Shame. Let that word resonate in your head. Let it resonate in your heart. Shame like tar, dripping down over you. Irritating and abrasive, thick and suffocating. Shame wielded like a weapon, "Shame on you!" "You should be ashamed!" "Have you no shame?" Shame was never God's intent. Shame makes us feel something is wrong with us and causes us to hide. Shame isolates, showing us that we are alone...alone in our woundedness or alone in our sin, alone because of our own choices or because of the choices of someone else, we're still alone. In the first mention of shame in scripture (Genesis 3:7) it didn't come from God, it came from within. It caused them to pull away and hide from God, it caused them to cover up. It was the result of eyes being opened, it was the result of choices that weren't what God had wanted--but where shame made them feel like this was the end of the story, God had already shaped a way to begin again.
I remember several years ago I was in a Bible study with several other women. One young woman was weeks away from her wedding. We were studying the book of Genesis and on that day as we went line by line through Genesis 2, sharing what had jumped out at us, she said "it's good to be naked." (see Genesis 2:25) This line popped into my head again the other day. Probably not in the way that you're thinking, though. I've been talking with God a lot about what it means to fully be the person he created me to be. And a big part of that is defining what it means to be naked, and what it means to feel no shame.
One reason I get dressed each day is protection; protection from the weather, protection from scrapes, protection from contact I don't welcome. Another reason is to cover up. I'm covering up my flaws, my imperfections, and the parts of my body I don't want everyone to see. But my clothes dull my sensations, they cover the biggest sensory organs in my body--my skin. Holding hands with my husband while wearing gloves is never as satisfying as when our skin touches. And yet we cover up and get used to feeling less.
I can be tempted to do more than put on literal clothes. Sometimes I want to cover myself in the same way emotionally. In the past I have put on one layer at a time and pretty soon I was covered with layers so thick that no one was getting through, not even God. I thought my layers helped me feel safe, protected and in control, but soon I was so used to the dulled sensitivity that I thought it was normal or even preferable.
But God wants the naked me. He doesn't want me to hide when I hear him coming. He wants the real me, flaws and imperfections showing. He asks me to come to him even when I feel dirty and sticky and covered with tar-like shame. He calls and extends his hand. He promises that he will search me and know me, that he will show me the things I need to work on so that I'm the person he wants me to be. (Psalm 139:23-24) He promises in Psalm 51 to wash me so that I am whiter than snow. He reaches out and extends the way to begin again and he calls it grace. Grace for the times that I didn't turn to him for help. Grace for the times that I let my shame suffocate his accurate assessment of what was wrong and what needed to be fixed. Grace for the times when I decided that my ways of dealing with my hurts didn't need his help. Grace for the times that I decided to just live my own way because I had hidden myself so well that I couldn't see or hear him anymore. He calls and hold out his arms, he reminds me that my friend's assessment is true. It's good to be a naked soul, without polish or pretense, in the presence of God.