[DISCLAIMER: You should probably witness Will Reagan and the United Pursuit Band rock the house in this video before reading any more words. You’re welcome in advance.] “You’re full of life now. Full of passion. That’s how He made you. Just let it happen.”
“Then the Lord God called to the man, ‘Where are you?’ He replied, ‘I heard you walking in the garden, so I hid. I was afraid because I was naked.'” -Genesis 3:9-10
There have been countless times in my life where I have felt much like I imagine Adam felt in Genesis 3–scrambling through the woods, trying to pretend that God wasn’t asking me a question he already had the answer to. Trying to convince myself I hadn’t screwed up an already-assigned task that seemed so simple at the beginning. Hiding long enough to believe in who I’m not being more so than who I am made to be. But, inevitably over time, my reaction holds a strong track record of consistency: 1) breakdown; 2) freak out; and finally 3) come clean. And as luck would have it, here I am at the end of another monotonous cycle of mid-20s struggles, life plan reroutes, and desperate attempts to accept understanding little-to-none of the above. Hence the mess of words in front of your face.
I’ve never really thought of myself as someone who lacks identity. Despite the hodgepodge of randomness that fill the grooves and rivets of my life, I’ve more times than not felt secure in what I’m doing and why I’m doing it, despite the somewhat reasonable loads of doubt that have accompanied every decision to this point. The reason? Because I have felt placed and purposeful in the what’s and why’s of my life in ways that managed to calm my doubts into quiet assurances. Those assurances have been knots in a rope that has tugged me through the different windows and doors of opportunities in my life. However, in the process of chasing the randomness that embodies my different passions, interests and opportunities, I think I’ve managed to keep some secrets in an impressive hiding. Secrets that were birthed as doubts, but matured into insecurities hidden among the weeds of my insides. Stuck in that place that Adam found himself, the place between trying to justify why they are there and dealing with what they are.
As my feet found themselves on sandy ground this weekend, I felt a piece of my spirit shift out of the bushes to face the vastness in front of it–an ocean relentless in its coming back as in its going away. Almost as if the feeling was contained in that moment, the initial question posed to Adam of “Where are you?” was suddenly so simple to answer. Like I was back to the very beginning of myself, as stupid as that sounds.
HEY! I’M RIGHT HERE. I’M RIGHT NOW.
Staring at something so much bigger than me, I felt spiritually naked for what felt like the first time, although I know it wasn’t. In that split second I felt as I should be, as if that was all I’ve ever known how to be. And I was loved. I’d like to think that feeling was something like what it felt to walk in Eden, before the introduction of doubts or fears… And BOOM. It was gone. Just like the waves in front of me, it went back into the gamut as suddenly as it came. “Reality” (as we so-call it) rushed back in, and I was back in the proverbial bushes sowing proverbial fig leaves together to cover myself.
It’s been a long time since I’ve shared my thoughts in writing, but the past several months have been particularly difficult for me, particularly at the spiritual level. Sometimes, I feel like a crazy person, and by sometimes, I mean all the time. During this season where I have been forced to deal with more introspective issues, I have discovered an incredibly annoying habit of negative self-talk. I’m a big believer in spiritual warfare and can usually tell when I’m being attacked in one way or another… but this beast is a different ballgame altogether. This beast is me. This battle is one I am inflicting on myself, in the form of doubts and insecurities surfacing as blatant lies that I believe. For example, if someone compliments me, I immediately disregard it as silly politeness meant to make me feel better about some sort of failed to-do. More troubling, this habit has translated into conversations and interactions with God and His Word. I literally will say something I “know” is true in prayer, and yet immediately disregard it in my head as something that doesn’t really apply to me specifically. Like Adam, I am silencing every other voice at play except my own. I am choosing my own way over any other way. I am choosing my own way instead of God’s way. And there’s no satanic snake to take the blame this time– this is all the Alex show. That’s a big freaking problem.
Whether I’ve done so consciously or not, who/how I claim myself has been incredibly dependent on my list of activities and interests. Christian, student, tennis player, photographer, youth intern, servant, writer, counselor… I get fulfillment from being those things, none of which are bad (I mean come on, I listed Christian). But I don’t think that’s a kingdom-made way to live spiritually. If you take all those things away from me, I am not content to be what’s left: me. The “me” that’s butt naked in the Garden trying to sow clothes out of leaves. I’m not sure that I have ever observed who I was made to be, separate from what I was made to do. They certainly are incredibly related, but they are also incredibly different. Anybody can do the things I’m made to do, but who I am determines much of how I do them. Who I am in my naked spiritual state is who I continuously reject by covering to-do lists over the exposed parts. I am choosing to hide amongst the bushes in hopes of convincing myself that God does not know where I really am. By not accepting who I was made to be, I am in turn not accepting God’s question or answers and am essentially repeating the whole fall-of-man thing on repeat. Hmm. Probably a red flag.
“The perfect metaphor for this new split universe, this intense awareness of themselves as separate and cut off, is that ‘they realized that they were naked’ (3:8). Today we would probably call it primal shame. Every human being seems to have it in some form, that deep sense of being inadequate, insecure, separate, judged and apart.” -Richard Rohr
Oh Lord. That sounds familiar.
Here’s my theory: I don’t accept my core self because it’s not impressive. Think about it– who we are, apart from what we do and have done, looks rather lackluster. In fact, it looks like nothing at all, especially in our society where we earn our worth based on resumes, GPA’s, and awards. There are no nice clothes in the form of accomplishments to throw on top of my Spirit-made self. Who I am in my innermost being is, quite frankly, simple. And that’s why I struggle embracing it. It makes zero sense against the framework that has been manufactured in my brain. It has nothing to do with me, and yet it IS me. It makes no sense, I know… but doesn’t it at the same time? The letting go of my man-made self reveals the Spirit-made self that at the heart and soul.
“And He whispers to your heart. To let it go. Let it happen.” I’m learning (so, so slowly) that growing in the spirit is much more about losing your grip than tightening it. A learned letting go that has nothing to do with effort and everything to do with observation and awareness. Dealing with yourself, the self that is buried underneath the clothes we put on our souls, is a letting it happen process. And for me, I see that process starting with receiving love from the One who has seen and made me at my simplest. To believe what He says about me. To quiet my own negativity by truly observing them as fears peeking behind the bushes.
“What a liberation to realize that the ‘voice in my head’ is not who I am. ‘Who am I then?’ The one who sees that.” -Eckhart Tolle
So, what’s my point.
Ironically enough, I think it’s simple. We don’t like the simplicity of who we are (at least, I’ve found that I don’t). Sometimes, I like to think I’m a complex person, and perhaps I am in a way. But when we strip away the layers of our handmade complications and thoughts, there is only the essence of who we are left to be. There is only our Eden-selves left to frolic in the long-lost union of mankind and its Maker. I think it’s that scene that deserves the most attention when we feel we have lost our way from the inside out. That essence of what has been stolen away by our own hands serves as a reminder of who we are to be in this life, which inevitably dictates how we go about doing/choosing the tasks set before us.
I don’t know what your tasks are or who you are apart from them, but we all have the ability and privilege to examine both. I know very few things, but here’s something I know to be as accurate as anything can be: There is a God that loves the mess out of you in your most simple state. Your butt naked spirit that is so uncomfortably unadorned and threadbare… is what God stares at in the face with love and adoration. If you’re struggling through a time of life that is seemingly dry and fruitless, don’t fool yourself into thinking any part of you belongs in hiding. Take off your dressings and accept God’s handiwork by accepting the you He carved from himself. And remember that doing so is, in fact, natural. It’s how He made you.
Just let it go. Let it happen.