Friday, August 18, 2017

Body Talk: Naked and Unashamed

Our family loves the beach. If ever we land ourselves a sunny day off together, you can pretty much guarantee we will be strapping the stand-up paddle board to the top of the minivan, loading up the life jackets, and heading for the water.

I am always captivated by swimsuit-clad kids at the beach, the little girls in particular. I adore their innocence. I am, in fact, rather envious of it. I love how they run around with no abandon, rounded bellies pooching out from their adorably-ruffled bikinis. I love how confident they are, how they give not even a thought to how they look.

 “Adam and his wife were both naked, and they felt no shame.” Genesis 2:25

Inevitably, a short way down the beach from the youngsters, lie a crowd of teenage sun bathers. One or two will stand erect, feigning confidence. These are the queen bees, the leaders of the pack. Though they appear at first glance to give not a thought to their bodies, the way they carry themselves tells me that not a second passes where they don’t long for affirmation. The other teens are less successful at hiding their insecurities. They tug at their swimsuits obsessively. They reach down to smooth their already-concave bellies, willing them to be even flatter. They rub themselves down with little brown bottles of tanning oil and look around hopefully, to see if they are being noticed.

As ridiculous as it may sound, I am jealous of this tribe too. Their bodies are fresh and young, free from wrinkles, unscathed by childbirth. They have no surgical scars, no stretch marks, no love handles. Their breasts are perky and full; babes have yet to suck the living life out of them. Multiple times over. But my feelings of envy are short-lived. More than anything, I am heartbroken for these girls. They have no idea how much will change as they age, how “good” they have it now, according to our culture’s standards. Yet they too, are utterly dissatisfied.

“And He said, ‘Who told you that you were naked?’” (Genesis 3:11)

As a mother to daughters, I worry a lot about my girls. And I worry about my son too. Right now, they all walk around so confidently in their skin. They have yet to learn from their culture that their bodies "aren't right.” Their innocence is at stake and I fear the day when it is lost. Can I stop this process? Certainly not entirely. But I’ll do my darndest to try.

This is our culture. And this struggle is a result of the fall.

I long to be the innocent child playing on the beach again. Don’t you? I want to be blissfully unaffected and confident. I long to erase all the things society has told me I must achieve, the way I must look in order to be fully accepted.

This bliss makes me think back to Adam and Eve and the Garden of Eden. In the beginning, they were privileged participants in perfection, living in communion with God and each other, surrounded by beauty and the total absence of shame. Reading through the first few chapters of Genesis, I am reminded of God’s vision for humanity and how far off base we have landed. Here are just a few snippets of what He says of us. We are:

  • Created in His own image (“Created in His own image, in the image of God He created him; male and female He created them.” Gen 1:27)
  • Blessed ("God blessed them" Gen 1:28a)
  • Intended for fruitfulness (“Be fruitful and multiply, and fill the earth and subdue it." Gen 1:28b)
  • Very good (“God saw all that He had made, and behold, it was very good.” Gen 1:31)
  • Made for a purpose (“Then the Lord God took the man and put him into the garden of Eden to cultivate it and keep it.” Gen 2:15)
  • Not designed to go at it alone (“It is not good for man to be alone.” Gen 2:18) 
  • Created uniquely for the unity and oneness of marriage (“For this reason a man shall leave his father and his mother, and be joined to his wife; and they shall become one flesh.” Gen 2:24)
  • Naked and unashamed (“And the man and his wife were both naked and were not ashamed.” Gen 2:25)  

I don’t even pretend to be any sort of theologian. All I can do is read and study Scripture to the best of my feeble abilities and pray for the Holy Spirit to enlighten me and help me understand. What strikes me as I read through the first three chapters in the Bible is how blatantly we have rejected God’s word and vision for us when it comes to our bodies. We are created in His own image and He looked upon all that He had made and called it very good.

Let’s just ponder that thought for a moment.

Do we make mistakes? Of course. Do we lie and judge and dishonor the names of others? Most definitely. But if we really stop and think about it, how do we view ourselves? When we imagine God looking down on us, do we envision Him replacing our names with “Liar” or “Cheat?” Do we hear Him skipping over “Kelsie” and instead whispering “Not Good Enough” or “Failure?” Oh how I pray this isn’t the case!

But is it for you?

Then look again at Genesis. Read the first two chapters in their entirety. Examine God's words closely as He created this world. As He created us. Watch for the tone of admiration as He speaks. I don’t get a single hint of negativity. Did you? First, He creates Adam and then He determines he needs a partner. He thinks intimately of our needs and He longs for us to be in deep relationship as well as fulfilled by meaningful work. Do you see it? I am struck by his abounding love and the beauty of His design. He bestows blessing on His creation and calls it all very good. This life in the garden is perfect and lovely.

And then the passage comes to a close. I find it profoundly interesting that the story of creation ends with “And the man and his wife were both naked and were not ashamed.”

This verse is the precursor for what is to come. Shame was never a part of God's design for humanity but inevitably it would enter the picture.

More than ever, I am aware of the gap between the reality of where we are today and the vision and design God had for us as His people. I recognize this disparity was introduced with the fall of man, when sin’s evil kiss first corrupted the beauty of the garden.

A heard a recent sermon that reminded me to “mind the gap.” In other words, we were charged to pay attention to this gap between what is and what could be (God’s vision for us). And so I think it is important that we take inventory of the present state of affairs and here is the verdict I land upon: the way we talk about ourselves (physically and otherwise) does not align with God’s vision. 

We have missed the mark and have accepted so many false messages about ourselves. And so this we pray…

Forgive us, God, for believing the lies that the world has told us about who we are and the way we should look. Forgive us for all the ways we have contributed. Forgive us for refusing to accept that we are your Beloved. Help us to see ourselves the way you see us. We know that this gap is one that we cannot bridge on our own. Do your work here. It is only through the redemptive power of your work on the cross that we have hope and healing. Amen.

Are there any lies that you have allowed to seep into your being and reek havoc on your soul? If God is tugging at your heart and urging you to reject a word that is not from Him, I pray that you would find the courage and strength to do so. I pray deeply against any shame that you might be experiencing. May you see yourself as His Beloved. Together may we grow to live into who He created each of us to be, fearfully and wonderfully, naked and unashamed.


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