“If you read sis Marlene’s book, you will get to know her;” said my seminary professor to my classmates in class. I was surprised at her statement. Two conflicting emotions came upon me. I was both pleased that she read my book – appreciative of her endorsement and a bit uncomfortable and ‘naked’. I suddenly realised that it was what I did – I revealed myself to everyone who would read my book – both my friends, strangers and everyone in between. It is alright to share with close friends who know me. It is also not too difficult to share with strangers. But what about those in between? Would they understand me? Would they be critical of me? Was there anything I should not have written with such candour? Am I revealing too much of myself?
Genesis 2:25 And the man and his wife were both naked and were not ashamed.
We studied this verse in Old Testament Exegesis 1 class. This verse ended chapter 2 – the creation story where God made Eve so that Adam would not be alone. This verse was followed by chapter 3 – the fall of man. After Adam and Eve ate the fruit from the tree which God forbid them to eat, there was a transformation. Not an outward change but an internal realisation that led to an external response.
Genesis 3:7 Then the eyes of both of them were opened, and they knew that they were naked; and they sewed fig leaves together and made themselves loin coverings.
They saw their own nakedness and they were ashamed so they had to cover themselves. Is it not human nature to hide in shame? Being a Chinese, I am quite aware of the face culture. We value honour, prestige, respect that we often need to save face – to put up a front to cover what is ugly and dishonourable.
Why else does a person hide? When the man and the woman heard God walking in the garden, they hid from God. God asked ‘Where are you?’ Did God not know where the man was? Of course, He knew. Yet God asked – giving him a chance to answer.
Genesis 3:10 He said, “I heard the sound of You in the garden, and I was afraid because I was naked; so I hid myself.” The man was afraid. But his reason was not his admittance of guilt – that he disobeyed God. His reason was his nakedness. So God asked another question?
Genesis 3:11 And He said, “Who told you that you were naked? Have you eaten from the tree of which I commanded you not to eat?”
Fear often causes people to hide. Fear for being punished, fear for being judged. When someone says “I’ve got nothing to hide,” he’s saying I have nothing to be ashamed of, I did not do anything wrong. What a liberating statement that is – nothing to hide!
Man is sinful by nature. There is no one righteous. ‘For all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God.’ (Romans 3:23) Christians in their mortal body still sin. We still have our daily struggles to overcome sin. “If we say that we have no sin, we are deceiving ourselves and the truth is not in us. If we confess our sins, He is faithful and righteous to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness.” (1 John 1:8-9)
Some friends who read my book thanked me for sharing my stories. I think they often referred to those stories which bare most of myself – my weaknesses and my failings. Why? Because it is in these stories where God’s strength is most manifested. When I listen to inspirational speakers, I am most touched when they speak candidly about their weaknesses. It reminds me that no one is perfect – everyone has his struggles. This gives me hope that weaknesses can be overcome. It is comforting to know that I am not alone in my struggles. I appreciate the courage it takes to reveal one’s own weakness in order to help other people. And so by God’s grace, I do the same. I share candidly my thoughts and feelings, my joy and grief, my success and failure knowing that God can turn all these things for His purpose to bless people.