The first time I recall thinking I was cooler than anyone else was my first day of fourth grade. I was the dreaded new kid, which thrust me squarely at the bottom of the cool food chain—a dangerous place to be. The unfortunate waif I had replaced at the bottom was Sean Harris, a classic nerd. Sean had all of the nerd necessaries: glasses that likely could repel bullets (unconfirmed), blindingly pale skin, ear wax pouring from his ears and the musculature of an infant. Realizing his opportunity to glean a friend from my regrettable position, he immediately sought me out as an ally in an obvious effort to pull off a Captain Planet-esque maneuver: “With our powers combined, we are Captain Nerd!” Captain Nerd was clearly the better option to Lone Nerd in Sean’s eyes.
Thus, within minutes of my entrance into the classroom, he approached me, and without introduction asked, “Do you like Sonic the Hedgehog?”
“Yeah, I guess,” I replied.
“We’re going to be good friends,” he stated matter-of-factly.
Intrinsically, I knew that an alliance with Sean was social suicide, and I did everything I could to distance myself from him those first few weeks. I was petrified of my new classmates’ opinion of me.
I don’t remember my parents teaching me that it was important to be cooler than other people. In fact, I’m quite sure they taught me exactly the opposite. I picked this awful habit up somewhere along the way. Where from, exactly? I like to blame it on Adam and Eve.
Imagine this for a moment: Adam and Eve literally walked and spoke with God. I imagine that God was a wonderful conversationalist, always asking questions about what Adam and Eve thought about the world He created, how their relationship was going and telling how dearly He loved them—all the time. I imagine it might have gotten quite annoying how often God told them He loved them and how great He thought they were.
This is an actual conversation between God and Adam and Eve:
“Hey, God. How you doin’ today?” asked Eve.
“Oh, I’m just great. I love you more than you can imagine. I really do.”
“Nice day you created,” said Adam.
“Thanks, you’re far too kind,” said God. “You did a great job naming all the animals, Adam. I love you so much.”
“What do ya say we go eat some fruit? I’m starved!” said Eve.
“Sounds just about perfect—just not from that one in the middle of the garden. Have I mentioned I love you two? I really do,” said God.
You see, Adam and Eve did not have anyone else telling them who they were or how inadequate they were, or how they were not cool enough, or how their hips were getting fat. All they knew was that God loved them a wonderfully huge amount exactly as they were, and that His opinion was the only one that mattered. God’s opinion was everything.
Adam and Eve’s nakedness before the Lord represented many things: the beautiful transparency of their relationship with God, child-like innocence, uncorrupted eyes. Their external nakedness was an embodiment of the state of their inner hearts—exposed without shame for the world to see. God loved and accepted them that way.
Then Adam and Eve ate from that tree, and it was never the same again.
At that moment, we all became outsiders. Ejected from the garden with instructions never to return, you can imagine the fear that they must have felt. Until this point, they had only known freedom, acceptance and fellowship with God. With their newly opened eyes, they were forced to face the world through a lens of comparison, fear of rejection and crippling insecurity.
Adam and Eve looked to each other for acceptance and were dreadfully ashamed. All of a sudden their bodies were not good enough. Their souls were not being comforted. They felt incomplete. Without the Lord there to tell them who they were, they looked elsewhere for someone to tell them something about who they were. They had betrayed their relationship with God for a false hope for power and were left without an identity.
I went to dinner with an old friend of mine, Paul, a few weeks back. Paul, like all of us, is a casualty of the fall. As we shared a meal together, he began to describe the rejection he has absorbed throughout his lifetime. He sought the refuge of the church earlier in life, expecting shelter. On the contrary, he again found rejection—scorned because he lacked the qualities that society worships. He was not athletic or particularly good-looking and he was a little different. Time and again his heart took a beating until he decided he was tired of being hurt. He left the church 20 years ago, vowing never to return.
This broken state of things we find ourselves in is not how God ever dreamt it. Enter Jesus. Paul and I eventually got to talking about Him, and how the people who have hurt him in and out of the church are broken just like he is—and how Jesus does not think anything but the world of him. Paul finally admitted that he still holds onto the hope that the gospel is true, but with one hesitation: “I have done some really awful things. You don’t know the things I’ve done. I don’t know if Jesus is willing to forgive me. I just don’t know.”
I have to believe that if Jesus lived right now would look people like Paul and Sean Harris in the eye and earnestly tell them that He loves them more than they will ever know. He would tell them that they have worth. He would forgive them. Jesus would tell them who they really are. He would sit down with all of us who are weary and rejected and tell us that we matter and that he would die for even us.
I bet Jesus would even play Sonic the Hedgehog with Sean Harris until his hands bled.