Naked no more: Clothed in Strength and Dignity

I doubt I’m the only woman who finds the Proverbs 31 woman intimidating. Last year, I wrote a post about this, a paraphrase of that infamous chapter.

However, when I read the chapter in light of my One Word for 2013, a tiny segment of verses stands out. Verses 25-27 seem to skip away from her laundry list of to-do’s and been-done’s. Instead those three little verses give me a peak at her personality, what she’s really thinking and feeling. And surprisingly, in the midst of her busyness, she seems genuinely happy.

“She is clothed with strength and dignity,
and she laughs without fear of the future.
When she speaks, her words are wise,
and she gives instructions with kindness.
She carefully watches everything in her household
and suffers nothing from laziness.”

While many in my generation revel in the greatest comfort our word has ever known: myriad conveniences, technology, progress and wealth, there are not many of us who Laugh at our future. What would it take? Where can we find the inner peace and joy to look forward and laugh? I want to laugh even when the stock market crumbles, even when I disagree with political decisions, even if I am unemployed, even if my loved ones die. I want to laugh at the future.

The Bible says this woman is clothed with strength and dignity. The Hebrew words strength and dignity can also be translated “to be fixed (strength) and to claim honor (dignity)”.

Those words remind me of Hebrews 12:2-3

“Let us fix our eyes on Jesus, the author and perfecter of our faith, who for the joy set before him endured the cross, scorning its shame, and sat down at the right hand of the throne of God. Consider him who endured such opposition from sinful men, so that you will not grow weary and lose heart.”

If I were to resolve in this new year to be more like the Proverbs 31 woman, I would start here. I will fix my eyes on Jesus, becoming steadfast and immovable –  strong. And I will claim honor by despising shame. I will not accept defeat, shame or discouragement. Instead, like my Savior, I will claim the honor that is rightly mine as a child of God and I will laugh at the future. 

Naked Disparity

This is a slightly more casual chat about nakedness than we have been having here lately. But, it struck me so bluntly Sunday morning that I just had to share.

My girlfriend texted me: “My son is so funny. When he’s naked he kinda goes goofball silly on me!” (her son is almost 2)

Body image
Credit: http://www.cartoonstock.com/directory/b/body_images.asp

I replied: Aren’t all men a bit that way?

Now, certainly I’m not an expert on all men and I haven’t seen but one man naked, but nonetheless, I think it’s a widely accepted fact that most men are pretty proud of their nakedness. If you spy on a naked man with a mirror (who thinks he’s alone) you’ll probably find him flexing, dancing, admiring and pinching (his biceps.) Replay that scenario with a woman and you’ll find her hiding behind her towel, dressing as fast as possible, or moaning about the jiggle on her right butt cheek and pinching (what she calls flabby thighs). Am I right?

How did such similar bodies, both fashioned in the image of a divine, creative Master become interpreted by one as near perfection and by the other as nothing short of a pariah?

Food for thought.

Bearing in this broken frame

Your stamp, your glory, emblazoned name.

Bearing within His mortal dust

Your hope, redemption for all of us. 

That now inside our fragile flesh,

We can know your heart to bless

Breath, shape and perfect form.

Christ’s life in us, naked flesh reborn. 

Naked Little Me, and Loving It

I chose NAKED as my one word this year. It sounds kind of crass, I know. But I think God is getting at something with me. There are parts of me that I often try to hide, or color over. Things about me that I’d like to change. I look at others and wish I could be more like them. I wish I were smarter. I wish I were more athletic. I wish I was braver. I wish I was more assertive. I wish… I wish…

I’m not talking about sins that I should get rid of, or surface things like change my hair color or make it curly or be a little taller. I’m talking about the things that I believe make me seem insignificant, less desirable, average or second best.

Through the bitterness of my eating disorder, God has been teaching me about His pleasure in me, just the way He created me. More than simply my physical body – which He did create specifically, uniquely and perfectly for me. My Father also created my mind – scattered as it may often be. He inlaid my passions and hobbies, knowing exactly what would fulfill me – even if it wasn’t going to be a six figure career. My Father was pleased to give me an eye for the abstract and an affinity for rainbows of color – even when others might wonder why my couch pillows don’t match. He placed in me a urge for activity that sometimes overwhelms me and sends me running like a frightened child back to His comforting arms.

It’s ME. It’s just uniquely, awesomely, bare naked, undisguised ME!

In that interest, I really enjoyed this sermon by Paul White, titled, Who Told You You Were Naked.

 

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.

One Word, 2013

My one word is a little scary. I have actually been contemplating it for days and kept trying to chose my own. They were expected words, typical New Year words and I wanted something different. I kept asking God. 
As I began my first blog post for the New Year (see yesterday) the word came to me. 
NAKED. I want to understand what it means to be so cleansed and forgiven by God that unlike Adam in the Garden of Eden, I can stand before Him naked and unashamed. 
I want to see the nakedness in front of me in the form of need or poverty. I want to see hurting people in nakedness and offer them the clothing of the comfort of Jesus Christ and His righteousness. 
I want to live in naked honesty before everyone, so that I never have to reap the consequences of even the tiniest white lie.
I want to reach out specifically to those girls who through the viciousness of an eating disorder have such a terrible body image that they despise the beautiful naked, perfect body God gave them.
So. Naked, is my word for 2013.

Read about the significance of One Word, and others’ One Words.

Naked in 2013

Welcome to 2013!

I have been bumbling this morning, trying to encapsulate everything I want to share with you. A chronic problem of mine, (I’ve had it since college) is that I don’t know how to procrastinate or to manage time. My only mode is NOW! If I have an agenda of things to share, I am hard pressed to place them on a timeline of 365 days.

I want to talk to you about nakedness. Nakedness in all its forms: Spiritually, “Who told you that you were naked?” That time-warping moment in the Garden of Eden when Adam and Eve were first embarrassed at their unclothed image – that same image that they inherited from their Creator.
Nakedness now: How and why we still cringe and cover ourselves and our sins with anything we can find to avoid the shame of exposing our essences, the good and evil.
The nakedness that is uncensored in the month of January. With New Year’s resolutions on everyone’s minds, we are suddenly exposed to the “perfect” nakedness that we are encouraged to aspire to. Even as I sat down to write to you, I passed seven magazines with prominent displays of nearly naked beauties. All of them declare in bold, 46 pt. font, “Your Best Body Now!” Ironically, stacked on top of several of these magazines was an issue of Life magazine simply titled, “Jesus,” the Creator of our nakedness. And another lay nearby, “The Self-Esteem Companion.”

This topic will inevitably lead to discussion about the lies we believe concerning our bodies. You know my personal story, a vicious battle with anorexia for 18 years. I almost consider myself an expert on body image lies. With the helpful resource Finding Balance, I will continue to help you find the truth about your intrinsic, and yes, Naked worth.

Our primary focus at Predatory Lies is to expose the lies that destroy women’s lives and  replace those lives with life-giving truth. Recently, I was lucky to see a play rendition of The Screwtape Letters. This is C.S. Lewis’ imaginative dialogue between a head demon and his protege. The entire conversation is a pack of lies, through which the truth becomes glaringly, even sarcastically obvious. This is the perfect tool to exploit here at Predatory Lies! So I expect to do a slow, personal and applicable review of this book in the coming months.

It’s a start. I will continue to share with you the things I am learning about and sharing with Haven Journal, She Loves Magazine, Finding Balance and Start Marriage Right. 

May I pray for you?

Jesus. It’s strange to pray for people I feel as if I know personally and yet whose faces I have never seen. It’s strange for a feeble mind to understand that each person I hear, see or touch is a SOUL. There is nothing impersonal about them to you. I ask you Jesus to give me a clearer understanding of the value, eternal quality, Christ-image of each person – those I know and love and those I don’t. Father, I seek your slowness, your peace, your patience, your passion, you compassion, your HEART.

Jesus, more than anything, I want each of those who read this blog to hear YOU. I want your voice, the voice of truth to be louder, more gently compelling than anything I have to say.

Jesus, you are beautiful. May these key strokes inscribe your matchless worth on the pages of lives connected only by digital conversation. May no one who reads this blog escape the truth that they are reconciled to God by Jesus. Their only small step into immediate eternal life to believe in Jesus, your Son.

In Jesus Name, your daughter