Remove Shame – Cleanse the lepers: restore to community (part seven)
It’s obvious we are not living anywhere near the Garden of Eden and God’s intention for our lives and relationships. What went wrong? Our continued study of Genesis gives us the answer – after the ‘fall’ Adam and Eve “clothed themselves in fig leaves.” (Genesis 3:7)
Previous to the fall, they enjoyed unadulterated fellowship with God, each other and all of creation; they were “naked and not ashamed.” In perfect partnership and according to God’s direction, they tended the garden and cared for the animals. They knew only freedom and joy.
After the fall, Adam and Eve were afraid. They hid themselves and made fig leaves to cover their nakedness. Heeding the serpent’s voice and choosing to do the one thing God has asked them not to do changed their outlook; suddenly they became self conscious, for the first time they noticed their own nakedness. Their attention and focus shifted to themselves. Their gaze moved from God, each other and the garden to their own naked bodies. They became aware of their vulnerable state and knew they had disappointed God. Out of this shame, they attempted to hide behind self-made fig leaves.
We’ve inherited this pattern. We are very self-aware, in many ways we cast ourselves as the primary character in the play of life; it’s all about us, we are the center of the universe. And sadly, because we are afraid who we are will disappoint God or others we hide and cover up. Our fear and shame causes us to use emotional/relational styles of fig leaves to cover ourselves and hide our nakedness. Fear and pretense kills the spiritual and ideal community God wants to us experience.
We can no longer enter relationships without fear and shame being present to some degree. You must earn my trust. I must grow to believe that you are a safe person with whom I can be my vulnerable self. Until then, I’ll keep myself protected and guard against the pain of disappointment by hiding behind my own version of a fig leaf.
In my next post we’ll talk about a few of the more common emotional/relational fig leaves we use to protect our vulnerable self.
This material is taken from the Shaped at the Garden Retreat. For information about this retreat, please contact me or check out the upcoming events.
This hits home… why I side with the voice of the serpent that comes from outside, from not-God and not-friend, and allow it to color how I see myself, I do not know…. but in letting the serpent name me I see my self as flawed and deformed and this destroys my relationship with my kids as I see them as flawed as well; marred by bad parenting. I give too much credence to the projections of my peers who champion working all the time; I call my self lazy and I call my students lazy… it becomes a vicious spiral of horror culminating in death (my boss just died of a massive heart attack). Fig leaves at this point wont help, I need a burkha. How do I take that evil voice to God as soon as I hear it? How do I recognize it as the enemy before I assume it is my own voice? Maybe, I need to go to God anyway even though it is always too late…. maybe it will always be too late and I need to confess the voices I think might be my own to God and ask Him to clarify which thoughts are from Him and which from the devil? Maybe it is this problem I have with the delay that allows the evil seeds of doubt and hatred to be identified and the destruction that they have wrought in my life to be transmuted into gold? I have to trust that in my weakness His strength is revealed. Grace, I live by grace and the hope grace bestows.
I think the beginning of an answer to your questions about what to do with that serpent’s voice is to be more proactive than reactive. Start by prayerfully letting God give you a name that identifies who you are from God’s perspective. Jesus received his identity in the baptismal waters – Beloved, Son, Well-pleasing. Begin to address yourself by that name. Begin your prayers with, “Hello dear God, this is Noelle, your beloved daughter (or whatever name God gives.) Rest in this truth, take a bath in it. Then test every other voice/name by that standard. Secondly, notice your affective response to the name calling. Do you feel expanded, lovingly corrected, loved by God, moved toward truth and life? or do you feel minimized, crushed, angry, anxious, disappointed and hateful? Where is your focus and attention? If it’s on you, then it is not God’s voice. At this point, repent and believe the good news. You are God’s _________. fill in the blank.
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Reading your comment, Noelle, and your response, Debby, was transformative for me today. I needed to hear both – they brought more clarification from your post and they gave grace to my heart.
It is amazing how God’s truth sometimes needs a dialogue for it to be understood. I am grateful for both yours and Noelle’s always authentic wrestling with our Lord. d