It is Like “Naked and Not Ashamed”, but Just “Naked”.
The first two summers we lived here we got “caught” at the Fremont Solstice parade. Both times we were traveling from one place to another and got in the flow of traffic that pushed us towards the event. No, really, it was an accident! I swear!
The event has a very Edenic-quality about it. People sans the burden of clothing, soaking in the sun on their bikes while publicly proclaiming “I am not ashamed!” It is an echo of those pre-fall days that I believe is hard-wired into our soul: we weren’t meant to carry the burden of shame. As uncomfortable as I am with public nudity, especially my own, I do see something both helpful and telling about it: we have a desire to be radically and joyfully unashamed. Even though a culture of shame is normal to us, even though we cannot fully imagine a world without pervasive shame, even though we can’t understand our own lives without shame, we still hold on to hope that we might be free of it.
The parade is a celebration of a lot of things, I’m sure, but it is also a revelation that we still long to be fully exposed-with no reason to hide.
He [Paradeth] Too Much, Me Thinks
But declaring ourselves unashamed is not enough to rid us of the shame. The reason to hide is still buried deep in us, so deep that the purifying rays of sunlight cannot reach no matter what we are wearing. The same people who will throw off their clothes on Saturday morning will replay their shame-filled memories in the quiet dark of their Saturday night.
It is in those quiet, undistracted moments that the shame reminds us it is there, but that it can be dealt with. Many people are unaware that this kind of “darkness” dwells in them. Many of those that are aware of their darkness have coping tools to stuff it down further. Because silence and solitude help draw out the poison, we run from both. Better to either run from it or declare it isn’t there.
It takes courage to feel it. It takes courage to look deep into the reality of what God’s Spirit wants us to see in ourselves. It takes courage to feel it honestly. It takes courage to let it affect us so deeply that we are allowed to see that we really do need help. It takes courage to ask for that help.
Adam and Eve sinned against a Father who loved them. It was shocking betrayal. They hid behind leaves, behind trees, and behind the guilt driven belief that it was someone else’s fault, not their own. But, they really couldn’t hide. The same eyes that revealed the fierce love of the Father was also a deep-seeing gaze from the eyes of a Searcher. Their God could see through the leaves and the trees and the blaming into the very root of who they were. He could see the heart they tried to hide.
This is why it takes courage. We are all exposed every minute of our existence. The same God who sees all our actions sees all of the desires, loves, and beliefs that fuel those actions. He sees it all. Every bit of it. The question is: how will he respond? Fierce judgmentalism? Passive aggressive back-turning? Adding more shame?
It takes courage to not run away from him (and ourselves) in terror.
Where Courage Comes From
Adam and Eve hid, but God did not allow them to stay hidden. He exposed them. He brought them out of the shadows. The light of a Holy God’s scrutiny had to burn. Exposure always does. But it is here that he shows his real character. He does something strange: he takes an animal or two off to the side, kills it, and creates clothing for them. He covers their shame.
He doesn’t use their vulnerability to crush them, but heals them. He covers them. He starts the process of restoring all that was lost. Our courage doesn’t come from our own weakened moral resources, but the experienced understanding that God’s desire is to redeem, not reject. To wipe clean not wound. To come to us in our shame, embrace us like a son who came home after a shameful life, and put his own best clothing on us. (See Luke 15:11-32)
We can be exposed knowing that the one who sees all of us will redeem us.
Taken Outside of the Shame City For Shame City
Jesus came to a shameful city. Everything that happens in our city happened in Jerusalem during his time. People walked the streets with their heads down too far or their heads up too much. Pride was a poor covering then too. The weight we carry on us now they carried on themselves then. We aren’t all that much different.
Jesus could see shame better than anyone else could. He never sinned so he never had his own shame, but he felt the shame of those who he lived among.
The most shameful thing that could happen to a male in first century Israel was for him to be publicly exposed. He would not have willingly chosen to be naked, but they stripped him down to prepare him for his execution.
His presence and his words exposed their darkness, all they frilly wanted to hide. The guilt and shame of Shame City compelled them to try to hide one more time by getting rid of the one who exposed them. They tried to hide behind a tree by exposing Jesus on one.
But, when Jesus was most humiliated, most exposed, he revealed more than his nakedness: he revealed the depth of his own desire to free them. As he carried our shame by being publicly shamed he exposed the world to the truth that he is not a God who delights in humiliating people who deserve it, but he heals us. He covers us. He starts the process of restoring all that was lost in us.
The Cross Exposes Jesus for Who He Really Is: a God Who Will be Shamed on our Behalf.
The more we understand that truth, the more we have courage to let him draw our shame out of us. The more we comprehend Jesus' motivation the more we will trust him not to shame us. The more I understand his heart, the more I will let him heal a man that deserves condemnation, but needs grace.
I am not ashamed of the gospel because the gospel is the power of God to steal away my shame.