Naked: bare, stripped, unprotected, uncovered, undressed, exposed to plain view, vulnerable.
I think I have lived such a large portion of my life wearing layers and layers upon layers of clothing. The pictures that come to my mind are of the little boy from A Christmas Story, so bundled up he could barely move or the episode of Friends when Joey put on ALL of Chandlers clothes. And when I look back and realize how afraid I have been to just feel comfortable in my own skin, I have been those characters, tripping over my feet, moving awkwardly through life because I was SO desperately afraid. It wasn’t until I felt completely encapsulated by the culmination of every bad decision I had ever made that I finally had to start “stripping” in order to figure out how I became “this person.” Was my life THAT bad? Was I THAT terrible of a person? Did I DESERVE the anguish I felt? With so many questions and no one I trusted to give me answers, I looked to the only One I had left… God. Every day that goes by, I am learning to take off another layer of clothing because ultimately, when my time is done here, I will be standing naked in front of him. He will see every single insecurity, desire, motive, intention, and fear I have ever had… that’s scary to me because I thought I was strong, I thought I had to keep everything together, I never allowed myself the freedom to actually feel what I felt. I would tell myself that I SHOULDN’T feel that way, probably because I was so afraid of hurting or angering someone I loved for fear of rejection. That’s what a wounded heart does. It keeps you in bondage. It’s what kept me in bondage. Until I was honest with what I felt, who I was and who I wanted to be.
I can really relate to Adam and Eve hiding from God after having eaten the apple because they felt ashamed. They were desperately afraid of being rejected by the One person who loved them more than anything in the world. Literally! They were created with innocence, but one disobedient decision set the groundwork for a legacy of shame, using defense mechanisms that we still use to this day in order to protect ourselves from our own shame and rejection. And so, they added the first layer of clothing to humanity: our underwear. I remember being so afraid to trust God because “what if I die and find out he’s not real?” I was deeply afraid of placing my hopes, dreams, fears, and trust in something that COULD possibly exist and ultimately, I was afraid that if he DID exist, he would reject me because I was not “good enough” to earn his love. Fear kept me from understanding truth. My many layers of false beliefs kept me from realizing that I actually NEEDED him. After knowing God for many years now, I couldn’t possibly imagine him EVER leaving my side, no matter how bad I messed up. And from having unlimited access to the actual source of LOVE, I have had the courage to face some of my deepest, darkest, most debilitating fears. Little by little, I decided to take off my jewelry, possibly some rings… you know, the fake bling that is supposed to make us look “appealing” to others, and get real with myself.
From birth, our parents are designed to be our source of love and discipline, teaching us the skills needed to live successfully in the world of our generation. Unfortunately, if our parents don’t possess these skills, then passing them on to their children is impossible. Any loving functional home must posses open and honest communication, an ability to face confrontation with a loving heart, character building, financial stability (as much as is within our control), discipline, self-control, patience, encouragement, and I’m sure there is much more… but to me these are the most crucial to creating a safe and healthy home environment for our families. And when a home lacks many of these qualities, our defense mechanisms begin to kick in because in the home where words were used to hurt and inflict pain, the child who was hurt by those words will now begin to think that everything said is intended to hurt them. So we will lie and manipulate in order to protect ourselves from the emotional trauma. This is when we frantically reach for anything that fits to cover up how desperately inadequate we feel. This is generally the case with physical and sexual abuse as well, and the defenses can vary greatly but may include emotional withdrawl (intended to protect ourselves from “caring”), angry outburts (protect the ego or pride from rejection), lying (protect from rejection), manipulation (to get what we want for lack of discipline or love), etc, etc…. In many and most people, the fear of rejection is so deeply ingrained in us that we are willing to do the very things that cause the initial rejection in the first place because it seems to give us a sense of “control” when in actuality, we are a tornado inside, creating our own destruction. The solution? Realize that something is wrong and if you could have fixed it, you would have already. Frantically search for the One who is stable.
As people, we are way too unstable and fragile to look to others to be a source of stability. We have so many needs, wants, desires, expectations and we are willing to sacrifice our own children to fullfill them. This is why GOD has to be my lifeline. He is the source of all love. He gives me stability and all of the qualities I lack in my humanity in order to be the source of love and discipline for my own child. Without him, I am a complete mess. I am overdressed with layers and layers upon layers of clothing, none of which match, by the way. I have found that I really really like being naked because being exposed keeps me honest, it keeps me pure, it keeps me humble and grounded with reality. Being naked makes me realize that it is more than okay to be human, to not be perfect, to make mistakes. It helps me realize that we are ALL flawed in some way and that I am no better than anyone else. More than anything, it has helped me realize that I am too human to have all of the answers and I NEED God. To fear HIM, not rejection. I have learned that “fearing God” means honestly knowing who I am in relation to him. He is the One who created ME. And He is the One who could take me out if he wanted to. Because he understands all of my desires, all of my fears, and all of my NEEDS, he recognizes my inexcusable attempts to meet them by unintentionally hurting those around me. My actions have consequences. My instability hurts people. And whether or not it is my intention, it is reality. And no amount of sorries in the world can take away the pain that I have caused to those I love. But forgiveness is a powerful thing. It releases me from the shame. It exposes my fears and offers reconciliation. And Jesus knows this because he too was human. He suffered to be able to empathize with me! Would you do that for someone who didn’t love you? And even moreso, he made it possible for me to experience a life without any pain, no more depression, anxiety, worry. Perfect peace with the creator of love for this person who loves only herself. He could send me away. He could reject me, telling me that I am not worthy to be with Him because I’m a screw up. But he doesn’t. HE searches for ME. He accepts me for who I am because he understands my humanity. You better believe I am afraid. Terribly afraid of ever dissappointing the one man who has loved me unconditionally, sacrificially, intentionally without even a thought to himself. That’s love. I can be honest and true with this kind of love because it is never looking to hurt me. There are no hidden agendas or unkind motives. Just purity. And if i can stand before God, as exposed as I have ever been, I damn sure can face the world.
My experience, perspective, knowledge and wisdom are way too limited for me to know what is best for my life. HE knows ME, inside and out. HE knows how much pain I have inside and the cure for the pain I feel. If I had any answers, if any of us had any answers, the world wouldn’t be such a scary place to live. So I have learned to feel so comfortable in my own skin, because I want to be the best part of me that I can be. I don’t want to complain about how terrible the world is, I want to be the kind of person who tries to find solutions to the problems we face. Jesus knew that we needed love, truth, grace, and forgiveness above all else, and so he died for me to have it. When I have breathed my last breath, I want to be able to stand in complete nudity before God, with humility, honesty and forgiveness knowing that I literally died to myself everyday so the world who does not know God, may experience just a glimmer of his light for the brief time that I existed. And I long to hear those words…”Well done my good and faithful servant. By trusting in me, your radiant skin naturally outshined your wardbrobe and your coverings were removed. You’re my daughter, a masterpiece of my love and now you will never feel pain again. I have always loved you and always will. Welcome home…”