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[All of creations stops, there is silence in the heavens and the earth…will they or won’t they?  The crunch of a stolen bite taken from forbidden fruit is deafening.  At the sound of the proprietor approaching the offenders drop the evidence and run.…] then the Lord God called to Adam, and said to him, “Where are you?” He said, “I heard the sound of You in the garden, and I was afraid because I was naked; so I hid myself.” And God said, “Who told you that you were naked? Have you eaten from the tree of which I commanded you not to eat?”

Paraphrase from the first book of the Bible–Genesis ch 3, verses 9-11 (New American Standard Translation)

God prohibited the first humans, Adam and Eve, from eating fruit from the tree of knowledge so that they would not know good from evil and become “like God” (Genesis 3:5, 22).  They took a bite anyway.  Then, realizing they were naked they hid from God in fear.

There is so much to think about in these few verses, so much explanatory power regarding the state of the world today.  However, one particular thing is on my mind: being naked and afraid.

I don’t know specifically what was in their respective minds to cause fear when they suddenly realized their nakedness; however, I know what is in my mind, and it is more than about a lack of clothes.

We throw around words of nakedness with ease: transparency in Government, authentic community, being real with each other.  Our language suggests we want such nakedness with each other, but do we really?  Yes and no.  Imagine standing before another human naked in the deepest sense of that word, no barriers at all.  Your most intimate thoughts, feelings, hopes, dreams, desires, fears…all that you are fully revealed, open for inspection by another.  I think we each desperately long for that kind of acceptance, but we fear laughter and ultimately, rejection, because to be accepted is to be loved; rejection is death.

We so yearn for acceptance and fear rejection that we consciously and unconsciously create a false self, a Glittering Image, so that we will find love in the acceptance from another.  Some of our falseness we are aware of, we call it The Mask behind which we hide.  Our talk of “being authentic” only refers to each coming out from behind our respective Masks.  However, our false identity is far deeper than The Mask; we are mostly unaware of it until something happens to bring it to light.  Our idea of an acceptable “normal” has been constructed by the influences of parents, friends, favorite celebrities, authors, teachers, the media, advertisers, businesses, our culture…we are helpless to see beyond what we have come to believe and the things to which we cling.

We are helpless, that is, until something happens that challenges what we believe about “normal.”  I recently had such an experience.  I now find my self with no status to hide behind because I’m not making any money.  I have no 40-hour-a-week job to define myself.  I have no office and co-workers in which to busy myself in and with.  I have no established church family to immerse myself.  I have no strategic goals to work toward to give me the illusion of self value.  It is a new kind of nakedness and through it more of my own Glittering Image has been revealed.  This experience is showing me more of what I cling too and use to define myself and find acceptance from you.

It is an uncomfortable place to be and questions swirl in my mind–

Where have I placed my sense of security?  In a paycheck or money in the bank?  What happens when I am no longer in control of that?

It is an uncomfortable place to be and questions swirl in my mind–

What does it mean to work?  What counts as “work”?  I now have a “job” as a Christian missionary.  God has to make connections with people, it is out of my hands.  I can only wait on Him, but what if I “work,” as I have previously defined it, less than 8 hours a day?  What then?

How do I measure productivity?  I’m not building widgets, and meeting with people produces little immediate, measurable results.  Am I just a drain on this society that so values results?

From where does my self-worth come?  “Missionary” is not as cool a job title as “airline pilot,” which I once had.  Am I defined by my title and job description?  From where do my real identity and value come?

God, it seems, is no respecter of my comfortable paradigms.

God, it seems, is no respecter of my comfortable paradigms.

I know most of the answers in my head; however, living as though I believe them is different.  The questions are no longer theoretical, they are real and immediate.

All of our answers are in some way illusionary.  We believe we know what it is to be “normal.”  We believe we can control our destiny and manage our own security.  We believe we can define ourselves by what we do or what we wear or what we have.  In reality, we have never been able to do any of these things.  Like Adam and Eve, we move through life relying on our own knowledge of good and evil, each putting up a Glittering Image for all to see because, in our fear of being seen naked, we hide from ourselves, from each other, and from God.

So strong is the pull of the Glittering Image that I can already feel the urge to use my job as missionary to fulfill my need to for acceptance.  I could quite easily begin to  define myself as “one of God’s people called into missionary life.”  It would be very easy to bask in the wide acceptance of my fellow Christians, perhaps even allowing myself to be placed on a pedestal because of the “great sacrifice you’re making for God” as a missionary.  I can easily slip in a casual comment that I’m more Jesus-like in my poverty.

Our need for acceptance tugs even more subtly and more tragically.  I’ve discovered that even trying to be like Jesus can become another form of a Glittering Image.  Before I’m burned at the stake, history shows us that people have outwardly tried to be like Jesus with the inner motive of power, greed, etc.  These are the obvious examples.  But even more dangerous to the Christian, one can strain and groan to be outwardly like Jesus (as we have constructed Him) because in some circles it is not acceptable to be a Christian struggling with real problems, wrestling with serious questions about one’s faith, battling despair…to be living a life that is not “fine.”  Sadly, in some churches it is simply not acceptable to be “naked and unafraid.”

With the God of the Bible we can find unconditional love in our nakedness.  We don’t have to cover ourselves and hide in the bushes.  But, and this can be difficult for us, it is love on His terms, not as we have distorted it.  His love casts out our fear.  God longs for us to become who we were created to be, more human not some false representation, and He wants to help; He sent us His Spirit to help us.  Even as we hide in fear at our nakedness–as if we could really hide from God–He is singing over us.  What else do we really need but Him and a group of friends similarly loving Him and trying to love each other in the same way?