Shame Like an Abscess
Then the eyes of both were opened, and they knew that they were naked. And they sewed fig leaves together and made themselves loincloths. Genesis 3:7
I still work some urgent care hours, which means that I frequently meet patients who have a painful abscess. With such an infection – a collection of pus under the skin – antibiotics simply don’t work, so it must be anesthetized and then incised with a scalpel, expressing the purulent contents. Adult patients don’t enjoy this procedure, but they understand it. Kids, however, can’t understand the worst part of my job – that sometimes I must inflict pain to heal. If given the option, the child with an abscess would just put a Band-Aid on it and call it good. That Band-Aid may bring some temporary relief, but adults know that a Band-Aid doesn’t fix an abscess.
I’ve tried the Band-Aid option myself though. In my addiction, while wallowing in shame, I went to my doctor, asking for an antidepressant, which in my case, was simply a Band-Aid. I didn’t need antidepressants. I needed to stop using drugs. Later, when my life fell apart due to my addiction and I was drowning in the shame, I attempted to avoid consequences. I tried to stop my life from imploding and I tried to keep my problem a secret. When I finally was in treatment, those who observed my tremendous shame told me I must forgive myself. None of those vain attempts fixed anything though. They were all useless Band-Aids.
In today’s passage, Adam and Eve reached for the very first Band-Aid. In the story, they’d just eaten of the forbidden fruit when the eyes of both were opened, and they knew that they were naked. They sinned. They felt overwhelming shame . . . and promptly got some fig leaves to cover their genitals. Nothing fixes sin like fig-leaf underwear, right? Adam and Eve should have addressed their transgression. They should have gone to God in repentance. They should have faced the problem. Instead, they constructed a fig-leaf Band-Aid and hid themselves.
While floundering in my shame, realizing that none of my Band-Aids were helping, I finally embraced the radical scalpel option. I realized that to properly address my shame, I had to amputate the source of that shame. I had to get sober. I had to return to my faith. I had to embrace recovery. I had to change my entire self, living a completely different life, for the rest of my life. That’s not been easy. Sometimes it’s been painful. What were my options though? If I wanted to find freedom from my shame, my only choice was to rid myself of its cause – no matter how painful that was.