It is the time of year when many people in Christian communities begin to contemplate the meaning of atonement and reconciliation with God through the atoning death of Jesus on the cross as we approach the Passover/Easter season. I find this time of year and this focus especially meaningful and moving. Atonement is a focus for the Jews during Yom Kippur, or the Day of Atonement, and so this concept of atonement is familiar in the Jewish community, as well.
If you are not part of either faith community, you may not have given atonement a lot of thought before, but I bet you are familiar with the concept of reconciliation. Before there can be atonement, there must be reconciliation of two parties who were once at odds with each other in some way for whatever reason.
For the purpose of today’s discussion, I would like to take a deeper look at reconciliation and atonement as it relates to our relationships with one another.
We are probably ALL familiar with the incident in the Garden of Eden between Adam, Eve and God. After eating the fruit of the Tree of the Knowledge of Good and Evil, the Bible reports that Adam and Eve hid themselves from God when they heard him walking in the shade of the garden. Adam replied to God’s question of why they hid by saying they hid themselves because they were afraid due to the fact that they were naked.
Any further explanation of what happened is pure speculation, because the Bible does not elaborate on Adam and Eve’s thought processes, emotions or conclusions about WHY they were afraid because of their nakedness. There have been many, many commentators and interpretations of why this was the case, but we are not told anything more by the text itself.
If we enter into the text put ourselves in the place of the disobedient Adam and Eve, we might surmise that the vulnerability of being completely naked when we had to come face to face with the One in authority over us would cause fear. My sense of this scene is that the act of taking what was forbidden caused Adam and Eve to experience a sense of separation from God. Such a serious sense of separation that they wanted to hide their physical vulnerability from God, as well as to literally hide so that they would not have to face the One who had given them the direction to NOT eat from that tree.
It is like what happens when we go against someone whom we love very much but have hurt somehow. The act of hurting that person creates a real sense of separation and fear of having to be face to face, so we distance ourselves and “hide,” so to speak.
But is that separation real? Was it real for Adam and Eve? How could they actually hide from God?! Psalms 139:7-16 expresses David’s awareness that there is nowhere he could go to hide from God’s Spirit. Nowhere! So the act of hiding creates a false separation, a separation that we sense as real, but which is, in truth, not real at all!
I believe that the sense of separation between us when we have a falling out of some sort is also not real. Is the sense of it real? You bet it is! But is it, in truth, possible to be separate from those with whom we are in community? I do not think so. They are part of our memories and will be forever–they are part of our heart—even if they are a painful part.
At this time of reconciliation with God through the sacrifice of Jesus Christ, I would encourage you to pay some thought to those with whom you have experienced separation this year, for whatever reasons, and find a way to stop hiding from them. The sense you have of separation from them is an illusion. It is not more real simply because you have the sense it is real. That sense is an illusion which will trick you, if you are not careful, into hiding naked in the shrubs from someone who probably loves you very much and from whom you may be able to receive forgiveness and reconciliation.
Why keep hiding? Come out from the shrubs and allow yourself to be vulnerable and seek reconciliation. I pray that you experience “at-one-ment” with your loved one again!