The reason that I chose to title this post this way is namely because it’s not fully mine. It belongs to writer and Christian comedian Jonathan Acuff, author of “Stuff Christians Like,” which is a hilarious and surprisingly convicting book that pokes fun at Christians and some of the things we do.
It’s a collection of essays Acuff has written and posted on his blog, stuffchristianslike.net. This particular essay, titled “Thinking You’re Naked,” doesn’t employ much humor. In fact, as of page 192, it’s the most serious essay in the book.
I’ll post all of it, with all the credit for the writing going to Jonathan Acuff:
“I don’t want to brag, but I’m pretty awesome at applying Band-Aids. And make no mistake, there is an art. Because if you go too quickly and unpeel the the wrong way, they stick to themselves and you end up with a wadded-up useless mess instead of the Little Mermaid-festooned bandage your daughter so desperately wants to apply to a boo-boo that may in fact be 100 percent fictional.
Half of the injuries I treat at the Acuff house are invisible or simply wounds of sympathy. My oldest daughter, L.E., will scrape her knee and my three-year-old, McRae, realizing the Band-Aid box is open will say, ‘Yo Dad, I’d like to get in on that too. What do you say we put one on, I don’t know, my ankle. Yeah, my ankle, let’s pretend that’s hurt.’
But sometimes the cuts are real, like the day my five-year-old got a scrape on her face playing in the front yard. I rushed into the house and returned with a princess bandage. As I bent down to apply it to her forehead, her eyes filled up with tears and she shrank back from me.
‘What’s wrong?’ I asked.
‘I don’t want to wear that Band-Aid,’ she replied.
‘Why? You have a cut, you need a Band-Aid,’ I said.
‘I’ll look silly,’ she answered.
Other than her sister and her mom, there was no one else in the yard. None of her friends were over, cars were not streaming past our house and watching us play, the world was pretty empty at that moment. But for the first time I can remember, she felt shame. She had discovered shame. Somewhere, somehow, this little five-year-old had learned to be afraid of looking silly. If I were smarter, if I had been better prepared for the transition from toddler to little girl, I might have asked her this:
‘Who told you that you were silly?’
I didn’t though. That question didn’t bloom in my head until much later, and I didn’t understand it until I saw God ask a similar question in Genesis 3:11. To me, this is one of the saddest and most profoundly beautiful verses in the entire Bible. Adam and Eve have fallen. The apple is a core. The snake has spoken. The dream appears crushed. As they hide from God under clothes they’ve hastily sewn together, he appears and asks them a simple question:
‘Who told you that you were naked?’
There is hurt in God’s voice as he asks this question, but there is also a deep sadness, the sense of a father holding a daughter that has, for the first time ever, wrapped herself in shame.
Who told you that you were not enough? Who told you that I didn’t love you? Who told you that there was something outside of me you needed? Who told you that you were ugly? Who told you that your dream was foolish? Who told you that you would never have a child? Who told you that you would never be a father? Who told you that you weren’t a good mother? Who told you that without a job you aren’t worth anything? Who told you that you’ll never know love again? Who told you that this was all there is?
Who told you that you were naked?
I don’t know when you discovered shame. I don’t know when you discovered that there were people who might think you are silly or dumb or not a good writer or a husband or a friend. I don’t know what lies you’ve been told by other people or maybe even by yourself.
But in response to what you are hearing from everyone else, God is still asking the same question, ‘Who told you that you were naked?’
And he’s still asking us that question because we are not.
In Christ we are not worthless. In Christ we are not hopeless. In Christ we are not dumb or ugly or forgotten. In Christ we are not naked.
In Isaiah 61:10 it says, ‘For he has clothed me with garments of salvation and arrayed me in a robe of righteousness.’
The world may try to tell you a thousand different things today. You might close this book and hear a million declarations of what you are or who you’ll always be, but know this.
As unbelievable as it sounds and as much as I never expected to type this sentence in a book:
You are not naked.”
I’ll ask the question Acuff does: When did you feel shame? Disappointment? Hurt?
Maybe you still are. Do you find yourself wondering why life is even here? I know for me, that sense of disappointment came at an early age, when I would do something wrong and feel like a failure, before, primarily, my mother and my grandparents.
And now, these days, it comes when I fall flat on my face before God, brought there by sin and pain. It comes when I fail to live up to others expectations of me, and the expectations I have for myself. I have a bad habit (I have a lot of those, I know…working on it) of putting too much pressure on myself. And too often, I embarrass myself.
But those moments where I realize I have nothing, where I realize I’m embarrassed, and I’ve failed, that’s when I look up and see that God is reaching for my hand, to pull me up once again. He’s done that over…and over…and over…and over, and over. I’ve lost count. But God has never let me go. In the days where the pain seems so unbearable, God is there, telling me to lay it all on Him, because He can bear it. He’s been there.
Go back and read those questions Acuff lists. More likely than not, you can find yourself in one of those questions. Maybe God has asked similar, yet different questions, to your heart. The following are most likely questions I’ve been asked.
Who told you that you weren’t loved? Who told you that without a father in your home that you can’t be a man? Who told you that you don’t have talent? Who told you that you’re a loser? Who told you that you’ll never find love? Who told you that you’d always be a slave to lust? Who told you that you cannot trust me? Who told you that I’m just like every other relationship, and that I will fail you? Who told you that I can’t wipe away every tear, and every pain in your heart? Who told you that you aren’t a Godly man? Who told you that you will never be a good father? Who told you that you have no future?
I’ve told myself most of these lies above. And they are lies, every one of them. I thought, and at times make the mistake of still thinking this way, that I would never get away from the sin of lust. But God told me, YOU ARE MINE! And He will never let me go!
Because I didn’t have my dad growing up, I assumed I didn’t get the “good dad” gene. And that scares me to death. More than anything else. I love my dad, I do. And I pray that our relationship would continue to grow. But at the same time, I realize that he failed in a lot of ways, in ways that I don’t want to. While I certainly forgive him, I know how hard it would be to forgive myself if I made those same mistakes. One of my deepest fears is that I will be a failure as a father. God has, and continues to, show me that He is making me into the man and future father that He has called me to be.
So much has changed this summer. I feel like my heart has been on a never-ending roller-coaster. And at times the ride makes me want to puke. I’ve fallen flat on my face so many times, and I’ve felt lonely, as I’ve said before. But the one thing that hasn’t changed is God’s incredible love for me. As the seasons of my life come and pass, and people and dreams come and go, I realize that God’s love for me is truly the same yesterday, today, and forever.
So many times in my life I’ve felt naked. I’ve felt lonely. I’ve been ashamed, and I’ve hated who I’ve been. And yet, God looks at me and says “You are not naked.” He tells me of His love, and reminds me that He is always there. Because of Christ’s work on the cross, and His saving of me, I am no longer who I was.
I’m no longer a child of divorce. I’m no longer a slave to sin. I’m no longer afraid of never finding love, or of being the Godly father I so desperately desire to be. I’m no longer dependent on anything or anybody except for God. I’m no longer naked.
And you aren’t either, if you’re in Christ. It doesn’t matter what you’ve done. God looks at you and says, “I see your sin, I see your shame, and I see every little thing that you’ve ever done. And I love you. Come, follow me, and live.” He does this, not out of anything we’ve done to deserve it, but out of His mercy and love to us.
I’m going to make a reference to last summer now. I’ve talked a good bit about this summer, but it’s always good to go and remember God’s work last summer as well.
So many of those kids have gone through things that I could never imagine. Abuse, pain, struggles, lack of love, addictions, and so many other things I can’t imagine. Going back to that first week of camp, I can remember one night that brought back all of the pain and memories of a past life. We asked the campers to go and find somewhere quiet and alone, and write, on a piece of paper, something in their past that held them back. What was it they were holding from God? What did they need to give up? What was keeping them from being clothed in the love of God?
Sin, addictions, hurt, pain, lust, pride, envy, jealously, bullying…it goes on and on. As I watched each camper come and throw all of their burdens into a fire, letting them go, I was reminded of how incredible Christ is. The change He produces in our life is remarkable, and He alone is able to heal us and clothe us.
So I don’t know who told you that you were worthless, and that you don’t matter. It certainly wasn’t God. God sees you just as you are: dirty, helpless, and in need of Him, and He, in incredible grace and love, comes to you, to show you love so that you may know Him. I don’t know your past. I don’t know what’s going on in your life now. But as I look at my own life, and I look at Jonathan Acuff’s writing here, I’m reminded of how amazing God is, and how He is able to heal us. He is our comforter.
When we are Christ’s, we are no longer who we used to be. We are no longer called sinner. We are called child of God.
It’s time to give up, and give it all to God. This world will seek to strip everything from you, and demand that you conform to it, and devalue you and it will not provide the pleasure and the satisfaction and the peace that God can. It will take everything you have. You will be made nothing.
God doesn’t see you as nothing. He doesn’t see you as worthless. And He most certainly doesn’t see you naked. When you come to Christ…you are His, and nothing in this world can change that. Let Him clothe you, and follow the God that will never leave you.