Depending on emotional/relational fig leaves to keep ourselves safe is not a very good strategy. First off, they don’t provide much protection and when they die, they dry up and crumble apart, leaving us vulnerable to the pain, shame and hurt they were intended to guard against. What then can be done? Does God have a plan to protect and keep us?
Yes, thank God, there is a means of getting back to the garden. “God clothed Adam and Eve in garments of flesh.” Genesis 3:21 God replaced their fig leaves with the soft, supple, warm skin of an animal. God did not leave them naked and vulnerable to cold and hurt. (Sadly, though, an animal had to die to provide this covering, a foreshadowing of the crucifixion.)
Returning to the Garden, being restored to community, leaving the house of fear and entering the house of love requires us to give up our paltry attempts at self-protection and to trust God to be our covering. We can choose nakedness; we can be ourselves without pretense or fear (see here for a discussion of trust vs fear).
Such vulnerability does need wisdom, though. Jesus said in Matthew 7:6 that you should “not throw your pearls before swine, or they will trample them under foot and turn and maul you.” Don’t give what is precious and valuable (your very self) to someone who is not going to honor and respect you. This is not to say you should be “hiding” your self in such situations, just use discretion in what truth you offer to the other. Jesus would not want you to be abused and trampled upon.
Living in the house of love, we choose dependent obedience; we obey God’s command to love and serve one another while depending upon the covering of Christ’s victory to be our protection. Remember the others we are in community with will (like us) tend to “clothe themselves in fig leaves.” It is not ours to force their “nakedness,” one must choose “nakedness.” It is ours to do unto them as Christ has done unto us. Such love-born actions alone can lead to trust and vulnerability.
We began these posts with a thought from St. Teresa of Avila. Let’s end them by making her thought our own.
As I pray, I am making a garden in which my Lord delights. But the soil of my garden is unfruitful and full of weeds. So Jesus uproots the weeds and plants good herbs…so that he may come often for his pleasure and to delight himself in the virtues growing in me.
This concludes the series of posts on God’s tending of us, a garden in whom our Lord delights. You can read them from the beginning by going to “How does your Garden Grow.” The thoughts were taken from the retreat Shaped at the Garden. You can contact me for more information about this retreat.
Beautifully stated, Debby. Trusting God to remove the fig leaves and clothe us with his own righteousness requires, at least in our minds, a great deal of risk. We may know in Sunday school that God is worthy of our trust, but in the midst of our guilt, shame, and woundedness it becomes very difficult to actually trust him. God knows that trust is earned, yet at the same time we must afford him opportunities to prove faithful. It never ceases to amaze me how patient and gentle he is with us. Love truly does consider the best interests of the other, and God is love. “And God demonstrates his own love for us in this: While we were still sinners, Christ died for us” (Romans 5:8). He risked first. Redemption will not cost you parts of your life. It will cost you all of it. But it is so worth it!
With you on the journey,
Michael, I so appreciate the way you expand the thoughts I post. Thank you for your sincere and thoughtful responses. Debby