Discovering How to Get Naked

By Marilyn Ong

Photo by Jiang Xulei

Photo by Jiang Xulei

“We’ve been found out.”

This is the biology of shame: It starts in the gut, a slow and dreadful heat. It rises to the throat, and clutches the windpipe. It beats the heart like a drum until the membrane wears thin. It curls the fingers in, hard nails digging into fleshy palms.

And in the dreadful tension, shame whispers our greatest fear to us: we’re so messed up, no one could possibly love us if they knew the truth. Everyone, including God, would be disgusted if they caught a peek behind the fig leaves. There’s no hope in becoming anything more than the sad, broken reflection we see in the mirror.

No. Just, no.

I think about Adam and Eve a lot. Not the part when the snake comes and they eat the fruit they weren’t supposed to. It’s what happened after that intrigues me.

What was it like to suddenly realize you’re naked, and for the first time feel like it was wrong?

I picture Adam and Eve hastily sewing their covering; fingers fumbling to weave vines through the leaves’ tough fibers. I imagine God strolling through the garden in the cool of the day and calling out to them. I feel their flushing the second they heard God’s voice.

What if instead of plucking leaves in a panic and thinking, “No, he can’t see us naked,” they stopped and remembered God fashioned their bodies and breathed life into them. No part of their nakedness would have been a surprise to him.

INSTEAD OF HIDING

What if instead of hiding, they opened up to him, buried their faces in his embrace and wept for what they had done? What if they admitted, “We messed up but we’re so glad you’re here, because we really need you.”

The true sorrow of Adam and Eve disobeying God’s instruction to not eat the fruit is that it broke humanity’s relationship with God our Creator. Maybe that’s when the snake really pumped his fist in perceived victory.

But the story doesn’t end there. God sent Jesus to take the shame of our wrongdoing, even Adam and Eve’s, so our relationship with God can be made right.

GET NAKED

Whatever we have done, we can stop believing the lie that we’re meant to live in shame. We can stand up, turn to God, crying, “I messed up, but I need you now.”

When we do, God stands us on our feet, lifts our chins to him, and says, “Look to me, for then you will be radiant, and your faces will never be ashamed.”

This is the biology of honor: eyes forward, chin up, shoulders back, neck long. Head high, ready for a crown as daughters of the Most High King.

We fail. We miss the mark. But we have a choice. We can run and hide. We can live under the weight of our mistakes and wounds, working our fingers until they bleed in an effort to weave a covering for ourselves. Or we can pause and remember God breathed life into us and he is ready to do it again as many times as we need.

I can be convinced to hand over my fig leaves for that.