Genesis 3:12 The man said, “The woman whom you gave to be with me, she gave me from the tree, and I ate.”
Before we discover grace and still operate under a legalistic system, we have only two ways to compensate for failures—try to pay for them or try to excuse them. In the first case, we might punish ourselves or offer restitution or try to earn extra credit by over-achieving. In the second case we show mitigating circumstances, point out our good intentions, or blame others. We do whatever we can to decrease the heavy load of guilt and shame weighing down on us. Adam chose to pass the blame: “the woman! The one YOU gave me!”
Fearing that grace is too small, we try to shrink our sins to fit the supposed limit, and blaming someone else is one of our favorite ways to minimize guilt: “He made me angry!” or “She scared me into doing it.” It is a reflexive defense mechanism that doesn’t work. Our internal judge can’t be bought off with bribes. The gavel still slams down on our conviction, and we are locked to our shame, dragging it around everywhere like a ball and chain.
Grace, like bleach, can only clean what is exposed to it, and whatever is denied or hidden remains contaminated and harmful. Hanging a picture over mold covers it up, but only helps it grow worse. Only when we offer full disclosure and take full responsibility can grace do its complete work of redemption. But we can only freely admit our shame to one who is gracious and loving, otherwise our shame is not relieved but exacerbated. The power to heal our moral self-wounding is always and only in grace. When love shows up, and we know it won’t hesitate at seeing our mess, we show it our shame and discover the incomparable relief of an unburdened heart.