Col 2:2-3; Key verse - My purpose is that they may be encouraged in heart and united in love…
Some time ago I was honored to attend a men’s ministry event that challenged the very core of my spirit. It was an event that taught me what being naked or laid bare was all about. It was hosted by a group of guys that were unashamed to confess their shame. That may not be totally accurate. Maybe it was that they somehow overcame their own personal pride and fear of what others would think in order to make an eternal deposit into the lives of other men with similar struggles and weaknesses. Exposing their shame was a price they would readily pay to be an agent of deliverance for others and bring healing to themselves.
These men told their stories in a way that redefined the word authenticity for me; a completely naked portrayal of their journey to healing and wholeness. They told of lives stained with addictions, promiscuity, and abuse. Some of their painful battles they shared with us were some of the very things I wrestle with, I suspect some of the things many of you struggle with, and even some things most of us could never understand or comprehend, but it was their testimony and their victory. There wasn’t a victim in the bunch, just a group of men who understood they are more than over-comers in a hostile and unforgiving world. To witness such unmitigated and raw honesty firsthand was a watershed moment in my life that continues to pay dividends to this day.
A simple truth that I learned in this experience was this: The extent to which I have access to others will directly correspond to how naked I am willing to get or be in front of them. Or, said another way; the level of access others will give me to their life will correspond directly to the level to which I am willing to bare myself to them. How can I encourage if I don’t know the need? How can I “wound a friend” if I am not a friend first? How can I see scars through suits of armor? I can’t. If, however, I am willing to be naked and show the cellulite of my soul, the warts of my heart, and scars of my flesh, then I am more apt to be trusted with the pain of others. We believers often talk about “a safe place” but can we really be trusted? I believe this is, in part, why we are told in the Book of James to confess our faults one to another that we may be healed. In the confessing is the healing. In the healing is the encouraging. In the encouraging is the courage to confess again and so the cycle continues.
This principle of “nakedness” is also why the marriage bed is so special. It is there where you find the level of intimacy and openness meant for no other place on the planet save the altar of God. It is what makes the marriage covenant unique, that bed sacred, and the relationship so inimitable – well sort of. Scripture does instruct that my relationship with my wife is to imitate my relationship with my savior. As the bride of Christ I see the one true example of what a husband should be. As I learn to relate to him and receive how He relates to me, I can appropriate that same unconditional love and grace in our marriage. Ever scar, every mole, and every wrinkle is beautiful because they belong to my beloved Ally – the one whom I love unconditionally, and with whom I am irrevocably united.
So how do we model that with others? As we dish our dirt, we are in that place of vulnerability, or equal exposure as it were. Shared liability brings mutual funds. As we unload and cast our care on the body of Christ, we also provide others with a unique opportunity to do the same. When Jesus put His shoulder to the cross He taught us to carry one another’s burdens and sins. He was eventually stripped of all dignity in front of an entire city as He bled and died. In his final moments, in full view of that gawking mocking crowd, He taught us to lay aside our selfish pride and take up a cause greater than ourselves: others. As I pick up my cross and follow Him I’m struck with the revelation that I have an empty shoulder to pick up another if I need to. The only way I can do this is if I am willing to set aside that part of me that wants to exalt itself over you and/or your need.
In the coming days, weeks, months, and hopefully years, my prayer is that I am able to disrobe in a way that debunks the TMI notion. Hopefully it will be less girls-gone-wild and more about this green clay tile. So today I want challenge you to stand naked in front of a mirror and ask the husband of heaven to show you what makes you distinctly you. Also ask Him what scars he wants to heal, and the ones He wants you to reveal. I suspect you will be surprised at some of His answers. Baring a soul helps in bearing a cross, and is essential for eternal deposits to bear fruit. I encourage you to be real…and be real naked.
Heb 4:13-16 (NIV)
Nothing in all creation is hidden from God's sight, everything is uncovered and laid bare before the eyes of him to whom we must give account. Therefore, since we have a great high priest who has gone through the heavens, Jesus the Son of God, let us hold firmly to the faith we profess. For we do not have a high priest who is unable to sympathize with our weaknesses, but we have one who has been tempted in every way, just as we are-- yet was without sin. Let us then approach the throne of grace with confidence, so that we may receive mercy and find grace to help us in our time of need.
Col 2:2-3 (NIV)
My purpose is that they may be encouraged in heart and united in love, so that they may have the full riches of complete understanding, in order that they may know the mystery of God, namely, Christ, in whom are hidden all the treasures of wisdom and knowledge.