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Nakedness

The last post described the way most, if not all of us function. It is interesting to notice how spot on some of the lyrics are in an Emeli Sandè song, her duet with Labyrinth called ‘Beneath your beautiful’. Here are some of the lyrics…”You’ve built your wall so high, that no one can climb it”….”Behind your Broadway show, I heard a boy say, ‘Please don’t hurt me’. The chorus asks, “Would you let me see beneath your beautiful? Would you let me see beneath your perfect?” With no apostrophe in your, the song asks to see behind, underneath what is being projected.
So far in these posts we have highlighted what we do, the barriers we erect, the masks we wear. We have highlighted some of the reasons why we do this, what we are afraid of, a sense of shame we might have, a desire to be accepted and seen as OK.
What I want to do now, is consider a particular diagnosis, one that seems to make a lot of sense when you think about it. Nakedness is something that we are familiar with, both in our personal daily existence and through the media world we live in. We are confronted with nakedness in books, TV programmes, films etc. Some of us are comfortable with nakedness and some less so. It is surprising to see that nakedness is a key factor in the first 3 chapters of the Bible. These chapters portray a God who is sovereignly in control as the world, sun, moon and stars are set in place. God is portrayed as the maker, giver and sustainer of human life. God makes people to rule the earth and to enjoy an intimate friendship with him. The first people know him, are fully known by him, they are accepted by him. This is where the Bible states that they were naked and felt no shame.
The nakedness here is physical but notice how it is linked to relationship with God and each other. At this stage they experience no shame. The consequence of this is that they feel no need to cover up, no need to hide anything of who they are from God their creator or other human beings. They are not worrying about the thoughts of others, not pretending to be someone they are not; there is a peace in knowing and being fully known by a perfect Father.
In Genesis 3 we are told of human rebellion. The instructions of a loving God are thrown off as the first people seek their independence, they want to make their own decisions and they think life their way will be better. The Bible has much to say on this but it is striking that at this point in the narrative we are told that they immediately realised they were naked and made coverings for themselves. Suddenly people are aware of their own nakedness and the response is to cover up. Once again this is a physical thing but it goes far beyond the physical. As God re-enters the scene their response now, is to hide and when asked why they hid, their reply is that they were afraid because they were naked.
The diagnosis of the human condition is that we hide from our Creator and our fellow human beings because we are aware of our nakedness, we fear being seen and so we hide. This plays out in all of our relationships in one way or another. The ultimate reason for our problem is a breakdown in our relationship with our Creator and Father and so ultimately the solution to who we are and how we relate to others must lie in the fixing of our relationship to our God and Father. More to come.
 

Chris Smith, 01/03/2018


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Are you tired of performing? 

I guess whatever our age, performing for others is a pretty regular and standard part of our lives these days. Some more senior in years may say it’s always been this way, but I wonder if there has been an escalation in recent years. I feel it and it is draining.

Testing of school age children is pretty relentless. The stress and anxiety surrounding this and not least the concern regarding parental expectations really is a heavy load for some to bear. Comparison with others and finding your place in the pecking order and coming to terms with that, aren’t easy.

Without questioning the pros and cons of social media, for many the burden to perform is experienced there too. What image do I wish to portray? What is acceptable? How do I compare or compete with that presented by others? For some, this brings much harm. For the many we can find ourselves putting on a bit of an act – presenting the perfect family, the ideal holiday, the blissful relationship. We know this isn’t the whole story, but this is what we present for others to see. We can be driven by a deep need within to perform.

For those of us who attend church, this same deep-seated need, can give rise to religious performance! We can present ourselves as a thoroughly ‘good’ Christian. For some this may be about dressing up smart and putting in an appearance at a church service. For others, it might actually be about sacrificially giving up our time to serve others, run groups and activities. Performing for others can easily be mistaken for loving others.

Jesus once said, ‘Come to me, all you who are weary and heavy laden, and I will give you rest’.

After performing for others at school, university, on social media, in the work place, our neighbourhood, even in our family and possibly our church, Jesus says, ‘Come to me, and I will give you rest’. So often we can think that Christianity is really just another set of demands. Come and live this way – more performance requirements.

However, if we listen carefully to Jesus, we will hear him explain that our drive to perform is primarily a drive to cover our sense of guilt and shame. Think about it – why don’t we present ourselves as we really are? We present and perform to be accepted, thought well of, because if people saw everything, if all was laid bare, we fear we wouldn't be liked. Being truly and fully known is something that drives us into hiding. But if hiding and pretending is exhausting you, then there is good news.

Jesus says, ‘I know you perfectly, I paid for your guilt on the cross, so come to me, your shame can be removed. I can give you rest, both now and forever’. Jesus knows each of us perfectly, he knows how we have really lived, he knows who we really are, he sees through our pretence. Our guilt brings rightful condemnation from a holy God, but his love for us provides a Saviour, who reaches out to us. He says, 'Come to me...and I will give you rest'.


Chris Smith, 05/09/2017


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Growing as a christian 

After reading the VERY helpful ‘Serving without sinking’ I have now made a start on the next title by John Hindley.

One of the things I like most about John’s writing is its down to earth nature. He says what I so often think and feel. I like his honesty! I’m often surprised by our desire (me included) to put on a good Christian face, to appear as if all is well, when in fact, inside we are fallen, struggling, forgiven sinners. Our honesty often results in God’s grace being magnified whilst our self righteous projections, usually result in less praise to God for his kindness in loving us.

I’ve enjoyed the start of the book and alongside the honesty and desire to see God glorified, there are also some great illustrations of spiritual truths.

“Sometimes, Daisy, my daughter, asks me to help her get a toy from the top of her toy cupboard. Now [imagine] I ask her if she would like to do a puzzle with me, and I receive a lovely: “Yes please!” in reply. So I pick Daisy up, and as I do so, she strains towards the top to reach the puzzle. She puts every effort her little body can manage into grabbing it because she really wants the puzzle. And she will reach the puzzle. But she will reach it because I lift her. I could have just got the puzzle down for her. I could have lifted her high enough so that she didn’t need to lift her arms at all. I could have done all the work for her, but instead I involved her, and this increased her enjoyment. Did Daisy reach the puzzle? Yes. Did I reach the puzzle? Yes. I lifted; she reached. She needed me to lift her. I didn’t need her to reach. But we did it together. This is how God grows us.”

If anyone else is reading it, or fancies grabbing a copy and reading along too, do make comments below and I would be interested to see what you think.
To think some more about what Christian Growth looks like, do join us on a Sunday morning as we see what the Apostle John has to say in the little New Testament letter, 1 John.


Chris Smith, 19/02/2016


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CCR, 01/02/2012