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First Fear

Do you remember the first time you felt scared? That sudden, figurative punch to the gut that takes your breathe away and leaves that queasy feeling inside your chest? I don’t remember the first time I felt scared; but I do have memories ingrained in my mind that encompass those moments.

In my journey of healing and exploring what my fears are and how to conquer them, I came to the decision that looking at what the Bible has to say about it could be helpful. I’m am still in the midst of studying the vast-ness that seems to pour forth on this word study. If you have never done a word study in the Bible, I would encourage you to challenge yourself to do it. The general concept is being able to look for words and then reference back to their original language to get the fullness that was intended. Despite the complexity of English, our vocabulary can be quite dry and simple compared to depth of the Hebrew, Aramaic, or Greek languages.

So let’s look at the word fear. The first question I asked was, “When does fear first appear in the Bible?”

Genesis 3:10: He said, “I heard the sound of You in the garden, and I was afraid because I was naked; so I hid myself.”

Context always rules, so when looking at a verse, you also need to look at the context of the chapter, book, and the Bible in it’s entirety. Many things have been used to prove a point by someone who has taken verses completely out of context. So what is happening in the context of this verse?

Adam and Eve have been hanging out in the garden. They were the icing on God’s creation. And in God’s creation, everything He made was good. Take a moment and imagine what life could be like with no shame. Imagine the intimacy, not just physically, that a husband and wife could experience with no shame. There is no death, fear, guilt, shame; the biggest emotions and life experiences we encounter don’t exist. The atmosphere and weather are better than San Diego. They get to see and interact with God every day. There is no doubt or questioning of their faith because they can see everything clearly and plainly. It is literally, perfect.

And then enters the culprit. He slithers in, whispering things into Eve’s ear, because he knows that she has an influence on Adam. Women, particularly wives, have a very strong influence on their husbands. Satan challenges her and says, “Did God really say that you would die if you ate the fruit? No, no, God knows you’ll be like Him if you do. You won’t die.” So, as it says, Eve “saw that the tree was good for food, a delight to the eye, and the tree was desirable to make one wise, she took from it’s fruit and ate it.” (Genesis 3:6, NASB)

Has that ever happened to you? You believed something and somehow it ended up not working out how it was promised? And maybe even being the catalyst to drastic consequences in your life?

Fear is an emotion, but, as many emotions do, it causes a physiological response. Smart people who study the brain and the central nervous system have dubbed this response the “fight or flight,” response. Some say there is a third option of “fight, flight, or freeze.” In this description in the psychology world, we look at how one reacts when put in a position of fear. The emotion of fear is described as uneasiness and terror caused by the belief that someone or something is dangerous and a threat; and there will be pain because of the interaction with this thing or person.

Before they ate the fruit from the tree God had commanded them not to, Adam and Eve were able to walk, naked, with each other and with God. After they ate the fruit, the first thing they did was hide.

Shame is the fear of believing you are unworthy. Literally, in the time it took to pick a piece of fruit off a tree and bite it, Adam and Eve went from walking with each other and God completely unhindered, in real and raw beauty, to believing that there was something wrong with them, they weren’t worthy of God’s love and companionship, and they had to hide.

Fear causes you to hide. It makes us want to run away (flight) and hide in hopes that we will be protected. That somehow, someway, we will be saved. So we find fig leaves that we can cover ourselves with. Maybe those fig leaves are our appearance. If I look a certain way, they won’t know I have an eating disorder. Maybe it’s a job. If I have this position/career, they won’t know I feel insecure and completely inadequate. Maybe it’s a relationship. If I am in this relationship with __________, they won’t know that I feel so alone and unloved because I was abused as a child. Maybe it’s a drug. If I am the life of the party, they won’t know I am depressed and filled with anxiety when I am around people.

We hide from people who care and ask the tough questions. Tough questions such as what God asked, “Where are you Adam?” God didn’t ask that question because He didn’t know. He knew where Adam was. He asked because the separation from the Creator and His creation had taken place and He wanted Adam to answer Him so the truth could be revealed.

I have hidden from people who have asked the tough questions. Those people who challenge me and want to keep me accountable. The people that care enough to say the things that I need to hear to be able to grow and become healed. There are things that I don’t want to face or deal with. I don’t want to have those difficult conversations with people in my family or friends that there are tensions with. I don’t want to stop eating chocolate despite needing to loose to weight. I want to be able to ignore and hide and pretend there is nothing wrong.

Adam and Eve are still hanging out in the garden, and God is there, calling out to them, and they are hiding. A question to ask may be, “Am I hiding even though God is calling out to me?” Finally, Adam says something.

Genesis 3:10: He said, “I heard the sound of You in the garden, and I was afraid because I was naked; so I hid myself.”

Immediately God asks more tough questions (seriously, those God questions!):

Genesis 3:11: And He [God] said, “Who told you that you were naked? Have you eaten from the tree of which I have commanded you not to?”

Adam responds in a way that I believe has scarred the woman’s heart forever. He fought. He was scared. He was feeling the uneasiness and terror because he believed he was unworthy of God’s love and companionship. And God’s questions weren’t making him feel better. He felt he was backed into the figurative corner, and since he couldn’t run anymore, he decided to fight.

Genesis 3:12: The man said, “The woman whom You gave to be with me, she gave me from the tree, and I ate.”

Adam blames Eve. He throws her under the per-verbal bus. I’m sure Eve is feeling as low as she can in these moments. And here she is, standing with her man facing the Creator and Adam blames her. Her heart must have broke completely in that moment. In the fight response, we will fight dirty. We will take down whomever we need to take down to save ourselves. And then, after Adam blames his wife, he blames God.

I’ve blamed God for things too. Have you? Are you? I've blamed other people for things. Have you? Are you?

God turns to Eve and asks another tough question:

Genesis 3:13: Then the LORD God said to the woman, “What is this you have done?” And the woman said, “The serpent deceived me, and I ate.

Eve couldn’t run and hide. She couldn’t fight either. She was completely shattered and broken. She had been deceived and used by the serpent to influence her husband. And her husband added to her shame and pain by separating himself from her and betraying her for the sake of his own protection. She was completely frozen. And all she could do was surrender.

When we are frozen and surrender to fear, it takes away any drive or spark within us. We can become apathetic, cold, hard, and disconnected from anything that is good. It can isolate us because we are so anxiety filled and depressed that no one knows how to relate to us. That isolation can then take us down dark paths that involve substance use, trauma, abuse, and suicide.

The story doesn’t end there. God is done asking his questions and the truth and reality are on the table. He lays out the consequences for this disobedience. But, in His grace and mercy, God does something to protect Adam and Eve. There was another tree in the garden that Adam and Eve WERE allowed to eat from, the tree of life. And this tree gave eternal life. If they had eaten of it, they, and we their offspring, would have eternally been stuck in the condition we are because of sin. So God kicks them out of the garden in an act of mercy. And the road ahead is one that is unknown. Fear can come from a lack of knowing, understanding, or consistency. I am sure Adam and Eve had many moments of fear living life outside the garden, because we all have moments such as these in our daily lives. They are just wrapped up in words such as anxiety, phobias, and stress to name a few.

Is any of this striking a chord in your heart and mind? Can you relate? Check out my confession and struggles below, and then take some to look at your life by answering the journaling prompts.

Megan's Messy Memoir

My biggest fear is rejection. It is a wound that pierced my heart as a very young child. So when I read this account in the Bible, I can relate. My instinct it to run and hide, so I won't get hurt. I have a history of cutting off relationships, suppressing my feelings, and gossiping to make myself look (and in the moment, feel) better.

Points to Ponder

How do you react when you are faced with something that stirs up the emotion of fear?

Do you hide (flight), retaliate and blame (fight), or completely surrender (freeze)?

What are some of the ways you've acted out in each area in those moments of fear?

What are some of your biggest fears?

How do you deal with them?

Can you relate to any aspect of this Biblical story?

Which part(s)?

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