Who told you?

Credit: BMiz on Flickr via Creative Commons

Credit: BMiz on Flickr via Creative Commons

I heard or read somewhere recently that the most tragic question ever uttered in human history was God asking Adam and Eve, “Who told you that you were naked?”

Adam and Eve, it’s told, were created naked and unashamed. Naked, I understand. Unashamed, though, that’s hard to imagine. From magazines to film to lose-ten-pounds-in-thirteen-minutes banner ads, I am convinced that my naked body should most definitely bring me shame.

What about my naked soul, though? As much as we all hang our heads to think of love handles and double chins, I think most of us downright cringe at the thought of someone seeing our hearts, our minds, our souls laid bare. We work hard to craft these images, even with God, that protect us better than any suit of armor. Our favorite restaurants, hobbies, books we read, podcasts we listen to, whether or not we drink beer (and which kinds) all weave together into a many-colored garment covering all the messiness and insecurity we feel when we realize we have no idea who we are.

We are all experts on our failures. Our character flaws. Our dark secrets and humiliating needs. It’s like we are all brainwashed to believe that these things are more shameful than our bodies’ naughtiest bits. We deflect and disguise and lie and hide because we cannot bear the thought of another person seeing beyond our veil.

I don’t want to live in hiding, though. Every strip of covering I slip between us is another facet of myself I refuse you access to. The final result is that you never know me, so you can never love me. You may love the dressed-up version of myself I’ve offered you, but you can’t love me. Which leaves me naked and unloved and wondering why. And when all those strips get tangled up in knots, they bruise us both. Plus, I am so busy working at my loom that I don’t notice you pulling your own sheets over your head. So I love you from a distance, with barriers and distracting colors, never really seeing you.

The fear, of course, is that I will drop my coverings and you will laugh at me. Scorn or mock me. Pretend to accept and then reject me. Use me. Hate me. We have such a greater capacity to love than we realize, though. The more we reach out to one another, the greater the strength for embrace we will have. We can be such gentle, generous, accepting, appreciating, warm people.

I am an intense, sensitive, easily hurt girl. I am a coldly rational, strong, sometimes bossy woman. I am a soft and gentle and kind lady. I am a playful kid and a dangerous fighter. I am spiritual and sensual and incarnational. I am funny, and I take myself way too seriously. I have an inordinate capacity for media, and an impressive endurance for yoga. I am easily moved by beauty, crushed by pain, terrified of anger, and I bubble over with mirth. I forgive easily, but have a far-reaching memory. I long to be seen bare and exposed, to have the courage to believe I’ll be loved more in the open than I’ve been under the covers. I don’t know who told me I was naked, that it was shameful, that I should hide. But God is whispering to me, to us all, that Jesus has removed our shame.

Your clothes conceal much of your beauty, yet they hide not the unbeautiful. And though you seek in garments the freedom of privacy you may find in them a harness and a chain. Would that you could meet the sun and the wind with more of your skin and less of your raiment, for the breath of life is in the sunlight and the hand of life is in the wind….Forget not that modesty is for a shield against the eye of the unclean. And when the unclean shall be no more, what were modesty but a fetter and a fouling of the mind? And forget not that the earth delights to feel your bare feet and the winds long to play with your hair.

~Kahlil Gibran, The Prophet


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