Return to Eden

In a culture that esteems bearing a bit of leg, some skin, much cleavage, the naked truth is we shun nudity.

I’m not referring to taut leather, flabby flesh, tanned figures—that’s epidermis. But I speak of genuine nakedness, stark bareness: soul exposure.

The curve of our struggles, the paleness of our dreams, the unflattering roll of our insecurities. Stripped exposure terrifies.

The wrinkled smallness of our own souls mortifies and we scramble for a fig leaf to cover the twistedness of our being.

We cling to masks.

Tight and itchy, they protect us, these societal shrouds. Some wear toupees of toughness, others pull on girdles of levity. Or facades of flawlessness, pretenses of perfectionism, screens of superiority.

We hide.

It once was different. Somewhere in the dust-thick corners of our memory, we remember when our story began, God calling for us in Eden’s garden, seeking us out, wanting to hold us. Hold the whole of us. We walked bare. We knew acceptance. We knew love.

But our fall, that scraping of humanity’s soul on the sharp edge of sin, now drives us to bandage, sheathing who we are, our pain, our wounds, in sophisticated dressings.

Rejection stalks. And we wrap tighter, carefully safeguarding the essence of us. Now we know shame. We avoid further shame.

What if someone caught a glimpse of our oozing wounds? Worse yet, soul skin we thought smooth and lovely might be revealed as otherwise by others’ contorted distaste. We fear social mirrors. We dread the possibility of discovering we’re even uglier than we presumed.

We hide.

Last week, I didn’t.

A Christ-friend sought me out, called my name, and I came. Came with a shrouded soul and dressings in hand. Came shy and guarded. Came anyways, scared.

Time, proximity, trust, these things tenderly lift back the gauze. Community, a loving one, may be safe.

It can be terrifying.

Will I be accepted if they see this gash of ugliness? Trust.
Will I be welcomed when they see the goriness of my humanity? Proximity.
Will they still offer closeness when they know my struggle with this sin (fill in the blank)? Time.

Would anyone love me if they saw the real me?

God does. (Yes, it’s true. Say it again, and let it sink in: Him hanging there on the Cross punctuates the truth of His love for you with an exclamation mark… a tear of passion.)

And so is the calling of each of us, His people. We are called to love wholly, unwaveringly, radically.

If we, kingdom people, have been redeemed from the Fall, returned to the intimate relationship of the Garden, to a bare embrace with God, are we not called to do the same with each other?

To live soul-bare?

In God’s community, we return to Eden and live soul naked. In the community of God’s people, we have the hope of living transparent, vulnerable, authentic and exposed … trusting the unconditional love of Christ to envelope our bareness.

When we are restored, through Christ, to complete union with God, we again walk unveiled and unashamed. We’re securely accepted, held, known. Last week, so even I was.

In Christ, us fallen ones take off the dressings that mask us, and live in faith of our Christ-healing. Live in faith of the faith community’s Christ-love.

I still reach for masks.

And in that moment of groping for my soul shields, grasping for protection from rejection, that is the moment He calls me to turn and instead gently reach out, to love the one repulsed by the authentic me, through time, closeness, assurance, to transparency. Those who reject and mock the shape, the scars, of exposed souls, are the deeply wounded, thickly dressed ones.

Can our unconditional love love them, those who reject us, back to the Garden and the safeness of soul authenticity?

And I have to wonder: Am I willing to do the hard, endless work of tenderly loving naked souls? To marvel, regardless of lingering messiness, at all the their Christ-healing, faith-sure of more?

Those who’ve met the Man in the Garden of Gethsemane are willing to live counter-culture, to radically live in naked, soul authenticity.

For they’ve walked the Crossbeam back to Eden.

Lord… how can I be more authentic in my relationships today?
And, please Father, show me how to be a safe Eden so that souls around me may be real.

Related: Living in true Christian Community at Seedlings in Stone

Photos: flowers blooming in conservatory Tonia and I walked through as we shared souls, kind Tonia with some of our family, gazing out at view from top of CN Tower