Tuesday, August 02, 2011

The First Fear

It has always been reported that the greatest fear people have is public speaking. Never having been cursed with that particular fear I had never thought much about what might be one of those basic primal fears. There are a number of possibilities of course...

1) Fear of being eaten alive by predators;
2) Fear of the dark;
3) Fear of death.

But Sunday morning my Pastor Wife preached on fear, which is an important subject since there are, allegedly, 366 instances of "Fear not!" in the Bible. It seems to be the single most important "command" from heavenly messengers of all types.

But then she went back to the first moment when a human being, facing the creator, was afraid. It goes back to the scene in the Garden after the encounter with the serpent and the apple. Adam hides when God comes roaming through the Garden. When God asks why Adam is afraid, Adam responds with all seeming innocence...

I was naked and therefore afraid.
Being naked.

If, as I believe, the Biblical record gives us a glimpse into the ancient human psyche and its very primitive if not primal responses, perhaps the fear of being seen naked is one of those first and foremost fears.

Being naked leaves us vulnerable. It leaves us unprotected and possibly even unprotectable. It leaves us open to all our humanity being displayed for all to see. Psychologically it is therefore a potentially disastrous possibility.

Perhaps the underlying symbolism is the very act of being born. And dying.
"Naked I came from my mother's womb, and naked I will depart." -Job 1:21 (NIV)
the very fact that Adam knows he is naked is important. He has now come into knowledge of good and evil. He knows he is naked. He knows that before the great and awesome God he is nothing. That is new. That is the loss of innocence and the beginning of fear.

So he hid.

Like all of us when faced with what we perceive as our shame. But it is not the shame- why would he feel that? It is the fear. It is perhaps the fear of punishment NOW KNOWING he has disobeyed. But beneath that and deeper than that he now knows he is vulnerable. There is a God and Adam isn't Him.

Maybe all the other fears branch from this basic human awareness of being ultimately vulnerable. Powerless. Maybe fear could have a different result if we stopped thinking we are in charge and allow life to be life. Sure, easier said than done, but it is worth a shot.

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