Wednesday, September 02, 2015

"Naked and Afraid"

Have you ever seen the show by that name? It's an hour long reality television series that pairs a man and woman. strangers, and together they must survive for 21 days in a jungle or desert or rainforest or on a mountain somewhere in the world. With no food, no water, and no clothes. They can each take one item with them - a firestarter or a knife or a pot. They must find food, water, build a shelter, and fend off predators for 21 days. If the experience is too difficult, they can "tap out" - at which point they are rescued and taken back to civilization and their partner is left alone to finish the 21 day challenge. Each of the competitors is given a video camera to keep a video diary, and there is a film crew that follows them around along with a medic, in case they are hurt. I've seen people cut themselves badly with knives. I've seen people who needed to have thorns removed from their feet. Infected boils lanced. Dehydration. Deep exhaustion. An inconceivable number of ant bites and mosquito bites. One woman was peed and pooped on by a monkey. It's gritty, nasty, fascinating, head-shaking, "I'm so glad that's not me" kinda stuff.

Yes, I confess - that crazy show is a guilty pleasure that my husband and I have indulged in for too long. We ooh and aah at how they deal with snakes and caimans and monkeys and each other. We laugh at their predicaments. We scold them for their foolish choices. We groan at their terrible interpersonal skills.

Let me be clear: We are not so cocky as to think that we could survive such an experience. We know full well that we couldn't last one night in our own backyard, fully clothed, in a tent, with a cooler full of food. We are not survivalists, by any stretch of the imagination. I can't remember the last time I went to bed without flossing my teeth, so sleeping naked, hungry, and completely exposed in the jungle for 21 days with a stranger is completely out of the question. Unless dental floss could be the one thing I chose to take with me...


According to what I see on the covers of the supermarket tabloids and the magazines I peruse at Barnes and Noble, as I approach the big 5-0, I should be afraid. When I look in the mirror, I see scars. I see droopy skin. I see wrinkles. I see ridges. I see dry skin. I see a receding hairline. I see signs of aging. When I think about those things as I flip through nearly any women's magazine or most television channels at certain times of the day, I am bombarded with messages that tell me to be afraid, be very afraid. Aging is a frightful passage. Fight it with all your might. Don't let the wrinkles win.

When it comes to aging and the changes in my body, I am not afraid. Every scar is a reminder of a battle I've won. Every stretch mark reminds me of the two people this body brought into the world. Every wrinkle around my eyes and mouth reminds me of a smile or a tear - both of which are signs of life, of a beautiful life, of a difficult life, of a blessed life, of a grief-filled life. Every sign of aging is a gift because so many people don't make it to 50 years of age. So many people don't even make it to ten years of age.

I am grateful for the husband who watches that silly show with me. I am grateful for the laughter we still share. I am grateful for the two children he and I have been blessed to raise. I am enormously grateful that he sees me with all my stuff, my scars, my droopiness, my silliness, my seriousness, my yearning for God, for the Bible, for peace, and for love - and he has not run away screaming into the night. I am grateful that my nakedness - be it physical or emotional or spiritual - doesn't make him afraid.

I am grateful for the friends and family members who walk with me and listen to me, who read my ramblings and ask my advice. I am grateful for the questions they ask and the freedom they give me to answer from my heart, from the most vulnerable places, the deep places, from the naked places in my soul. I am grateful that they too are gracious in accepting me in all my wrinkled, messy, deeply scarred nakedness.

I am grateful for my spiritual director, my pastors, my soul sisters and brothers, whose stories I have heard, those who hear my stories and walk with me on this journey that is my life. I am grateful for their courage and strength to sit with me and stand with me through all the moments in which I strip myself bare, let my tears flow, and don't flinch or turn away.

There have been times in my life when I have been afraid -
to be seen
to not be seen
to be rejected
to be welcomed
to tell the truth
to conceal the truth
to be wrong
to be right
to be weak
to be strong
to be silenced
to be heard
to be misunderstood
to misunderstand
that I will be forgotten
that I will be remembered

So much fear. Fear that paralyzed me. Fear that kept me running away from the truth of my faults and failures. Fear that pushed me to find my value in the approval and attention of people who were themselves afraid to be seen and unseen. Fear that caused me to turn away from those who sought connection with me. My life revolved around my fears for too long.

I am getting to a place in my life where those fears are losing their grip on me.
Perhaps it's because I am going to turn 50 in less than four months -
so who cares what anybody thinks of me anymore?
Perhaps it is the age thing. But more than that, I believe it's a faith thing.
If God is God, if God loves me,
if I have been forgiven, if I have been set free from fear,
if Christ did come and live and die for me, for all of us,
if Christ came to give us life, abundant life,
if the Holy Spirit dwells within me and guides me through my life,
if peace is possible no matter the circumstances,
if Love wins in the end, in the beginning, and in the middle,
if there is such a thing as joy that isn't tied to circumstances,
if I am never forgotten or forsaken,
if there really is healing and power in the name of Jesus,
then I have every reason to be naked with God and no reason to be afraid of God.

I can remove the masks and make up that I use to try to hide the bags under my eyes and the lines around my mouth. I can laugh when I'm happy and cry when I'm sad and scream when I'm angry and whisper when I don't have the strength to shout and be silent when there is nothing more to express. I can speak freely in prayer. I can sit silently in prayer. I can be fully, unashamedly, abashedly naked with The One who loves me most.

I can peel off the girdles and Spanx and other undergarments that constrict my breathing and make me look like I have a body that I don't actually have. Who do I think I'm kidding? Certainly not God. I can let it all hang out and hang down. I can stop holding my breath and sucking in. I can breathe deeply and rest in the knowledge that God isn't looking for a newer or slimmer or more chiseled version of me. Even as I am being transformed from glory to glory day by day, even as I am being made new, even as my weakness becomes strength, even though the rough places in me are being smoothed out little by little, God loves me just as I am.

I can take off my shoes and socks and walk barefoot, wrinkly toes, cracked heels, and all - because everywhere my feet land is holy ground. These are sacred and holy places that we walk on. Not only the churches and other worship spaces. But also each other's homes. The library. The Loaves and Fishes pantry. The mall. The barber shop. The auto parts store. The mayoral candidates forum. The doctor's office. The hospice. The voting booth. The bank. Even on our death beds. Wherever people walk and work, wherever the sun shines and the rain falls, wherever we live and breathe and move - it's holy ground. Why be afraid when we are all naked? Why be afraid when we are all so consumed with our own scars and stretch marks and droopy parts and flabby parts that we barely notice each other?


May we find joy at every turn on the journey.
May we find peace in each breath.
May we find grace to welcome and embrace each other, scars and all.
May we find mercy and forgiveness - and may we be willing to accept them.
May we laugh at our own nakedness, but never at each other's.
May we celebrate every day, every moment, every gift that the present is.
May we be courageous and strong, overcoming all False Evidence Appearing Real - FEAR.
May we know firsthand how God's perfect love casts out all fear.

And may my husband and I be set free from our addiction to this crazy show, Naked and Afraid.

1 comment:

Anna Grace said...

"If God is God, if God loves me,
if I have been forgiven, if I have been set free from fear,
if Christ did come and live and die for me, for all of us,
if Christ came to give us life, abundant life,
if the Holy Spirit dwells within me and guides me through my life,
if peace is possible no matter the circumstances,
if Love wins in the end, in the beginning, and in the middle,
if there is such a thing as joy that isn't tied to circumstances,
if I am never forgotten or forsaken,
if there really is healing and power in the name of Jesus,
then I have every reason to be naked with God and no reason to be afraid of God.”

Thank you so much for this. I have held this close to my heart since I read it a couple of months ago. beautiful!!