Nuggets: Be Unashamed of Your Body

I think Heaven should have a special appeal to all those who have struggled with body image. Not that Heaven isn’t just plain awesome, period. But, the way it’s described in Scripture, tugs my formerly eating disordered heart in a unique way.

I’ve recently listened to Pastor Chip Ingram’s series on Heaven and I highly recommend it! One of the things he presses, is that Heaven will not seem incredibly foreign. It’s not something that we can “only imagine”. Heaven is the place that God dwells, it’s where He wants to live and where He wants to live in close, face-to-face relationship with His people for all eternity. It’s actually very like what He created in the first place. And we have a pretty good description of Eden in Genesis.

My favorite line in all of Genesis is verse 2:25, “And the man and his wife were both naked and were not ashamed.”

Can you imagine (perhaps this is where we have to employ imagination) what it would be likely to be completely unashamed of your body?

We are told that we will have new, glorified bodies but we will have bodies. Psalm 139 expresses God’s intention and pleasure in the unique way He sculpted you and me. He wants me to look this way! He is happy with the way you turned out!

So, set your sight again on the eternal. Don’t get hung up on the things that moths and dust will corrupt. One day, you’ll look at yourself and truly see you as God does–with pleasure, joy and peace.

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Good and Naked

I’m pretty glad we wear clothes, and not just because they cover up a lot of things I’d rather not see.

However, if Adam and Eve were created naked, “and it was good,” why do we get dressed every day?

Adam and Eve were created in God’s image. All of their nakedness was perfection to Him and mirrored Himself. It’s a little strange to consider, but when Adam and Eve looked at each other relative to the rest of creation, it was obvious that they looked like their Father, their creator.

We often recall that the immediate consequence of their sin was clothing. They scrambled for fig leaves until God gave them a more permanent dressing of animal skins. But they had been naked all along. How could that have been sinful in itself?

I image that Satan curled slippery around the trunk of the Tree of the Knowledge of Good and Evil. “You won’t surely die,” he whispered. “But God knows you will become like Him knowing good and evil.” There it was, Satan told Eve that God had lied, He really hadn’t made them like Himself. He really wasn’t a benevolent Father offering to them all that they could ever desire. 

Adam and Eve had been naked all along, nakedness wasn’t a sin. How did identifying their nakedness become the shame inducing moment that sent them running to hide from God?

“Then the eyes of both were opened, and they knew that they were naked.”

In the seconds it took them sink their God-given teeth into the skin of a sweet fruit, the gravity of their choice hit them, painfully. The serpent had lied, they really did look like God. God really had made them in His image. It wasn’t that being naked was evil and they simply figured it out all of a sudden. No, the evil that they instantly became aware of was their decision to believe someone other God. They doubted the goodness and truth of their best friend.

Jesus calls Himself the Way, the Truth and the Life. Adam and Eve denied the very essence and nature of their Father.

He isn’t truth, they thought.

Adam and Eve first clothed themselves. They used it to cover their shame. And so, I believe that it was out of mercy that God clothed them.

Imagine a master potter. His choicest piece of clay spinning smoothly beneath his fingers. When He finishes, he sets the masterpiece in the center of His daily table, pleased with its beauty. One day, a mischievous child intentionally reaches up and throws the beautiful piece to the floor. The potter is crushed. It saddens Him to know its intended perfection and to now see it in shambles. So He picks up the pieces and gently, lovingly covers them with his cloak – clothing the shards.

Maybe that’s what God was doing – until the moment when He restores all of His creation to its original goodness.

“Dear friends, now we are children of God, and what we will be has not yet been made known. But we know that when he appears,a we shall be like him, for we shall see him as he is. Everyone who has this hope in him purifies himself, just as he is pure.” 1 John 3:2-3

 

Naked Shame? or Very Good

There is at least one common picture in every family’s photo album. Or as many common pictures as children in the family. It is the inevitable bathroom picture.

imagesA pink, pudgy child, below the age of shame, plays in the tub, blissfully ignorant of Daddy’s camera. If not ignorant, simply unaffected by the potential shame in that microsecond flash of light. Bubbles cling to smooth, clean skin. A dollop of suds perches atop a curly head, like a white crown. The little girl is joyfully convinced that her royalty is unmarred by nakedness. Or, the tiny self-imagined cowboy remains undaunted by his immodesty. And Daddy grins with pride at the innocence and perfection.

It might remain that way. If the little girl were never exposed to any opinion but that of her father and mother. If the only people whoever judged her nakedness were those who created her together, who bore her in their loins and pushed her into this critical world. But it won’t be that way.

The boy might remain proud of every inch of his natural physique, if he only internalized his parents’ admiration. If only he was never told, “You should look like this…,” or, “You could be more perfect. You’re lacking something.”

When did naked become a problem? 

God created Adam and Eve in His own perfect image. He bore them, and brought them to life by His own exhale. And He thought they were perfect. He knew their frame. He knew they were dust and He knew they were good. They were exactly as He intended.

And what if they had never entertained the voice that said, You could be more? You are lacking.

When God entered the garden after Adam and Eve ate the fruit of the Tree of the Knowledge of Good and Evil, they had already scrambled to cover themselves. Then they hid from their Creator, dearest Love, most Faithful Companion. The first moment earth knew shame. The first time a woman cowered in humiliation from the longing eyes of her lover. 

But they had been naked before. God had seen them naked. They had gazed at each other naked. It was obvious they had been made in God’s image. They looked like His children. So why were they ashamed? What were they afraid of?

Adam and Eve’s sin was not that they were naked. In fact, I think God’s greatest disappointment was that his children listened to, entertained and believed the serpent’s opinion of them over His own. Essentially, with their choice to eat the fruit, Adam and Eve were demonstrating that they did not believe God. They did not believe that He was a perfect creator. They did not believe that God had made them VERY GOOD.

Just like the child in the bathtub, they would have grown up seeing that they looked just like Daddy. And they would have grown in the assurance that they were VERY GOOD.

How do you overcome the shame surrounding your body, your failure, your insufficiencies? Is it possible to ever again be VERY GOOD to God? If so, is it possible to ever be convinced in your own mind that you are VERY GOOD? Can you ever return to the way it was?

“So from now on we regard no one from a worldly point of view. Though we once regarded Christ in this way, we do so no longer. Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation; the old has gone, the new has come! All this is from God, who reconciled us to himself through Christ and gave us the ministry of reconciliation: that God was reconciling the world to himself in Christ, not counting men’s sins against them. And he has committed to us the message of reconciliation.” 2 Corinthians 5:16-19

Through the means of a couple of pastors lately, unrelated and in their own sermons, God has posed this question to me, “Who told you you were fat?”

Quite a provoking question to ask a recovering anorexic. Who told me I was fat? Where did I get that idea? How do I silence that voice, turn and drink in the voice of a God who calls me VERY GOOD? Permit me a paraphrase of the verses above:

So, from now on, I will regard no one (including myself) as fat or ugly or worthless. Because I believe in Jesus Christ, everything bad about me is gone. He has created me all over, and again and made me VERY GOOD! All this is from God, who brought me back to Him, restored me to my original mint condition and to His favor. Because of Jesus, I am perfect in Christ and I am given this responsibility, no, this JOY, of telling the world that Jesus has restored us. Shame has no influence over those who believe their Daddy.

If God is Good…

For about a week now, I’ve been fumbling with thoughts about pain. Sounds morbid, right? Except that I’ve been thinking about the Privileges of Pain.

Truthfully,  most of the world is hung up on, “if God is good, why Pain, Suffering, Death?” Authors have gone so far as to declare loudly, God Is Not Good, (Christopher Hitchens.) But before we turn away from this topic, which we have covered for two months, I want to suggest to you that pain proves that God is decidedly good. 

Let’s start at the very beginning, according to Fraulein Maria, in Sound of Music, a very good place to start. What is the very first recording of pain in the Bible? I imagine the animal that God slew in order to fashion clothes for Adam and Eve was the first creature to experience pain. (Genesis 3:21)

If you recall, Adam and Eve sinned in the Garden of Eden by eating from the Tree of the Knowledge of Good and Evil. The first indication of their sin was that they realized they were naked, they became ashamed and they hid. Therefore, God made clothes for them of animal skins.

The animal whose life was forfeit in order to clothe Adam and Eve was the first picture of a blood sacrifice to cover the sins of man. Then, throughout the Old Testament, under the Mosaic covenant, death was required to pay for sin so that man might remain in relationship with God. (Hebrews 9:22)

Fast forward to the first four books of the New Testament. These Gospels tell us the story of our Savior, Jesus Christ. Jesus endured pain’s grand finale in his death on the cross. His pain was the payment for our sin. Isaiah 53:5

But why pain at all?  Pain came with man’s sin. Man invited death, pain and struggle into God’s perfect world. (Genesis 3:14-20) But why does pain remain? And if God loves me why must I suffer? 

Think of a little child who brazenly ignores his mother, climbs up on his step stool and promptly places his tiny palm flat on a hot burner. What if there was no pain? Not only would the child not remove his hand from the burner where it would continue to destroy his flesh, but also his pride and embarrassment would keep him from running to his mother. If the child was not forced by his pain to seek out his mother – who would soothe his wound, apply ointment and offer comfort?

God knows that if we don’t experience pain in this broken world, we will ignorantly continue to invite sin and death into our lives, essentially playing Russian roulette until one day, unaware of our self destruction, we will die – forever. If pain and death were not the result of rebellion against God, what would drive us into His arms and restore relationship?

I do not mean to imply that pain and suffering are a direct result of sin in an individual’s life. Even those who love Jesus with all their hearts and have trusted him for salvation, experience pain and eventual death. Now look with me into the heart of Christ’s ministry, right in the middle of the Gospels’ stories.

In John 9, we meet a blind man. Because he had been born blind, the snickers and questions circled as Jesus healed the man. “Who sinned? This man or his parents, that he was born blind?” Jesus answered, “Neither this man or his parents sinned, but that the works of God might be displayed in him.” (John 9:3)

God’s glory arrives in the midst of our pain. When HE saves us. When HE comforts us. When HE is enough. When HIS strength is proved perfect.

God’s glory arrived in the midst of Christ’s anguish. When God showed that HE was willing to go to the farthest length to restore man. When God showed that HE loved us enough to walk among us. When God showed that HE was stronger than death.

So maybe we should quit saying that God allows pain to teach us something. Often that causes us to look inward and try to change what surely must be wrong with us. What if pain is simply so that He can show to us and in us the change He has already made: that He conquered death, that He reversed the power of sin from the very first painful experience in the Bible.

What Fell?

Did you ever think about what fell in “The Fall”? Usually, we think about sin entering the world. Before Adam and Eve ate the forbidden fruit, we know that there was no death, no hate, no sexual impropriety. There was no lying, fear, anger, bitterness or rebellion. There was no cursing, fighting, disobedience, murder or cheating. But what about pain?

The Bible says that in heaven there will be no tears, no pain. Revelation 21:3-4

And I heard a loud voice from the throne saying, “Look! God’s dwelling place is now among the people, and he will dwell with them. They will be his people, and God himself will be with them and be their God. ‘He will wipe every tear from their eyes. There will be no more death or mourning or crying or pain, for the old order of things has passed away.”

This morning I drudged my way through “Kinesiology and Functional Anatomy” in my course book for the NESTA personal trainer certification. It’s a tough chapter. But even as I flunked my first attempt at the practice test, I have to admit, it’s incredibly interesting. Just as God had an original intent for our lives: the praise of His glory, He had an original, perfect plan for our bodies.

Just a couple examples:

The heart has its own pacemaker and is self regulated. Not once have you ever had to tell your heart to beat

Our bodies were made to work and our muscles, even our bones, grow stronger in response to this stimulus

But what happens when we abuse or damage one little thing? I had to go to the doctor today because I’ve been experiencing some knee pain. At first, I rolled my eyes when he told me that my knee pain was related to the callus on my big toe. He quickly explained that the callus was indicative of over-pronation in my foot, which in turn was affecting my knee. Wow!

It’s similar in our spiritual lives. It only took one sin – the intentional act of disobedience of eating a food God forbade – to introduce the painful sins and consequences that we experience today. In many ways, the continued degradation of human behavior is a consequence of the first sin. That doesn’t mean we’re innocent! Just because Adam’s sin started the downward spiral doesn’t mean we are simply victims of sin.  

Jesus Christ came to redeem sinners. Think of it as: Jesus lived a perfect life, building up antibodies to the illness we are suffering from, sin. Then, on the cross, he poured out His blood, gave His life in order to offer us the cure for sin and death. But we cannot become well if we refuse to accept and consume the cure He has made freely available. If we arrogantly despise the sacrifice, forgiveness and healing of Jesus Christ, we can know for sure that our sin will continually, progressively destroy us.

For the wages of sin is death; but the gift of God is eternal life through Jesus Christ our Lord. Romans 6:23

Every single heart beat of every single day, your body is preaching to you the message of salvation. Please listen!