Slow down the day, dear Father
Slow down the falling of the leaves
Let’s pause this moment
Freeze the rustling of the sheaves
And calm the storm within me
Rest my mind’s factory
Clear the inner skies blue
Lift the fog for the view to see
Eternity, blessed treasures
Beyond time, space, dimension
Prepared for me to enjoy
Such a beauty beyond mention
Why am I always in a hurry?
Why am I so anxious to curry?
A favor, a piece of respect
Some temporary thing of no hurry
Is that how small I am?
Is that how shallow my existence?
Take me to a deeper place
Where my heart won’t meet resistance
There I can be truthfully safe
There I can fully immerse
With you I am not afraid of the Book
With you I learn to love each verse
And all the dreams and worries
They don’t matter much anymore
I have everything I need in You
Yet You say You have more in store
He knew where they were. He knew where everything was at all times. He simply knew everything. Yet He asked them a question in a way His Son would later answer those who questioned Him, not to get answers He didn’t know, like I said, He knew everything, but to reveal the hearts of those He was speaking to.
So God asked a hiding Adam, “Where are you?”
The omniscient God was not asking for his location, He was asking why this man was not in His presence.
In an infinitely less significant way, it’s like when I’m on a date with Yasmin, sitting across her, but with my brain on some other concern, or my gaze fixed on my iPhone typing away. Many times, Yasmin has corrected me saying, “You’re not here again.” It’s possible to be present yet miss the presence of the one who loves you.
Adam answered, “I heard the sound of You in the garden, and I was afraid, because I was naked, and I hid myself.”
What followed in the story of Adam and Eve, whether you believe it’s symbolical or literal, is a case of people passing the blame of their guilt on someone else. The man said it was the woman, the woman said it was the serpent.
“Who told you that you were naked?” was God’s reply.
Those words stuck to me. “WHO TOLD YOU…”
Another way to put the question, “Who told you?” is to ask “Who are you listening to?”
Today, there are so many messages coming at us. So many voices telling us what’s right and what’s wrong and what’s cool and what leads to success and what doesn’t, and what leads to dreams coming true, and what leads to failure. There are so so many messages. Calls, texts, emails, comments, whatsapp, Twitter, facebook, likes on Instagram, Viber, Line, podcasts, books, quotes, status message, just so many voices, and many times it’s difficult to distinguish which ones have true value. It’s hard to define what’s true.
For example, there used to be another term for the now popular “dad bod” and it’s “fat”. There used to be a term for someone who has big muscles and no brain and that’s “jock”. There used to be a term for beautiful ladies and it wasn’t “sexy” or “b#tch”, or “$lut”. It was simpler yet more encompassing it was the word “beautiful” itself. Society has a way of watering down, muddying, and then outright changing the definition of things, and in the process removing its meaning and significance. Without understanding the defined meaning of something, without appreciating its significance, we are easily swayed by society’s changing labels, raving over what color is “the new black”, what body type is better, and just going with the flow, using words we haven’t defined properly, and cheering things we don’t understand, with no mental fortitude to assess and ask “Does any of this make any sense? What is this really worth?” We don’t know how to discern value amidst the voices. When we cannot distinguish between voices, we will drown in them.
“Who are you listening to?”
“Who told you that what they’re saying is true?”
“Who told you that you’re going to be a failure?”
“Who told you that you’re poor?”
“Who told you that you’re ugly?”
“Who told you that you’re not good enough?”
“Who told you that you’re evil?”
“Who told you that you’re hopeless?”
“Who told you that the future is dark?”
“Who told you that money is the key to happiness?”
“Who told you that you need a spouse to be whole?”
“Who told you that you need to be a millionaire by 30?”
“Who told you that you’ve been disqualified?”
“Who told you it’s too late?”
“Who told you that you’re a fool?”
“Who told you that your best life involves your dream house and a healthy family, and that if you don’t have that, you’re doing something wrong?”
“Who told you that you’re the prodigal son?”
“Who told you that you’re a slut?”
“Who told you that your mistakes mean you can never be as good as the others who have made better decisions?”
“Who told you your dream is impossible?”
“Who told you to be afraid?”
“Who told you to live ashamed?”
So many messages and labels going around. So many stupid things labeled as valuable and so much unrealized beauty in people because we’ve been listening to the advice, the opinions, and the wisdom of people who are so ashamed of their own nakedness that they respond in the religious covering of themselves or in the rebellious justification of their nakedness.
People so afraid of the consequences of their own sins that they use scripture to limit others.
People so defensive about who they are that they convince themselves that they should fight the insecurity by flaunting the identities they’re are so unsure about.
Shame is the natural feeling that comes upon us when we know that we have been evaluated and have been found wanting. Shame is what makes us hide from God. Which is quite difficult, not to mention impossible, given that He is everywhere. When we are naked, exposed for all that we truly are, there will inevitably be things about us that we don’t want others to see. Which is why nakedness, maybe physical, emotional, or spiritual, is a scary thought. We may not be ashamed of everything but there is always something that causes us to be cautious.
But I really like the poetry of the Bible, God, all-knowing, asks Adam, who has actually been naked all this time because he was made naked, “Who told you that you were naked?” Why would he ask that?
Because nakedness isn’t the issue.
It’s who you’re naked with.
Nakedness between a loving husband and wife is not a reason for shame but a sign of both vulnerability and security, there’s a word for that phenomenon when both of those things happen at the same time. It’s called intimacy.
Adam and Eve were naked the whole time with God yet without shame. They did not notice their vulnerability because they were within the security of God’s perfect love. But when they disobeyed God, they broke the intimacy, and for the first time they looked at each other without the safety of God’s perfect love, and they felt shame.
Once again, nakedness wasn’t the issue. It’s who are you naked with.
Who are you intimate with? Who are you listening to? For me, I find that the voices in my head are always telling me I have to be better, I have to do better, to second guess my decisions, to be more cautious, to be afraid, to worry. This I see happens when I get so close to so many opinions and make the mistake of not focusing on the richness of simple daily devotions, that dedicated moment to listen to God.
I’ve realized that whenever I feel that I lack, whenever I feel that I need to do better, try harder, achieve more, be more of anything, I need to stop from listening to all the voices, all the calls, all the messages, all the expectations, sit down by myself, and pray, “Father, I’m going to listen to You. I hear all these things. I feel all these things. I feel insecure. I feel ashamed for the things I should have known better to do differently, for the things I failed to do, and I’m worried about the results of my life’s work. But here I am, without religious covering, without self-justification, without shame because I know Your desire for me is not a perfect David but all of David, and so here I am.”
That reminds me of a Psalm by a much greater David, the king, who wrote in Psalm 40:6-7:
Sacrifice and offering you did not desire-
But my ears you have opened-
Burt offerings and sin offerings you did not require-
Then I said, “Here I am, I have come-…”
The sacrifice was all about imputing our shame on something else so that we can be presented to God without guilt. Here was David saying, “You’re not after the sacrifices that make me blameless because you’re not after a perfect me. You’re after all of me.”
This Psalm was actually a prophecy of what Jesus would say as Hebrews 10 tells us:
Sacrifice and offering you did not desire-
But a body you have prepared for me;
With burnt offerings and sin offerings you were not pleased.
Then I said, “Here I am…”
I can’t say I understand all these verses. I’m not an expert. What I am is very curious. What I am is very hungry. (At this point, literally hungry too! Haha!) so I’m doing what I do with every thought that intrigues me, I chew on it longer, and break it down into simple ideas. What’s the simple idea for this post?
When the messages that are coming at you pull you down, when the voices in your head tell that you’re this or that, when you feel inflated with pride or deflated with shame, when you find yourself striving to cover with religion, or compensating for your flaws with manufactured glory, when the currents of life pull you one way and then another, when you don’t know what to do do, prioritize time with God and start with this prayer: Here I am, Father. Here’s all of me. Naked yet unashamed because I know that You who look at me love me most. Speak to me in Your word. You define me. I am listening to You.
“Father, I don’t like my body. Help me take care of it. Help me use it to honor You.”
“Father, I’m poor, but You said blessed are the poor in spirit. Show me how to receive Your provision.”
“Father, I’m confused. I don’t know what to do with my life. I don’t know what the future holds. But You said You would never leave me. Help me appreciate Your presence in this moment.”
“Father, I have this regret. There’s nothing I can do about it now. It’s been done. But You said that You take our sins far from us, and that You use for good what was meant for evil. Help me live in excitement of Your grace instead of guilt and condemnation.”
“Father, I can feel that our success is making me proud and too comfortable that I’m more selfish than ever. Help me go back to the simplicity of the Gospel. Let the praises of me not mislead me. I will listen to You.”
Whatever it is that’s bringing you shame, take it to God, and allow Him to challenge your rejection with the words, “Who told You I didn’t love You?”