‘Suddenly their eyes were opened to a reality previously unknown. For the first time, they sensed their vulnerability and rushed to hide their naked bodies, stitching fig leaves into crude loincloths’ –Genesis 3:7 (The Voice).
My son likes to kid me about the ‘fake’ jackets that I wear. I am almost always hot–especially since hitting my late 40s–but because people look at me oddly when I got out in the dead of winter in a tank top, I wear what I consider ‘light’ jackets. My son calls them ‘fake clothes.’ You see, they are the thinnest cotton material I can find. And I wear tank tops underneath them, so that when I’m finished at the store, I can remove said jacket and drive home in comfort. Wearing my ‘fake clothes’ gives me the appearance of conforming to what everyone else expects anyone to wear in winter without having to answer many questions about “Aren’t you COLD?!“ Unless someone looks a little closer. Then I do have to answer why I’m not wearing something warmer.
My ‘fake’ clothes give me a way of feeling protected from social scorn. I feel less vulnerable out in public if I have on a hoodie-like covering. I feel less judged. I feel less shame of not conforming.
I wonder if Adam and Eve felt a little like that when ‘their eyes were opened’? If you take the story literally, why were they ashamed of their nakedness? It was just the two of them, after all. Or is there a broader meaning to the story than just the literal facts that we were taught to believe in Sunday School? A meaning that reveals the heart of man and the wounds we carry?
The fig leaf clothes that Adam and Eve chose for themselves to protect, hide and create a barrier between themselves, only create an illusion of protection. The more we believe in the illusion that these proverbial ‘fig leaves’ cover our emotions, secret thoughts and belief systems, and protect us from further wounding, the more we isolate ourselves in a hellish trap where the wounds fester and infect our souls and spirits.
However, what if we don’t believe the illusion? What if we admit to our masks–even if we still wear them? Are we still trapped? In my desire to live without shame, can I actually make myself more vulnerable to shame?
Sometimes I forget the wisdom of opening up to only a few trusted companions. Not everyone needs to know the circumstances that make life hard or why invitations get declined. In 2 Kings 4, a woman’s son dies. She knows that Elisha the prophet can raise him. She tells her husband … nothing. She tells Elisha’s servant that everything is fine. Finally, she breaks down at the feet of Elisha. Everything was never fine; but she chose to put on her game face until she faced the one who could offer help. (As an aside, in the end, her son lives.)
Where was her confidence? In her mask? No. It was in God–or at the very least, in the man of God. That’s the difference between ‘fig leaves’ and reserving information. As I process my own private woundings and circumstances, I want to learn how to live authentically without over-sharing. Most of my struggle, though, is in actually sharing my heart–especially my fears and sadnesses–with my few trusted friends. I want to learn the difference between ‘fake clothes’ that just make life less complicated with people who haven’t invested in my life and ‘fig leaves’ that I trust to protect my identity and my heart, but only create a barrier between me and those who love me.
I’d love to hear from you! Have you trusted in some ‘fig leaves’? How can you distinguish between wisely vulnerable living and insulating to the point of heart-isolation?