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Our Nakedness

Every once in a while I meditate on Biblical relationships. Whenever I meditate on Adam and Eve I come away with something new. Last winter I focused on their attempt to hide their nakedness after eating the forbidden fruit in the garden. My thoughts looped around their nakedness being less a physical exposure than an emotional one.

Meditation Verse: Genesis 3:4-13

Then the serpent said to the woman, “You will not surely die. For God knows that in the day you eat of it your eyes will be opened, and you will be like God, knowing good and evil.” So when the woman saw that the tree was good for food, that it was pleasant to the eyes, and a tree desirable to make one wise, she took of its fruit and ate. She also gave to her husband with her, and he ate. Then the eyes of both of them were opened, and they knew that they were naked; and they sewed fig leaves together and made themselves coverings. And they heard the sound of the LORD God walking in the garden in the cool of the day, and Adam and his wife hid themselves from the presence of the LORD God among the trees of the garden.

Then the LORD God called to Adam and said to him, “Where are you?”

So he said, “I heard Your voice in the garden, and I was afraid because I was naked; and I hid myself.”

And He said, “Who told you that you were naked? Have you eaten from the tree of which I commanded you that you should not eat?”

Then the man said, “The woman whom You gave to be with me, she gave me of the tree, and I ate.”

And the LORD God said to the woman, “What is this you have done?”   The woman said, “The serpent deceived me, and I ate.”

Their action exposed their doubt over the sufficiency of God’s provision for them. They were acting as if they did not have knowledge already. As if God had not revealed Himself to them. It was the doubt they tried to excuse. “Well, the woman You gave to me gave me the fruit! Honestly, Father, I wouldn’t have eaten it otherwise.” “Yeah, well, I only gave it to him because the serpent in our garden said it would be okay.” With their pointing fingers, they sought to exonerate their greedy desire to obtain more without paying any consequences. They were grabbing for something they already had, because someone else repackaged it and presented it as something out of their reach. Adam and Eve were the agents of their own downfall because they didn’t take personal responsibility for their knowledge or for their actions. In conversation with the serpent they did not assert absolutely that particular tree, in a garden of amazing bounty, was off limits. And when God approached them and asked what they had done, they did not confess their sin.

Before the fall, Adam was proud of and pleased with the helpmate God had provided him with. They were both naked, the man and his wife, and were not ashamed. (Genesis 2:25)

Some argue that Adam and Eve knew no shame before the fall because they were innocent. The argument suggests they had no knowledge of good and evil. I think that’s rather simplistic. Adam and Eve were made in the image of their creator. They were connected to their source. They had all the knowledge they needed and access to whatever they wanted.

Adam and Eve were joined as one flesh as man and wife. Their joining created a unity and an emotional transparency that didn’t survive the enemy’s challenge. They became divided after the conflict with the serpent. Eve shared with her husband, and Adam willingly took what his wife offered. There was no remorse or shame in the receiving and eating. That came as an afterthought when God appeared in the garden to question them. At that point they both sought to hide and protect themselves. In this sense, they not only lost their direct connection with God, but the completeness of their union was damaged. Both attempts of covering themselves with leaves and hiding in the trees are examples of division and separation.

The first thing Adam said to God when God called to him was, I heard Your voice… and I was afraid because I was naked; and I hid myself. In other words, I was exposed and I couldn’t face you. I didn’t want you to see me – not like this. Adam and Eve didn’t hide simply because they ate the fruit. They hid because of the emotion associated with their action; the shame of having doubted and disobeyed God and they feared judgment. Adam’s fear speaks of his disconnection from his source more clearly than anything, as we are told in 1 John 4:16-18, quite clearly: God is love. Whoever lives in love lives in God, and God in him. In this way, love is made complete among us so that we will have confidence on the day of judgment, because in this world we are like him. There is no fear in love. But perfect love drives out fear, because fear has to do with punishment. The one who fears is not made perfect in love.

In 2 Timothy 1:7, we are told explicitly that God did not give us a spirit of fear (timidity), but rather a spirit of power, love and of self-discipline (sound mind). When you know who you are and you are secure in your place, position and relationships (with God and people), reminding yourself of this fact is sufficient to check yourself when doubt creeps in.

Adam and Eve should have presented a united front and protected one another. Instead, they selfishly sought to please and protect themselves. We are told in 1 Peter 4:8, Above all things have fervent love for one another, for love will cover a multitude of sins. I think, perhaps, that’s where the bulk of their shame came from. Not only were they caught doing something they knew not to do, they compounded their disobedience by not protecting their partner – they did not provide covering for one another. They didn’t defend or stand up for each other. There is no fear in love. Fear has to do with punishment. The one who fears is not made perfect in love. Adam and Eve started off perfect in love. Their love could have covered their sin. Instead they chose not to take responsibility for their actions and passed blame in fear of punishment. Their choices speak directly to their separation from one another.

Their story is an illustration of a relationship in its perfect state. Two people joined as one flesh, caring and providing for one another. They were emotionally open and available to one another; they were naked together and unashamed. Their story is also an illustration of the destruction a relationship is susceptible to when influenced by outside forces and internal selfishness. They lost sight of one another’s best interests. They sought to shield themselves from the other.

Relationships are still susceptible to all the nuances that caused Adam and Eve to fall.

We are in danger of destroying ourselves and our relationships when we build up defenses and guard against intimacy with our partner. There is danger when we blame our partner or others for our shortcomings and insecurities. When we hide our true selves from view in hopes of escaping judgment and recriminations. There is great danger when we fear our nakedness and our emotional vulnerabilities. More danger in the fear and hiding than simply revealing where we are.

Relationships fail for many reasons – outside interference, lack of trust, selfishness, individualistic attitude being a few reasons that come to mind.  None of that has to be the end of a union. You can overcome anything simply by choosing to cover your spouse with your love.

With Adam and Eve’s relationship, certain characteristics were implicit in their joining and in their nakedness before the fall. Trust is implicit when you expose and open your heart to someone. It’s not something to be manipulated, taken for granted or set aside. Our nakedness is sacred and should be honored as such.

In Proverbs 4:23 we are admonished to guard our hearts above all things. We may be gifted with a spouse, but it is our choice to continue day by day, hour by hour and minute by minute in performing our love for our partner. So, be careful you are not giving away pieces of your heart before you get to your assigned spouse; only your spouse should benefit from your emotional nakedness.

Meditation Verse: Genesis 2:18, 20-25

The LORD God said, “It is not good for the man to be alone. I will make a helper suitable for him.”

But for Adam no suitable helper was found. And the LORD God caused a deep sleep to fall on Adam, and he slept; and He took one of his ribs, and closed up the flesh in its place. Then the rib which the LORD God had taken from man He made into a woman, and He brought her to the man.

And Adam said: “This is now bone of my bones and flesh of my flesh; she shall be called Woman, because she was taken out of Man.”

Therefore a man shall leave his father and mother and be joined to his wife, and they shall become one flesh. And they were both naked, the man and his wife, and were not ashamed.

Related:

Awareness of Nakedness

Duality of Man: Strength and Vulnerability

When Truth Destroys

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Forgiveness – You have it. Now What?

My pastor did an illustration some time ago. He called someone up from the congregation and told the man to ask for his Bible. The man asked the pastor for his Bible. The pastor gave the man his Bible. Then the pastor said, “Keep asking for my Bible.” The man kept asking for the Bible even as he held it in his hands. The pastor turned to the congregation and said, “How foolish does he look? He has what he asked for. He received it the first time he asked. Now, what is he going to do with it?”

Forgive (v.): to pardon an offense or an offender (dictionary.com)

Forgiveness (n): act of forgiving; state of being forgiven; disposition or willingness to forgive (dictionary.com)

Forgiveness is rather simple. It’s a matter of letting things go. Not holding on to hurts and infractions. No longer resenting the person who caused offense. It’s about moving on from where you were. Those are all pluses for the forgiver.

Not so simple is what comes after. From my recent experiences, the offenders/transgressors remain in the same spot. Waiting for you to return and participate in the same habits that led to the offense. They don’t want things to change. They’re free to offend and happy to receive forgiveness in a continual cycle. They’re just being themselves, after all, and if you love them you’ll accept them as they are. Repeat offenders are master manipulators. They aren’t interested in experiencing the consequences of their actions. According to them, there shouldn’t be any! Receiving forgiveness does not absolve you from the consequences for your behavior (i.e. reaping what you’ve sown). Every action has a reaction. Every cause has an effect. Each step is followed by another step. We are never in the same position twice. Even when we move backwards we are aware of what’s coming towards us because we’ve been there before.

The consequence of treating someone badly is that the relationship will not be what it was before the ill-treatment, even after forgiveness has been given. That doesn’t have to be a negative. Success usually comes after many failures. For me, personally, the relationship is either better and stronger or nothing. Either way, I’m going to keep moving. Keep learning and keep growing. My hope is that the other party is moving with me, because I refuse to allow myself to remain in any situation I feel I am continually being taken advantage of. 

Jemini Effect

A gentle answer turns away wrath, but a harsh word stirs up anger.
The tongue that brings healing is a tree of life, but a deceitful tongue crushes the spirit.  ~ Prov 15:1, 4

My friend Jemini was mentioned several times in my book, My God and Me: Listening, Learning and Growing on My Journey. Every time I wrote anything about her, I told her about it and asked if she wanted to read it. When I completed the manuscript I asked her if she would review it and provide feedback. She wasn’t interested. A month before I published she read a snippet of a Dichotomy of Jemini (a piece about relationship-changing verbal attacks she made against me). I later confirmed she didn’t read the whole piece. She took offense at a couple of sentences and stopped speaking to me. From the moment her treatment of me changed I knew she had read something. [Dichotomy of Jemini causes the most commotion at my readings, so I understand there’s some uneasy controversy in it. However, I am not remorseful for publishing it. It speaks of a lesson I learned as does the rest of the book of personal essays.]

Dichotomy of Jemini outlines a relationship I put much more value on than the other party. It touches on remarks Jemini made that wounded me. It goes on to discuss how I brought the issue to her attention and she told me I misunderstood her words, then she made excuses and eventually she avoided the issue altogether. She never acknowledged that she hurt me (rather she intended to or not). She never took responsibility. She never apologized. She wanted to forget that we had a disagreement and act like we did before the “episode”.

But I had already changed. Her words had already been spoken. You can’t take back what’s already been done but you can make amends for it. So, more months passed and I was promoting my book. (As I said, I keep moving.) When Jemini decided she wanted to be “friends” again, she staged a “make-up” call, during which she blew the piece up in a way to make herself out as the victim. I was wrong and unfair; and worse I wasn’t seeking to heal the breach. How can she forget the “episode” if everyone was reading about it?

I decided to sit back and do nothing during this second act. Jemini trailed a long line of people who took me and my friendship for granted. I had never asked her for anything, except her sincere and honest friendship. Then the time came when I asked her for an apology and expalnation for her behavior towards me.

She didn’t have any sincere honesty for me. More avoidance, deflecting and excuses.  

Woo Effect

Pleasant words are a honeycomb, sweet to the soul and healing to the bones.   ~ Prov 16:24

I had to sit back and think about how so many people have been comfortable treating me so cavalierly and then setting me aside. The answer I came to: I forgave when they asked and forgot their transgressions without requiring anything from them. No expression of repentance, no sincere/specific apology and no attempt to make amends. I was always giving of myself and going home empty.

Now, I’m asking for something in my relationships. I want to be wooed. I want to know you’re not just after a comfortable foot stool or a quiet ear. I need to know you’re interested in contributing to and sustaining a relationship with me. I need to know I’m not in it alone.

Jemini isn’t coping well with LaShawnda version 2010. Apparently, I spoil people with the full force of my personality and affection when they’re in my good graces. The other day, Jemini told me I was difficult to figure out. I wasn’t returning her calls like I used to. I didn’t come by and lounge with her and her family on lazy Sunday afternoons anymore. Her husband had told me earlier in the week that she and the kids missed me and I should stop by. I told him my bell worked just as well as theirs did and my phone was functioning too.

He looked taken aback. I had never been so abrupt with them. I’ve become so fed up with putting out so much on the front end that the other person doesn’t know how to hold up the back end. Meaning, if my effort is driving the relationship, it’s all going to fall apart when I stop, let go, sit back. Who wants a relationship like that? A relationship that only functions when you function? I don’t. I now take issue with making all the outward effort. If you want to see me, but you can wait until I come to you (like you always do), well, keep on waiting. You want to hang out, but only in your house, with your kids, talking about your life, fine, hang out. I have stuff I need to do, I’ll see you later. You want to do this or that because it’s convenient for you, go ahead, I’m not interested in tagging along. 

I’m done setting myself aside too. I’m not saying everything should be about me. I am saying relationships should be balanced. They should blend the personalities and lives of the involved parties.         

Back to Jemini…. My response to Jemini’s comment that I’m difficult to figure out was, “I’m very simple.”

She gave a disbelieving roll of the eyes and said, “I’m gonna write a book to help your husband out, ‘cause he’s gonna have some problems.”

I looked over at her children and thought about sharing the non-secret key. I had done so previously and she had even commented on it in nearly each of our conversations. Your fans miss you. Your groupies want to see you. She calls her children my fans and groupies because they shower me with affection. Simple, sincere, honest affection that’s seeking after its own kind. The kids don’t care who’s in a bad mood, who doesn’t want to be bothered, who’s angry at whom – each visit begins and ends with a kiss and hug from each of them. Exuberant, cheerful, excited, loving, raucous, uninhibited. They chant my name before they see me, they jump up and down to open the door (it’s rare that I cross the threshold without someone jumping into my arms first). Their smiles remove every drop of gloom or sadness in my heart from the moment I see them, no matter how difficult my day may have been. The children aren’t hiding their affection. They’re overt and shameless. And guess what? So am I. I chase after them. I toss them in the air and swing them in circles. I hug them tight and kiss their cheeks. I ask about their day, their new friends and listen to whatever else they want to tell me. It’s a mutual pursuit.       

“Let the little children come to me, and do not hinder them, for the kingdom of God belongs to such as these. I tell you the truth, anyone who will not receive the kingdom of God like a little child will never enter it.” And he (Jesus) took the children in his arms, put his hands on them and blessed them.  ~ Mark 10:13-16

Don’t miss this! You have to receive the kingdom of God like a little child or you will never enter it! Children aren’t trying to save face. They’re not concerned with having the upper hand and never admitting to a wrong. God has gifts for us. Many of His blessings can be found in our relationships. If you’re not open and exuberant about the people in your life, then you can’t be alarmed when they gravitate towards people who are. If you treat your friends as if you can take them or leave them, chances are they’ll leave.

Children don’t remember wrongs, hurts, or anger. They’re quick to love and quick to forgive. The world teaches us differently as we age. We “grow” out of such child-like behavior and “mature” into being suspicious of everyone, not needing anyone, telling little lies and omitting whole truths.

An honest answer is like a kiss on the lips.  ~ Prov 24:26 NIV

Being emotionally honest may sound too simple to be effective when looking back from a heart that’s been bruised, scared and broken. In adulthood our emotional honesty may have ended painfully with us vowing never to open ourselves again; never to reveal the truth of our feelings; to keep our love to ourselves; to get what we can out of others without exposing our need for so much more. If you’re hiding, camouflaging, fronting, popping your collar and slapping hi-fives to the boys and shouting you-go-girl’s to the girls then you’re not being honest about where you are. You’re putting on a show. There’s no sincerity in your approach. No honor in your staying around.

At some point you have to accept responsibility for the damage you made to a relationship. Even if you’ve already been forgiven, just confessing your error goes a long way to eliminating resistance to interacting with you.

I’m not too proud to say, I need love. Affection goes a long way to improving a person’s disposition. Like anyone else, I flower when you pour the love on. A hug and a soft word can bring an end to battles. If a relationship has gotten to a point that I fold up my petals, it’s not because I want it that way, I simply need to be wooed into unfurling.

How sweet are your words to my taste, sweeter than honey to my mouth!  ~ Psalm 119:103