It’s hard to believe, but our “new” baby girl is getting close to a year and a half old already. Evelyn is a sweet and active girl, smart and in love with reading books. She is astoundingly patient, inquisitive, happy, and almost always fusses or cries because of some legitimate reason. She seems perfect—though I may be slightly biased 😛
Recently, however, I noticed something for the first time in my flawless princess: evidence of the Fall!
I know, so hard to believe, right? Yet here she is a toddler barely learning to speak, and I can already see signs of her brokenness, the scar on the image of God within her.
The interesting thing about it is that it came in a different form that I might have expected. I have heard people talking about this idea before. They regale people with stories of how obviously sinful toddlers are, proof that we are born evil and in need of redemption.
Disobedience, lies, selfishness, and general terrible behavior are cited as the evidence of original sin embedded in these ultimately hell-bound children.
While Evelyn can be frustrating at times and even make me angry, at this point there is very little she might do—or even has the ability to do—that I would describe as sin. She is still learning how to interact with her environment, with us as her parents, and even how to speak and understand language.
So if I don’t see her being sinful or behaving badly, how do I see the effects of sin in her? The answer is not so much on what she does as how she feels.
For no reason that Chrissy or I could explain by Evelyn’s experiences, she shows us that she feels shame, fear, and guilt.
While they are all appropriate at certain times, none of them would exist without the Fall. Even more, I would think these emotions would be learned, that she would pick them up by being shamed, intimidated, or accused. But Evelyn shows these emotions in situations when we have no idea why she would feel that way.
What does this say about her? What does it say about all of us?
Perhaps the sinful nature inherited from Adam and Eve described by the Bible has less to do with making us evil from the time we are embryos onward as it does with crippling us in our spirits. Maybe Evelyn is not so much compelled to misbehave as she is cursed to feel inadequate, anticipate judgment, and doubt her strengths and validity.
Chrissy and I are doing everything we know how to make sure Evelyn not only is loved but that she feels loved. We are doing everything we can to empower her to love herself, love people, and love Jesus. We want her to be confident in her Maker, and shameless, fearless, and guiltless. We do not hit her, scream at her, or belittle her. We do correct her and teach her, but we do what we do for her good and the good of our family, not for our own convenience or vindictive satisfaction.
Unfortunately, while we may influence her, we cannot remove the shame she feels or the fear in her life. We cannot take away the guilt she accumulates. These things are built into her, hardwired and perpetuated as our human default settings.
And it comes from sin—our sin, Adam’s sin, our family’s sins.
“6 So when the woman saw that the tree was good for food, and that it was a delight to the eyes, and that the tree was to be desired to make one wise, she took of its fruit and ate; and she also gave some to her husband, who was with her, and he ate. 7 Then the eyes of both were opened, and they knew that they were naked; and they sewed fig leaves together and made loincloths for themselves. 8 They heard the sound of the LORD God walking in the garden at the time of the evening breeze, and the man and his wife hid themselves from the presence of the LORD God among the trees of the garden. 9 But the LORD God called to the man, and said to him, ‘Where are you?’ 10 He said, ‘I heard the sound of you in the garden, and I was afraid, because I was naked; and I hid myself.’ (Gen 3:6-10 NRSV)”
We have been hiding from God ever since. We feel the shame of sin, and we hide from the only one who takes it away.
I love Evelyn, and I would much rather her feel safe and comforted by me whether or not she has done something I might not like than feel afraid I might find out. How much more does Jesus want to rescue us and share his honor, his goodness with us?
I anticipate learning a lot from Evelyn in the years to come, and this insight is one of many she will give me. It makes me wonder, what in my life controls me through shame, makes me hide from God or from people out of fear, or leads me toward despair because I failed to live up to where I should be? Are those feelings really based on truth? Would Jesus point the finger at me, or would he pick me and dust me off, and ask me where I have been?
What in your life makes you hide, that if you let yourself be known would lead to healing and finding God again?