Monday, April 08, 2013

Clothing Myself With Christ

Recently, I was helping a very good friend move some furniture. As we were driving around town, we got to talking about one particular mutual friend of ours. We were trying to figure her out. He suggested that her rants and over-reactions are essentially a learned and habitual way of getting attention. I think he might be right. I suggested, as well, that there might be an element of self-righteousness in her rants. As a general rule, she wants people to know her side of the story, why her side of the story is such, and that she makes no apologies for it. She was being a "know it all" by letting everyone know it all. Somehow, however, in her open, profane confession of one-night sexual relations with someone for everyone to hear about on Facebook, something remained hidden. That which remains hidden, however, is difficult to put your finger on. I could sense that she might have been hurt that the man left it as a one night encounter, but I think she had also caught wind that friends had apparently noted that she had been taken advantage of. You come away from such experiences knowing something is in the shadows, but you just don't know what it is.

Soon after that, I was having a conversation with another good friend of mine, which threaded back to her comment that all women are insecure. She said that those who are more open about their insecurity are actually more secure than those who hide it (and hide from it). She was saying that there is something powerful in being raw, vulnerable, and open. And again, there was mystery in what she was talking about. She kept noting how she couldn't quite put into words what she was trying to say. It should be noted that this woman has a reputation for setting and keeping firm boundaries with men, where appropriate; she seems convinced that she is worth being treated with respect, honor, and love. It should also be noted that this woman, as a general rule, is generally quick to apologize and take her share of the responsibility when conflict arises.

Just now, I read the following, from Smith Wigglesworth's On the Anointing: "Now I want to take you to the thirteenth verse: 'There is no creature hidden from His sight, but all things are naked and open to the eyes of Him to whom we must give account (Heb. 4: 13).' 'No creature [is] hidden from His sight'; all are naked before Him. Now, when God speaks of nakedness, He does not mean that He looks at flesh without clothing. God said, 'That you may be clothed, that the shame of your nakedness may not be revealed' (Rev. 3: 18). The nakedness referred to in this verse does not mean bodily but spiritual nakedness; but when Christ clothes you within, you have no spot (Eph. 5: 27).' He looks at your nakedness, at your weakness, at your sorrow of heart. He is looking into you right now, and what does He see?"

As I read Wigglesworth's musings on scripture, my eyes were opened to what remains hidden in those opaque situations in which the truth seems hidden as if on the other side of a mirror in which you see a perfectly clear image. In reading Wigglesworth's words, I was reminded of Romans 3: 14: "...clothe yourselves with the Lord Jesus Christ." I have often wondered how we clothe ourselves with christ; that always struck me as something only Christ can do. Suddenly, I understood what Paul meant! Beyond that, however, my eyes were opened again to something in the scriptures that has been a repeated source of both mystery and clarification to me in the past. It was one of those envigorating moments when you realize that the scriptures are both referencing and fulfilling themselves and actually refer to the real world. Lets go back to Genesis 3.

"4 'You will not certainly die,' the serpent said to the woman. 5 'For God knows that when you eat from it your eyes will be opened, and you will be like God, knowing good and evil.'

6 When the woman saw that the fruit of the tree was good for food and pleasing to the eye, and also desirable for gaining wisdom, she took some and ate it. She also gave some to her husband, who was with her, and he ate it. 7 Then the eyes of both of them were opened, and they realized they were naked; so they sewed fig leaves together and made coverings for themselves.

8 Then the man and his wife heard the sound of the Lord God as he was walking in the garden in the cool of the day, and they hid from the Lord God among the trees of the garden. 9 But the Lord God called to the man, 'Where are you?'

10 He answered, 'I heard you in the garden, and I was afraid because I was naked; so I hid.'

11 And he said, 'Who told you that you were naked? Have you eaten from the tree that I commanded you not to eat from?'

In the past, these scriptures have been a source of confusion for me, because I've wondered, "Why did they not die? God told them they would die, and then they didn't die." And although I accept the interpretation that a spiritual death occurs, I've never been fully satisfied with that. Genesis 3 seems to gloss over the issue. This time, a re-reading of Genesis 3 was enlightening. Because the fruit was in the center of the garden, next to the tree of life, I know that eating the fruit is taking control of life from God and becoming self-righteous. I never understood, however, why the fruit is described as pleasing to the eye or that it gives wisdom. Now, in this moment of enlightenment, I realize that the temptation of the fruit is the same as the temptation of the one night's stand; it is pleasing to the eye. And the fruit's wisdom is a false one, again born of temptation. The wisdom offered by the fruit is a misnomer; it would more accurately be described playing the know-it-all. Interestingly, my (very intelligent) chaste friend is quick to claim she doesn't know it all, whereas my know-it-all friend is easily offended if someone knows something that she doesn't.

Her offense takes me back to Smith Wigglesworth: "He looks at your nakedness, at your weakness, at your sorrow of heart. He is looking into you right now, and what does He see?"

I would like to let a few quotes from Brennan Manning answer for me. “When a man or woman is truly honest, it is virtually impossible to insult them personally.” Who can offend us when we are already aware of how depraved we are and regularly confess it to others so that we may be healed? What power does the opinion of others have over me when the Holy Spirit, who gives me life, has convicted me of my sin? “To live by grace means to acknowledge my whole life story, the light side and the dark. In admitting my shadow side I learn who I am and what God's grace means.” “My deepest awareness of myself is that I am deeply loved by Jesus Christ and I have done nothing to earn it or deserve it.” These quotes, in answering the question of what He sees, speak to our self-image. But, perhaps more important is how our self-image effects others. “In a futile attempt to erase our past, we deprive the community of our healing gift. If we conceal our wounds out of fear and shame, our inner darkness can neither be illuminated nor become a light for others.”

In the past, I thought that clothing myself with Christ essentially meant being a good person, doing the right thing. The context around "clothe yourselves with the Lord Jesus Christ" in Romans 3 supports this idea. I realize, now, however, that clothing myself with Christ is so much more than that. IF I AM HONEST anyway, doing the right thing is impossible without being vulnerable and raw about what lies (pun intended) in my shadows. When I reference my self-righteous, know-it-all friend who likes to give into temptation and then justify and rationalize it after the fact, I am not just talking about my friend. I am making friends with myself by being honest with myself and confessing it when and where apprpriate; that is a choice that I make. The baptism of Jesus was a foreshadowing of when, in his perfection, he would take my sin on himself and die (see Genesis 3 again) on the cross. Truly "doing the truth" (“Our hearts of stone become hearts of flesh when we learn where the outcast weeps.” - Brennan Manning) requires enlightenment of God into our shadows and power of the Holy Spirit to overcome them. I don't say this is a dilutedly general way, but to say, simply, that I need that.

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