My goal for this Eve series has been in setting straight the worlds mistaken view of Eden, to a progressively positive perspective. This studying escapade has brought me so much respect for our first parents!
In this last post, we continue to emulate the righteousness of Adam and Eve, by delving into their immortal and mortal nakedness-weakness-vulnerability, and their continuation to do so in a fallen state with the correct covering/protection.
We will acquaint ourselves with the two types of nakedness, and the two types of covers for that nakedness.
My overall ambition with this subject is to leave a desire to become unashamed and naked– just like Adam and Eve. Before eating ‘the fruit’ they were unashamed, and then even in a fallen state they were able to become unashamed again (with great courage and continual effort).
Being naked is our natural intended state! But being naked in this telestial state takes serious bravery plus integrity. Now don’t go thinking I am telling you to take your clothes off…I want to address being ‘naked’ on a much deeper level than physical. It is more specifically our parent’s hearts and minds that were naked before God. They were completely open and exposed before him, and thus unashamed with their clean record. I believe being physically naked in the garden is very symbolic.
How it happened for Adam and Eve, and how it can happen for us:
- Naked and Unashamed in God’s presence
- Transgressed, moved beyond their limits
- Consequence: downward from God> & potentially forward to God
- Mortality is reality, with the ‘natural man’ to deal with
- Naked and exposed because of surpassed boundaries
- Satan prompts shame as covering (fig leaves and hiding in the trees)
- Courageously decide to step out of shame and own story by confessing
- Forgiven of transgression
- God offers protection with the cover of the Atonement (coat of skins)
- Naked and Unashamed in mortality, but only with God’s help
I pose this statement: God allows us to be mortally naked and unprotected, that we might use our agency to choose his covering over Satan’s covering.
>God’s cover is the Atonement.
The atonement literally means ‘to cover’ (kfr) from it’s original Hebrew root.
>Natural Man’s cover, or Satan’s cover, is shame.
Shame literally means ‘to cover’ (skem) from its original Indo-European roots.
Brene Brown, research professor at the University of Houston Graduate College and expert on shame, shares that “Shame is a word most people don’t like to identify with…mostly responding with either an ‘I don’t know what you’re talking about, but I’m pretty sure it doesn’t have anything to do with me’, or ‘I know exactly what you’re talking about and I don’t want to discuss it with you.’”
Even though shame is a universally primitive human experience and that we have all felt and will continue to feel it, -we don’t understand it nor do we desire to. It is a very confusing/daunting/intimidating/formidable/difficult emotion. So we simply don’t talk about it…and as it would turn out, the survival of shame is specifically based on not talking about it! It is the unspoken epidemic! When interviewing men and women, Brene noted that over 85% remembered a shame experience from either school or sports that had a tremendous effect on them as adults. The vast majority said it “changed their lives” or “charted a course for the rest of their lives”.
We need to alter these courses of ours and like Adam and Eve, step out of shame. No more hiding. No more running from our story.
So lets talk about shame for a second…because shame cannot survive if spoken and met with empathy! It gets zilched when we open up and someone says “I get it” or “I’ve been there”. Remember how the Lord is the most empathetic person there ever was? Not only can he relate to what you’re going through-but he has literally~been~through~it! Jesus Christ can completely cover our partial cover.
Here is a quick run down about shame… (honestly I would just like to point you over to Brene Brown’s work and rather you read her words, but I will try and summarize it proficiently. But still, go read her books and watch her TED talks!) what Brene says about shame:
“There are a couple of very helpful ways to think about shame. First, shame is the fear of disconnection. We are psychologically, emotionally, cognitively, and spiritually hardwired for connection, love, and belonging. Connection, along with love and belonging (<two expressions of connection), is why we are here, and it is what gives purpose and meaning to our lives. Shame is the fear of disconnection — it’s the fear that something we’ve done or failed to do, an ideal that we’ve not lived up to, or a goal that we’ve not accomplished makes us unworthy of connection. I’m not worthy or good enough for love, belonging, or connection. I’m unlovable. I don’t belong. Here’s the definition of shame that emerged from my research:
‘Shame is the intensely painful feeling or experience of believing that we are flawed and therefore unworthy of love and belonging.’”
The natural man covers up with shame-which always points to two primary triggers: ‘not good enough’ and ‘who do you think you are?’. While from an alternatively candid perspective, the Atonement hugs us with never-ending worthiness of belonging and love.
It’s true, being human and exposed to the natural man, we are going to experience shame. We all signed up to be mortal. We all feel it. So the predicament from here, is having the willingness to take off this man-made cover and risk being seen/judged/etc. It is then having the courage to own our story and reach out for a more complete cover–that cover being the Atonement of Jesus Christ.
Satan wants us to feel humiliated so we will cover ourselves in shame.
God wants us to feel humility so we will cover ourselves in the Atonement.
Satan wants us to feel like we ourselves are failures, remorseful that we’ve been seen and cover ourselves in shame.
God wants us to feel experiential failures, openly remorseful and cover ourselves in the Atonement.
| Humiliation (shame) is the counterfeit of Humility |
| Shame is the counterfeit of constructive guilt (Godly sorrow) |
< These two key principles, humility and constructive guilt, comprise the Atonement. >
I propose then, that shame is the counterfeit of the Atonement.
Satan’s cover is the counterfeit of God’s cover.
A fraudulent, imitated cover.
Shame covers, when the Atonement is the real, complete cover.
The natural man’s covering is a phony of God’s covering.
I love this chart from the April 2015 Ensign:
When we choose Satan’s cover, we are hardly protected.
When we choose God’s cover we are completely protected.
-“I AM A FAILURE”
-Reviled by self
-Covers self up
-Chooses to hide
-Horizontally lax progression
-Runs from personal story
-Internally closed off, Numb
-Constructive Guilt: “I FAILED AT SOMETHING”
-Opens self up/confess
-Chooses to be exposed
-Valiantly vertical progression “If you are on the right path it is always uphill!” (Elder Eyring)
-Owns personal story
*Note: Even though we can be fully protected, this does not mean we are free from trials once we are under God’s protection. The road to Gods covering is steep and takes great effort to stay covered, but offers a better covering than any other. Elder Eyring says it perfectly: “If you are on the right path it will always be uphill”. So if you are doing what you ought to be doing, it will definitely not be tranquil—what a marvelous indicator that we are on the right path!
Elder Holland remarks, “In striving for some peace and understanding in these difficult matters, it is crucial to remember that we are living—and chose to live—in a fallen world where for divine purposes our pursuit of godliness will be tested and tried again and again.”
| Unashamed. | Ashamed. | Atonement. | Repeat. |
God planned this mortality for us so that we would have to choose. Being imperfect and unprotected, we have to seek cover from the blows telestial life will slam us with. His grace allows this pursuit, accompanied with his continual desire we seek his cover.
Being merely mortal, we are prone to seek protection as the natural man would. Somewhere along the line we will try to cover up our objectionable actions and consequences. Because we are not perfect, this is simply bound to happen. When this happens, we must tap into our ‘reservoir of worthiness’-where we know we are always worthy of love and belonging, and then take off the bogus shame cover and open up to the complete covering of the Atonement.
How is shame a cover?
How did Adam and Eve feel shame?
How did they step out of shame?
$Press onward my good fellows!$
When we feel shame we feel like we are flawed, and we are afraid of what others might think-God especially. Shame is feeling flawed, and attempting to cover that flaw.
Sammy Rhodes, a minister at the University of South Carolina gives these examples: “We all have different strategies for dealing with shame. Some of us cover it with approval. We genuinely believe if enough people like us, we will feel loved. The problem is that even if we succeed in getting the whole world to like us, it cannot touch our shame because we’ve kept those same people who like us back from really knowing us therefore rendering them incapable of offering the kind of love we really need.
“Some of us seek to cover it with work. If we can put enough hours in, climb enough ladders, leave enough of a legacy behind, then maybe, just maybe it will lighten the load of our shame. The problem is that work becomes a way to escape dealing with ourselves and our wounds, a way of hiding from the very parts of ourselves with which we need the Lord to graciously deal.
“Still there are others who cover their shame with addictions of all shapes and sizes. Sexual addiction seduces us with the false belief that giving in to our lust will somehow make us feel whole. Substance abuse promises us that if we can just alter our moods to feel good enough, then we will have what we need to face the difficulties of life. Both strategies rob our intimacy with the Lord and one another.
“We not only seek to cover with shame using different strategies, all of which end up deepening our shame, we also seek to hide it from one another. In the garden God said it was not good for man to be alone. Shame is the Satan’s strategy to make us feel alone. Shame alienates us from one another.”
As Adam and Eve became mortal, they felt shame. I believe it was in the pause between their transgression and before being sent forth out of the garden that they felt it.
I can imagine they would have been perplexed as their bodies shifted into mortality-especially without their father, who had previously been a constant with them in the Garden. As their eyes were thus opened they did not have God there to talk them through this massive transition (Moses 4:13). Instead, God allowed Satan to be there. It is he who points out their nakedness as they realize they are uncovered. Having just fallen into this ‘natural man’ state, they seek to cover themselves as to not be so exposed from the consequences of their recent transgression.
I find it curious that of all the things to make note of, Moses then paints the picture of them walking in the garden, during the “cool of the day”(Moses 4:14). Here they are naked and feeling ashamed, so they meagerly use leaves to cover themselves in this cool weather. To me, ‘cool’ is not swimsuit weather. Talk about chilly! <This is a perfect visual of Man’s covering being insufficient protection.
When God does then come down, Adam and Eve are hiding in the trees- which I am sure they did for a number of reasons. Seeing as God had not been there with them after their transgression and during their transition to mortality, they feared there was a disconnection from God. They were unsure if they still belonged or were worthy to be in his presence. It’s safe to say they were hiding because they were unsure of where they stood… so, they hid… fearing God’s rejection. This is the perfect example of shame. Remember the definition? ‘:Shame is the fear of disconnection — it’s the doubt and fear that something we’ve done or failed to do, makes us unworthy of connection.’ So there is Eve, wondrously taking her big leap of faith…yet as she was falling after this ‘leap’, God was not there to catch her/them. Here they had chosen God’s greater law, leapt in faith, and fell. Wow, can I relate to this! It reminds me of the saying that goes something like ‘sometimes you have to hit rock bottom to know who is your rock’.
I can’t find any translation that says God was with them when they fell, and I think it is this falling by themselves brought doubt and fear. That fear of disconnection is what brought shame. They feared through their now incompleteness they were unworthy of continued connection to God.
What they had to draw on and remember is that even in mortality and imperfection they were still worthy of love and belonging with connectedness to God.
“Though we are incomplete, God loves us completely. Though we are imperfect, He loves us perfectly… He loves every one of us, even those who are flawed, rejected, awkward, sorrowful, or broken… He loves even the proud, the selfish, the arrogant, and the wicked… No matter our mistakes, our infinitely compassionate Heavenly Father desires that we draw near to Him”-Dieter F. Uchtdorf
~What happens next is monumental~
Adam and Eve choose to step out of their shame and into the open, gloriously raw.
They made themselves completely vulnerable before God as they owned their story. Brene defines vulnerability as choosing “uncertainty, risk and emotional exposure”. I believe they were able to do this because they ultimately still trusted God. I think that even though God had become more reserved by letting them fall on their own, they had faith that God still loved them and that they were worthy of belonging. This gave them enough courage to take the brave step out shame- out from hiding.
To be vulnerable like this we too must believe we are worthy of love and belonging, regardless of our choices. It is through this lens of worthiness we are able to vulnerably and magnificently own our story and implement the Atonement.
We must be vulnerable before we can be covered by God. We must step out into the open and thereby acknowledge we are not a mistake, but rather, we make mistakes and own up to them. Our vulnerability is owning our story, no matter what. Our vulnerability is the brave step we take to show ourselves before being completely protected.
Brene teaches that “the intention and outcome of vulnerability is trust, intimacy and connection”. By being vulnerable and opening themselves up before the Lord, Adam and Eve were able to again feel this trust, intimacy and connection with their father.
Adam and Eve dared greatly.
I want to be like Adam and Eve. I want to dare greatly!
The beauty in their vulnerability comes from choosing vulnerability. We will call this ‘chosen vulnerability’ (no duh). We must distunguish between the other vulnerability that is simply given to us…’given vulnerability’ (which also has its benefits). Both are weaknesses, but ‘chosen weakness’ is where strength is forged. This choice to expose ourselves is how we develop trust, intimacy and connection. Chosen vulnerability is what I would like to call Godly vulnerability, because this “weakness itself [is] the very vessel of Christ’s strength.”
When we choose to be vulnerable, we become more like the ultimate example of chosen vulnerability. Think about this, did Jesus ever shield himself from hurt?
We are made in the same image as God for a reason. Just like he is naked, weak and vulnerable—we too are made like this. Whoa whoa whoa…But God? Weak???
The difference between his weakness (vulnerability) and our weakness is that we are made weak– God chooses to be naked, weak and vulnerable. He gives us the same tools that he has (vulnerability is a tool), but we have to learn to implement them as he does. We have to take our given vulnerability, embrace it, and turn it into a choice…a strength.
We can do nothing with these gifts by staying on the unconstructive side of naked/vulnerability/weakness… or, we can choose to be constructive with and utilize these tools and become more like God.
We are given nakedness. This is the wonderfully raw material we are given to cultivate. We must strengthen this gift through our agency, our choice. So we can stay naked as man, or we can become naked like God.
-‘We are weak’
-Was Jesus weak? NO. He was mortal, but he was also the only perfect begotten Son of God.
-Susceptible to hurt
-Dependent on Man
-Does not make us unclean
–Is not shameful
-“I give unto men weakness”-it is a gift!
-Is an opportunity for Christ’s grace
-Like Paul, we can “glory in [our] infirmities”
– Weakness is a gift and it binds us to Christ
-‘We have weaknesses’
-ie Jesus Christ and God the Father
-Did Jesus have weaknesses? YES.
-Is not demanding
-Lets down defenses
-Courageous and risky
-Requires Grace, the enabling power.
-Takes conscious effort
-God is infinitely vulnerable. God wins power by his weakness
-Laying oneself open to misunderstanding, criticism, ridicule, rejection, etc.
-Strong sense of self
-Susceptible to hurt
-The value is in its cost
-Weakness itself becomes the very vessel of Christ’s strength.
-“For when I am weak, then am I strong”
-“my strength is made perfect in weakness.”
Because we are mortal, we will most assuredly experience both ‘Man’s Weakness’ and ‘Man’s Cover’. That is a given. It is God’s intention for us to have these life experiences. Yet it is also god’s desire that through his grace we can implement his Godly Covering and Godly Vulnerability into our lives that we can rise up to him.I want to be clear that although we will experience both man’s cover/shame and man’s given weakness, we should not combine the two as both being negative. Shame is something we do need to step out of, but we do not need to step out of weakness. We ought not embrace shame, but we can embrace our weakness. Our weakness can be the very vessel of our strength!
The Lord’s response to Paul gives more insight about weakness:
And he said unto me, My grace is sufficient for thee: for my strength is made perfect in weakness.
Rather than seeing our weakness as unfortunate or shameful, we can instead recognize it as a gift—“I give unto men weakness” says the Lord. Weakness is an opportunity for Christ’s grace to have place in our life. No longer desiring to have his weakness taken away, Paul then says:
Most gladly therefore will I rather glory in my infirmities, that the power of Christ may rest upon me. Therefore I take pleasure in infirmities, in reproaches, in necessities, in persecutions, in distresses for Christ’s sake: for when I am weak, then am I strong.
Paul’s paradoxical formulation, “when I am weak, then am I strong,” can only be understood in light of Christ’s earlier claim, “my strength is made perfect in weakness.” Here, the goal of the atonement is not to eliminate weakness and replace it with strength. Rather, weakness itself becomes the very vessel of Christ’s strength. This is only possible through agency.
We begin cultivating our weaknesses into strengths when we can tap into our inner strength of knowing no matter what, we are always worthy of love and belonging. As imperfect children of god, however ashamed or weak we might feel, we must remember our worthiness. This gives us courage to step out into the open-just like Adam and Eve.
Consider Jesus in John’s gospel, 13:9 “Jesus, knowing…that he had come from God and was going to God…” (notice this strong sense of worthiness) “…got up from the table, took off his outer garment…and began to wash his disciples feet.” To do the job of a menial household slave was not an act of weakness but of inner strength. It was a sure example of chosen vulnerability.
“This is what I mean when I suggest that God who is Love is vulnerable: an inner strength beyond our capacity to comprehend, yet always choosing to be vulnerable in relation to the world. I believe Jesus in his chosen vulnerability reflected the chosen vulnerability of God…I also think this is what Dietrich Bonhoeffer wrote in 1944, ‘God is weak and powerless in the world’…God’s love, his vulnerability, are a permanent condition of who he is.” –Terryl Givens
With chosen vulnerability we can raise our given vulnerability and make this weak-weakness into a strong-weakness. Like Jesus, like God, like Adam and Eve, it takes inner strength and conscious choice to have Godly vulnerability.
Ruth is another example of chosen vulnerability.
“Ruth enters into the threshing barn of the sleeping Boaz in the dead of night and by so doing, places herself in a hopelessly compromising situation with hazard to her reputation and life. She is foreign-born with no friend or protector, and no alibi, no story to tell a public, if Boaz simply wakes up and exploits the situation for his own advantage.”
“The marvel, of course, is that the sole immediate purpose of Ruth’s actions is to make herself vulnerable. Vulnerability is her end. Her only objective is to make herself as exposed and defenseless as she can, so she can say to Boaz, “I am Ruth, your servant; spread your cloak over your servant (an old way of proposing).” In other words, here am I, yours to protect or destroy. I place myself in your hands. I hold nothing back, so you may know my trust is without bounds. But of course, in making herself so vulnerable, she reveals the exquisite beauty of her own character.
“Ruth made herself vulnerable and was blessed for it. Ultimately, I see this as a model to follow in my relationship with God. He is one who I can trust completely and to whom my vulnerability is only ever rewarded. For Ruth, and for me, “only by opening [herself/myself] to the possibility of paramount harm… [does she/do I] serve as vehicles of His grace. That vulnerability is both the price of the power to save, and that which saves” (The God Who Weeps: How Mormonism Makes Sense of Life, by Terryl and Fiona Givens.)
God shows us how to cultivate love by being vulnerable. Givens further explains this by beginning with Job’s question on the matter:
“What is man, that thou shouldest magnify him? And that thou shouldest set thine heart upon him?” The astonishing revelation here is that God does set His heart upon us. And in so doing, God chooses to love us. And if love means responsibility, sacrifice, vulnerability, then God’s decision to love us is the most stupendously sublime moment in the history of time. He chooses to love even at, necessarily at, the price of vulnerability.
It is God’s response to the manifold creatures by whom He is surrounded, the movement of His heart and will in the direction of those other beings — us — that becomes the defining moment in His godliness, and establishes the pattern of His divine activity. His freely made choice to inaugurate and sustain costly loving relationships is the very core of His divine identity.
The value is in it’s cost!
I saved this post for last to wrap up the entire creation story and leave it at this:
BE NAKED IN CHRIST…letting your heart and mind be completely exposed to him.
Choose vulnerability. Choose the protection of the Atonement.
Choose to be naked and unashamed…
God’s weakness. God’s cover.