfy him, there were always consequences.
One morning I described the actions of the nurses taking care of my patient a day after her surgery. Dr. Jones became so angry with my description of events that he stood up, grabbed his chair, and tossed it across the room. He then slammed the door as he left the room. We all sat there in stunned silence and fear. If we left and he returned, we would be in trouble. But how long should we wait for him? Well, 15 minutes later Dr. Jones returned to continue rounds as if nothing had happened.
What is it about sinning that makes us see God as an angry Dr. Jones? The story of Adam and Eve in Genesis 2 depicts a creative God of love. He not only has created the world as a place of beauty for their pleasure, but He visits and walks with them. And then in Genesis 3 after they have disobeyed God they hid from Him. But like a parent whose child has ran to her/his room after doing something wrong, God goes looking for Adam and Eve to be with them. God calls out to them and asks, “Where are you?” Adam answers with this response recorded in Genesis 3:10, “I heard the sound of you in the garden, and I was afraid, because I was naked, and I hid myself.”
Shame drives us to hide from God and be afraid of Him. We put on a mask because we don’t think we will be loved. We too often see God as a Dr. Jones whose response to us cannot be trusted. So we hide in fear. But this is not the God we read about in the Bible, but rather the god the devil wants us to believe is in charge of the universe. We are afraid of this god because he is all-powerful and unpredictable at the same time. This god does not love, but rather has arbitrary rules the he enforces at his whim. This god is a dictator, not a loving Father.
No wonder Jesus told the story of the father who patiently waited for his son to return home after leaving with his inheritance. We see a picture of a father who daily hopes and looks for his son’s return. And then one day after his son has spent every dime and ended up destitute, he decides to return home. And when he was still a long distance off, the father goes to meet him with open arms and cover his shame with his own glorious robe. This is the truth about God. This is the God the Psalmist describes we are to fear that is described as awe of His unfailing love. We read,
He does not deal with us according to our sins, nor repay us according to our iniquities. For as high as the heavens are above the earth, so great is his steadfast love toward those who fear him; as far as the east is from the west, so far does he remove our transgressions from us. (Psalm 103:10-12)
One fear causes us to hide in shame as we are afraid God is unloving and unfair. The other fear drives us to God in guilt as we stand in awe (fear) of His unending love and forgiveness. Which God do you see today?