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Wednesday, April 14, 2010
We have been exploring what it means to be “one flesh” for a few weeks now and I think it’s time to wrap things up, though in truth I feel I’ve really only scratched the surface.

To conclude this series I want to circle back to the beginning and take another look at learning to be naked without shame. You can read the first post in this series for a general discussion on this topic, but today I want to talk about shame as it relates to a recent event in my own life. It's another Paradigm in Practice (PiP) entry.

This past weekend I celebrated my 50th birthday. As much as I had dreaded that milestone, now that I’m on the other side of it I am determined that this is going to be the best decade of my life so far. This was definitely not my outlook in the month or so leading up to the big day. No sir. My thinking was more along the lines of “What have I done with my life?” and “What, if anything, will I do with the rest of it?” I was overwhelmed with a sense of failure and futility, fueled by accusations and lies from the enemy (Satan, the father of lies, is also known as the accuser of the brethren). My head was full of wrong thinking about who I am, what I’ve done or not done, and what my future holds.

I confided in my wife these difficult feelings I was struggling with. Yep, I got nakedly honest with her about it, doing my best to overcome my shame of looking weak-minded in front of her. Her response blessed my socks off. She didn’t belittle me for it or try to sweep it away as so much silly thinking or tell me just to “man up.” Rather, as part of my birthday celebration she and my three girls wrote me detailed letters telling me who they see me as, the lives I’ve influenced, and the ways my life has blessed theirs and others. Rather than judging me, she took my feelings at face value and responded with truth. And it helped me to completely change my mind-set around one-hundred-and-eighty degrees.

Shame has an ugly sister, and her name is fear. Left unchecked, fear leads to doubt, mistrust and seclusion, which finally will lead to our total immobilization and isolation. I know because I was on that path.

I’m reminded of another situation in a certain garden where shame and fear were also closely linked. The story begins like this:

Therefore a man shall leave his father and mother and be joined to his wife, and they shall become one flesh. And they were both naked, the man and his wife, and were not ashamed.   Genesis 2:24-25
But then shame and fear crash in:

So when the woman saw that the tree was good for food, that it was pleasant to the eyes, and a tree desirable to make one wise, she took of its fruit and ate. She also gave to her husband with her, and he ate. Then the eyes of both of them were opened, and they knew that they were naked; and they sewed fig leaves together and made themselves coverings.

And they heard the sound of the Lord God walking in the garden in the cool of the day, and Adam and his wife hid themselves from the presence of the Lord God among the trees of the garden. Then the Lord God called to Adam and said to him, "Where are you?" So he said, "I heard Your voice in the garden, and I was afraid because I was naked; and I hid myself." Genesis 3:6-10
The implications of this story go way beyond what I can discuss in this little post, so I’ll leave it for you to ponder on your own. (You have no idea how hard that is for me to do!)

Let me just reflect briefly on this relative to my own recent struggle with the shame and fear that arose out of my birthday situation. The shame I felt about what I saw as my lack of meaningful accomplishment in my life up to now led to fear over my future and a sense of hopelessness. But the light of truth from the Lord and my family dissolved my shame and banished my fears. Had I not chosen to be “naked” with Jenni (and with God) about my struggles, these things would have continued to eat away at me, shutting me down, leaving me to wallow in my wrong mindset.

The problem with shame and fear is that they eliminate the possibility of intimacy. You can see how Adam hid from God after he and Eve screwed things up. Their sin was not their nakedness, but it was shame over their nakedness that made them hide. It was shame that caused them to try to cover things over with fig leaves of pretense, as if such feeble coverings would fool God.

Had I not chosen to bare my soul to Jenni, I would have denied her the opportunity to help me wrestle through my middle-aged doubts. The shame of my negative self-image would no doubt have invaded our marriage, making it harder for me to accept her love and to believe in her desire for me. In short, had I not chosen to be nakedly honest about this struggle, it no doubt would have robbed us of intimacy. Instead, because I was vulnerable with her, and because she responded as she did, it had the completely opposite effect. Truth does that.

You see, shame leads to the darkness of disgrace and distrust, but the light of truth leads to grace and trust. When we are willing to be naked without shame good things can happen. Nakedness leads us down the path toward genuine intimacy.

So, do you have some shame you need to shed? Perhaps it’s time to drop those fig leaves.


Anonymous said...

Happy 50th! I agree that shame and fear keep us from intimacy. I remember in The Old Testament they would have guilt offerings... That reminded me of that. And how no money from the guilt offerings or sin offerings could be used to pay workers repairing the temple (2 kings 12)... We need to shake shame and fear, God doesn't want that in our temples! He doesn't want that anywhere near us. I love this post! It took me back to something I studies months ago.

Scott said...

Thanks, Favor, for your comment and for the birthday wishes. You are so right - fear and shame be gone!!

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