Posted by: karanoel | April 10, 2019

Who told you that?

My last post wasn’t the only time I was lured by the siren call of physical perfectionism. On another occasion, I was hit unexpectedly in the lobby of the optometrist’s office while looking for new frames for my rarely-worn glasses. Mirrors were scattered on the walls, catching light from the windows and illuminating my reflection. I saw myself clearly, for the first time it seemed. Middle-aged. Wrinkled. Unacceptable. Shame washed over me, knowing that everyone else had already seen what was only now in focus for me. Before leaving that lobby twenty minutes later, I had already booked an appointment for botox injections.

Unlike my cancelled breast implant surgery, entitlement (and shame) helped me follow through with the less permanent “improvement” of botox. After the bruising around my eyes healed and the toxins got to work paralyzing my facial muscles, I felt less naked; less uncovered. It was liberating in a sense. But it also felt fraudulent and I knew that the acceptance I could now grant myself was temporary and conditional.

I was in my home one day during this time – I can remember exactly where – when I heard the quiet voice of the Lord speak into my heart. “Who told you that?” I knew He was talking about what I had heard in the optometrist’s office, and recognized the reference to Adam and Eve in the garden when He asked a similar question: “Who told you you were naked?” Just like me, their “eyes had been opened” and suddenly they saw their nakedness, and they too were filled with shame.

But what came before their eyes were “opened”? Accusation. Words from a sneaky serpent casting shadows on the goodness of God and His provision for them. Clearly, He was withholding something – something that would benefit them; that they now thought they needed; that would make them like Him. It was convincing. But it was deceptive.

Like a loving father, God had given them everything they needed for a peaceful and fruitful life in the garden and for unadulterated relationship with God, each other and nature. His single “don’t” was for their protection and even that He didn’t withhold, given them free will to choose. Lastly and maybe most importantly, Genesis 1 tells us that “God created mankind in his own image, in the image of God he created them; male and female he created them.” They had no need to eat of any fruit to become like Him. They were already like Him.

But once they had come into agreement with an accusation that said otherwise, receiving it as truth, self-reliance naturally followed. If indeed God was withholding something good and necessary, then certainly they were entitled to take it for themselves. And so came that treacherous bite of fruit when sin entered into creation. Their eyes, which had only been able to see good, were now opened to see evil… as promised. They were overcome with shame and fear.

Their response was to cover up their nakedness – and thus their shame – and to hide for fear of being found out. The unclothed intimacy between Adam and Eve, as well as their undivided communion and trust with their Father was broken. Accusation now became part of their own vocabulary as they deflected blame from themselves; directing it instead toward each other and their perfect Father.

Here’s the thing. Genesis 2 says, “And they were both naked, the man and his wife, and were not ashamed.” They had been naked all along. That was never the problem. My wrinkles were never the problem. Your failures or weakness or shortcomings were never the problem. The problem is that we have agreed with an accusation that says we are not acceptable without becoming… beautiful, thin, good, successful, admired, capable, strong, independent, intelligent… or whatever it is that lures us into a sense of security outside of our identity as loved children of a good Father.

If we don’t believe that we are enough as we are, it means that God has failed us in some way – a far more damaging accusation – which entitles us, like Adam and Eve, to take for ourselves what He hasn’t given. This self-reliance removes us from the perfect provision of the garden that exists only through childlike trust in our Father. Like my botox experience, it might be temporarily liberating but it is, in reality, nothing but striving. It won’t cause us to be what we aren’t. It won’t eradicate the shame. All it will do is cover it up for a while with fig leaves that will die and keep dying and need to be replaced over and over again, all the while nurturing the belief that caused the it in the first place. And yet, we will be afraid of being seen without the leaves because that is where our shame lurks. We will never know if the love and acceptance we receive is because of who we truly are or the facade we’ve created. 

What if our happiness doesn’t lie in “becoming,” but in returning to the garden? Where we can rest in who we already are and receive the goodness and provision of our loving Father. Where we are naked and unashamed. Unafraid. Unhidden. With unbroken communion between each other and our Dad. It’s what we were made for. We will never find peace, happiness or wholeness anywhere else. It is the only place where striving can cease; where we can come out of hiding and drop every fig leaf. Because Jesus Christ has covered our every sin, weakness, failure and shortcoming… every bit of shame and every vestige of fear. He has made us righteous and given us free access to the garden through faith. What could I possibly take for myself that could be more beautiful than that?

Garden of Eden


Responses

  1. Kara:

    You consistently hit the bullseye. I hope you are at a good and healthy church that recognizes your gifting.

    Paul & Karen

    >

    • Thank you for your encouragement, Pail! We are at a church we love but we are anonymous there apart from a handful of friends 🙂


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