Wednesday, October 16, 2013

get naked with someone

I'm reading a book called "Thrashing About With God". I just read the chapter called "Naked", where, in story form, the author tells of looking at herself naked in a mirror. A college professor had told her, "I recommend looking at yourself naked in the mirror each morning. A good hard look. A look that chooses to take it all in, even the parts you've been ignoring because you don't want to see. Those are parts of you as well." She stares at the stranger in the mirror, taking the time to get to know this person. This flawed, uncovered, unprotected from clothes person. "'I will love you when you're naked,' she whispers to herself, leaning dangerously close to the mirror. 'I will study your unedited bits. Your uncovered flaws. The darkness of your details. I won't be afraid to go there with you... I have lived with you and ignored you. Now I will pay attention and become familiar with your hidden beauty.'"

We fear our imperfections. We fear rejection if we reveal too much. Fear is what makes us hate nakedness. Physical and emotional nakedness. So we cover our body with clothes. Shower, towel, clothes. Don't look at the nakedness. And we cover our hearts. Never letting it be fully exposed.

The bible tells us to bear one another's burdens. Most of the time though, we're too scared to even tell others about our burdens, nonetheless, let them bear it with us. We keep secrets, we hide parts of who we are, we wear masks, we try to carry our burdens alone, we try to fight our demons alone. Because what would happen if we fully exposed ourselves? Took off our masks? I would not dare walk down the aisle at my church, stand in front of everyone and just pour it all out. Be completely honest and real. Share my struggles and things I've done. I wouldn't do it. I would like to say exposure is something we needn't fear, but I don't think that's the case. I don't think this fear of being naked is completely fabricated. I think it comes from experience. It's something we've learned. The idea that physical nakedness is "bad" is learned. We were born naked and had no problem with it. Most toddlers prefer to strip off their annoying clothes and run around naked. They are not embarrassed. They don't know it's "bad" to be exposed. It's learned. (What's deemed inappropriate is also hugely cultural, but I'm sticking with the western view, since that's what most of us have.) It's the same with our hearts. We've been burned. We've been rejected. We've been made fun of. We've been told that something we feel or think is not okay. And so we've learned to keep covered. Over time, we stop revealing so much of ourselves. We hide more and more, putting on one mask after the other.

I have this scary looking tattoo that usually freaks people out. I admit, it doesn't quite fit in the box of my usual style of tattoos. But, here's the meaning behind it. It's a type of Japanese mask that people were afraid to wear, believing that when you took it off it would take your spirit out of you. I had given this quote to my tattoo artist, "We all wear masks, and the time comes when we cannot remove them without removing some of our own skin."

While I think we have good reason to fear emotional nakedness, I don't think it's good. With all the hiding and the masks and the pretending, we will lose who we are. We all wear different masks and for different reasons. And I don't think the band-aid approach applies to this. I don't think you need to suddenly rip off all your masks and fully expose yourself. Sometimes we keep secrets to protect ourselves or others. Maybe the timing just isn't right for you to reveal certain things. That's okay. But take a risk. Be brave. Maybe you can't get naked with everyone, but get naked with someone. Take time to get to know yourself, naked and exposed. Learn to love yourself. Let others love you, naked and exposed.