Shame

Naked and Unashamed

Men and women are made in God’s image, meaning we all have an inherent sense of glory that isn’t our own. It is the reflection of the glory of God. We commonly speak of this today as a sense of self-worth or self-respect.

The moon has no brilliance of its own. It’s a cold rock. But when the beauty of the sunshine reflects off the moon, it’s stunning.

When people first sinned the image of God was shattered. Our inner sense of glory was broken. But we are still born with a sense that we were made for something more. Internally we know God has a grand design for us.

The gap between what we were made to be and what we are leads to shame. Most of us start to experience shame early in life when we become convicted of our sin or when someone else sins against us. Guilt is a feeling of “I’ve done wrong.” Shame goes deeper. It says “I am wrong. Something is wrong with me.” Shame wreaks havoc in marriages.

The Bible portrays the first marriage as “naked and unashamed.” They had nothing to hide from one another in any way, physically, morally, mentally, emotionally, psychologically. They were totally free to be themselves. They trusted one another. There was a deep sense of peace and rest with one another. They were comfortable in their own skin.

Covering Up

It did not last long. When Adam and Eve choose to rebel against God’s word shame immediately followed. Their first response was to cover up. We’ve all been doing that ever since.
The longer we live the more we sin and the more we are sinned against. Our sense of shame grows. Left to ourselves our self-confidence and self-esteem shrinks.

Marriage thrives on intimacy, on letting our spouse in. Someone said “Intimacy means ‘In to me see.’” To the degree we are hiding from our spouse, our marriage will suffer. To the degree we feel we must protect ourselves from our spouse, intimacy will diminish. Practically what does this look like today?

Adam and Eve used fig leaves to cover themselves. We are much more sophisticated today. Think of the worst sin you ever committed in your life or maybe the worst time you were ever sinned against. What did you feel as soon as the sin was over? What was your immediate response?

Most would say we wanted to hide. We wanted to cover ourselves. We didn’t want anyone to know what we had done or what had been done to us.

Even if no one knows about our worst deeds, we do. The guilt and shame haunt us. We feel spiritually dirty, marred and disfigured. Shame literally means to be disgraced, dishonored. We’ve lost the warmth of the smile of God because of our sin. This impacts us more deeply than we know.

The normal response is to fill our lives with good works to make ourselves look better and to make ourselves feel better. It doesn’t work well and it never lasts long. But still we try.

Think of many of our cultural slogans that point to the reality of this grand cover up: “Never let them see you sweat!” “Keep a stiff upper lip!” “Always put your best foot forward!” “Keep calm and carry on.” “Whatever doesn’t kill me makes me stronger!”

We are slow to admit weakness. We are reluctant to tell how we’ve been hurt. We rarely discuss our deepest fears and insecurities with anyone, even our spouse.

It Starts In Dating

On a first date we dress up. Our hair will look immaculate. We make sure we smell good. (There’s nothing wrong with this. I’ll all for brushing your hair and wearing deodorant.) But the danger is that all of this conspires to put our best foot forward, to paint ourselves in the most positive light.

It’s not just our outward appearance. It’s also how we try to portray our inward character. We probably won’t discuss our deepest, darkest secret on the first date, nor should we. But it’s so easy to establish a pattern of not being real with one another.

I recently counseled a man dumped by his girlfriend when she learned some of his secret sin. He wanted her back. But, even after years of dating, there was still much he had not told her about his addiction to porn and his doubts about God. He said “The whole time we dated, I painted a picture of the ideal man I wanted to be and she needed me to be. But that’s not who I am.” To differing degrees we all do this.

Fig Leaf Righteousness

What are the good works that you wear like a protective mask? What are the good things in your life that you tend to boast in? Where do you tend to find your sense of self-confidence and worth? Those things aren’t bad things in themselves. They are bad if they hide the real you from your spouse.

Men tend to build their fig leaf righteousness out of what they do, who they are at work. This often leads to workaholics who justify themselves by how much they provide for the family. “I know I’m gone a lot, but look at the new car I bought you!”

It’s much easier some days to show up at work, do your job and get paid. Coming home and trying to love a wife is messy, complicated and confusing. Loving a woman well is never efficient and simple the way men love things to be. Loving a woman well is a risky venture for men’s pride. It’ll expose your weaknesses and shortcomings quickly.

Women tend to build their self-protective covering through who they are relationally in the home and beyond. Women will pride themselves on leading the PTA club, having the cleanest house for her family, the best Instagram post and making time to serve at church as well. There’s nothing wrong with these things. There is something wrong with hiding in these things rather than being honest with your husband about how hard life is.

Intimacy

When is the last time you were brutally honest about the worst and hardest parts of your life with your spouse? True intimacy comes when both spouses can share openly and freely about their fears, hurts and insecurities. But all of our self-righteousness conspires to prevent us from ever spiritually disrobing and allowing ourselves to do this.

The best intimacy comes when we can drop of self-protective strategies and share all our fears and insecurities with one another. It’s hard to have great sex if you keep all your clothes on. It’s harder to really know, love and enjoy one another emotionally, mentally and spiritually if we constantly put our best foot forward with one another and never let our spouse all the way in.

The reality is the masks we wear never work. Even if we convince others of how great we are, we never convince ourselves. They never take the shame away. There’s only one place to truly get rid of shame.

Killing Shame

Christ had no shame of His own. He lived a sinless life. At the end of His life He was stripped naked and hung on a cross bearing the curse for our sin and shame. He later rose victorious leaving all shame behind.

When we look to Christ for salvation and rest in His finished work our true sense of glory can be restored. The warmth of the Father’s smile returns. I can have a right sense of confidence and worth, in Christ.

When I experience this reality in the depths of my soul it frees me to be able to be open and honest about the remaining weakness and sin in my life. I don’t have to run and hide. I don’t have to lie and cover up. I don’t have to pretend to be someone I’m not.

The best intimacy in marriage flows from intimacy with Christ. When Christ sees me in my sin yet still loves and saves me I am free to be weak and needy in front of others. When I let my guard all the way down with my spouse there’s the opportunity to return to the garden in part, to experience in a fresh way the reality of being naked and unashamed at all levels.

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