It doesn't take long: "Then the eyes of both were opened, and they knew that they were naked. And they sewed fig leaves together and made themselves loincloths. And they heard the sound of the LORD God walking in the garden in the cool of the day, and the man and his wife hid themselves from the presence of the LORD God among the trees of the garden." (v.7-8).
Why? They were ashamed.
This morning, I got my very first speeding ticket. And the first thing I felt when I saw the patrol car pull out behind me--was shame. Not guilt. Shame.
No matter how much I growl about other people being worse drivers and me getting caught in a moment of inattention to speed, the officer was right. I was guilty. Feeling guilt, then, would have been appropriate. "I was wrong. I'm sorry. I accept my punishment as just." I waited for the officer to fill out the ticket, and I kept hoping he would see my clean record and show mercy. He didn't. He was fair. I know that's a good thing in the justice system.
But that wasn't my reaction. So why shame?
Blushing. Already trying to figure out to whom the news would spread. What my family would say. Would think. About getting pulled a second time and not having a clean record when an officer would run my license check. Trying to reframe the narrative to exonerate myself. Deciding how to laugh it off. Looking for someone else to blame.
The excuses are still running through my head while I write this post.
As often as I tell myself I am a sinner, as frequently as I acknowledge my need for grace, it takes something like this to show me that I still like to think of myself as perfect. Self-sufficient. Okay.
Reality check: I'm not. And that was true even when my driving record was clean.
"...though justice be thy plea, consider this:
that, in the course of justice,
none of us should see salvation.
We do pray for mercy."
- Merchant of Venice