In his Storyline
workbook, Donald Miller
points out that, before the fall and sin entering the world, humans’ “identity was so wrapped up in God they could walk around naked and not know it.” Because of the fall, however, we are insecure and painfully aware of our insecurity. In our imperfections, it is not possible, in this life, to perfectly become the people God designed us to be. So, he suggests, “the next time you read a book that says you can be the person God [originally] designed you to be, flip over to the back cover and look at the author’s picture. If the author is wearing clothes, get your money back.”
I was thinking about this a few days ago as I undressed in preparation for a massage. The irony is that the actual nakedness didn’t bother me much; I had struggled more with filling out the new customer information form. Suddenly asked to list information about therapy and medical care, I ended up leaving most of the form blank. It struck me how simple, factual questions left me feeling vulnerable. I was fine taking off my actual clothes–but was not so ready to remove the unseen barriers that hide much about my own issues and insecurities.
There are those moments, those situations, that seem to suddenly render you not only visible, but transparent. A few years ago, when I bought my first home, part of my mortgage deal was that I had to make an appointment with a financial specialist and go over my budget. It’s astonishing how quickly the way you spend your money reveals much about you. Sure, we all share typical expenses: grocery, gas, insurance, etc. But then there are questions about regular copays for therapy and medical visits, tithes and donations, and even alcohol and gambling. (I’ll let you figure out which ones felt revealing to me). I didn’t mind sharing the information–it was confidential and I actually enjoyed the session–but I definitely felt exposed. I felt seen, and painfully unguarded.
This feeling is more occur to happen in situations we don’t anticipate to be cut into those sensitive areas. Several years ago, I asked a dentist about pain I was having in my jaw. He gently asked whether it could be related to stress. I quietly answered yes, and my eyes started to tear. My otherwise calm, confident exterior dropped at the turn of a question. He kindly suggested I give it time to see whether the pain resolved itself as my situation improved. (It did… plus I started going to counseling a few months later). In recent years, I visited a doctor because of persistent symptoms, including constant pain in my neck. Since I was visiting from out of town, I didn’t know the doctor, and I quickly became frustrated as she impatiently dismissed my symptoms. After she sat me in a chair to run some tests, I just started sobbing. I was in pain, I was frustrated, and I felt deeply and terribly alone. Out of my context, removed from familiar comfort and coping mechanisms, I was reduced to the essence of who I was at that moment.
Louis C.K. poignantly (and humorously) describes this “forever empty” feeling in the following clip: (the relevant part starts at 1:11, so if you’re feeling impatient, start there and listen to 2:12, then skip from 3:30 to the end).
These moments can be heartbreaking and frightening. These moments can also be really important. They connect us with a deep part of who we are and, at the same time, our deep need for something and Someone greater, more loving, and more complete than we ever can be.