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Run, hide, shift the blame

“Adam, where are you?”

This question from Genesis 3 was not the first question asked in the here-to-for short history of man, but it in my judgment, it was the most important. The significance of the question becomes larger as we consider upon it (not unlike the time I lay spread-eagled on the trunk of my cousin’s car one night in Montana, unbeknownst to him; as his vehicle approached the 80 mile per hour mark, the impact of my decision loomed large indeed. But that is a story for another time).

I am certain God’s question was not pedantic or a polite nicety. The omnipotent God was not confused about Adam’s geographical position and He was not playing hide-and-seek. I believe He was inquiring after Adam’s relational position.

A modern idiom might be, “Adam, where is your head? Let’s talk about us.”

Adam had followed the course of his nature: after he and his new bride committed the first transgression (what a trendsetter!), he ran, hid, and then shifted blame.

Run, hide, shift blame.

If those four words don’t resonate with you, I’m afraid you are too good for me to hang around. I believe these words describe the human condition.

When we make a mistake, fail or — can I use a Puritan word here? — sin, my experience is one, two or all three reactions. If I don’t run fast enough or hide well enough, I can certainly shift blame.

The ways blame-shifting play out are numerous. In Adam’s case it was the version, “It was the woman you gave me. She brought the fruit.” In my own experience, it might be more subtle, “It’s because I’m Irish,” “I was running late, officer, I had to speed,” or the classic, “It’s my mother’s fault” (What is a Fruedian slip? When you intend to say one thing, but you say your mother).

In my own contemplative life, I have been thinking a lot about running, hiding and shifting blame. I’ve been wondering how to escape this cycle and in the process I have been drawn to another Biblical character, David.

If you’re like me, the name David evokes a few images fairly quickly. One is the image of this precocious kid who knocks down the champion of the Philistines with a rock! The other image is of a lech, a peeping Tom, hiding on a rooftop, spying on a neighbor performing her ablutions.

If you know the story, David caught a glimpse of Bathsheba bathing, and was inflamed by lust. He was the King. He sent for her and she had to respond. The story follows an ugly, nasty line; there is adultery, deceit and murder.

God put a stop to it through the prophet, Nathan. Nathan came to David and famously said, “You are the man.”

At that point, I would have shifted blame like crazy.

David, that lovely example, has this response, “I have sinned against God.”

It is unusual to see into a man’s heart at such a time, but David is the exception. He wrote his feelings in that moment; this writing is now what is known as Psalms 51.

Check out these verses: “I know how bad I’ve been, my sins are staring me down, you’re the one I’ve violated.” (Psalms 51: 3-4).

The next time someone tells me how I made a mistake or points out an area of failure, I would like to not immediately think of twelve reasons why I am not at fault—after all, I am always right. I would like, instead, to face God squarely and with confidence, knowing He receives me. As David states later in the Psalm, “God, make a fresh start in me, shape a Genesis week from the chaos of my life.”

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