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?”
I met with our Monday night small group. This group has been a blessing to me in two ways: they help keep my eyes off of my own situations and on theirs, and they encourage me by their faith. In this group are men in their very early twenties to genuine senior citizens. It’s a testament that God is relevant to all ages, and that the Gospel resonates to everyone. When the Gospel takes center stage, it doesn’t matter what age, what gender, what economic condition, or whatever separation, Christ will be glorified and the believers edified.
It also takes the pressure of me to be a perfect leader. I’m far from a perfect individual much less a good leader. So I point them to Jesus.
I’d like to share with you what I shared with them earlier, starting with this question:“If you could choose how the people you truly love will remember you, what would you choose to be remembered by?”
Think about it.
There is an End and Ends Within
The first answers were more like what you would expect from anyone who wants to be remembered, including an honorable state funeral. But I clarified the question, I said, “The people you truly love. How will they remember you? Not how people in general will remember you, but your parents, your spouses or girlfriends, your kids, your grand kids even. The people you say you love, how do you want them to remember you?
The discussion became a lot more sombre from then on.
A sober reminder for everyone came upon all of us. There is an end, and within this end, are many ends, that hopefully were necessary to end (as the famous book Necessary Endings talks about). And interestingly we distilled that the most important thing we would want our loved ones to remember is simply this: that we truly loved them.
This was a wonderful setup for our verse of the day, Psalm 90:12, Teach us to realize the brevity of life, so that we may grow in wisdom.
I like how beautifully that was put. Teach us to realize the brevity…Brevity. Meaning short or brief.
Here David was saying, teach me to realize that life is short, because when we realize how temporary this all is, how limited time we really have, it makes us consider what is truly valuable. And if what is truly valuable is for our loved ones to know we love them, what are we doing in our brief lives to make sure that is true when our own end comes?
Our parents won’t always be alive. Our children won’t always be young. Our friends come and go. Our associates, even more temporary. And every life that interacts with our’s is affected in small ways, in big ways, for good, for evil, and in that span of time we have with each other, we either planted a garden of roses to bless others lifelong, or a garden of regret that leaves scars to be weeded. Will these people know when I’m gone that I loved them?
At the end of my life, would God know I loved Him? Or will He know I was just using Him?
If we say we love someone, is the result of our life touching their’s lead to beauty?
Or is the result of our life touching their’s lead to a cage? In which case we can say, that maybe we did love others, but not as much as ourselves, and we can’t say we truly loved someone if we weren’t willing to lay ourselves down for them.
Every day our time with others runs out. Our death comes closer automatically. Their deaths too. We don’t need to try. We don’t have control.What we do control are our decisions within the time that we have. Depending on our decisions will those we love remember us as someone who loved them or someone who used them.
There is an end. And there are ends within that end. This leads me to my next point.
Prune Towards Your Desired End
The book Necessary Endings talks about pruning the things in your life that keep you from flourishing. No one likes pruning. Least of all me. I like to hold on to things tightly. But I’ve had to prune and I’ve seen how resources being sucked out of me have now been reallocated to helping more people at less detriment to myself.
Pruning is an important part of life. Every gardener knows this is necessary if we are to achieve our desired end.
One cannot go through life accidentally and feel like a winner. We are a product of our life’s choices.
For the Christian, it’s not enough to just prune. We need to prune towards a specific desired end, and that is a flourishing life that honors God
That’s one huge mistake I must admit I made for most of my life. Even as I pruned and introduced discipline into my life, I was not pruning towards a life that honors God. I was pruning towards a life that honors David. And God won’t bless a life that takes His honor, the honor He alone deserves.
I have had this picture in my head of what’s right for me – and I did not once think if that picture was a God-honoring picture. It was a flourishing rose bush alright but its fragrance was for my respectability, my security, my glory. That is subtle pride but it is still pride. To think that I can plan my life without considering the honor of God.
This is obvious in my decisions.
I live a vain life that is not aware of whether I am honoring God yet I feel entitled and justified, so I have expectations of success, blessing, and peace, even as I am fooled by my own vanity to believing promises of liars. We are never fooled by something we don’t want & someone we don’t trust. We are always fooled by something we desire & someone we trust. The best way to fool someone is to offer him something he already really wants. In other words, we are also responsible for fooling ourselves by desiring and trusting the wrong things. I’ve been a fool myself. At times I find, prayer doesn’t undo the consequences of my foolish decisions. It reassures me that God is with me as I learn my lesson, but the lesson stays, sometimes painfully stays. But if I continue to desire & trust the wrong things then I have not truly learned. I cannot do new versions of old sins and find rest.
To live a life that does not honor God, even a good life, is a life that takes His honor from Him. How can I say I love Him while taking the credit for myself even as I know that everything I am today is by His hand?
I need to prune towards a new desired end, an end that honors God.
Where is God?
One of the things I’ve learned is to look for God when I read the Bible. For most of my life I looked for me. I looked for how I could be more like David, or Daniel, or Paul. I forgot to look for the hero. I forgot to look for God. So now I’m changing my approach, and I look for God in each verse. Where is God in Psalm 90:12?
He is the Teacher David is requesting to learn from. David is saying, “You teach me how to live this life wisely.”
My dad explained before, that teachers back then were not like the ones we have in classrooms today. Teachers back then were people whose life you followed. The way they taught their students was by living and sharing life with them.
David here says, “Spend time with me that I may learn that life is brief and temporary and learn to value the right things.”
Everyone will be remembered. We will be remembered by what we value. Not everyone will be remembered beautifully.
Like I said in my 2012 year end post, The loss of a man (or woman) who has lived a beautiful life will be beautifully remembered. Though sad, his memory will bring up gratitude. It’s the opposite for those who live selfishly. Their memory will be resented.
I’ve lived quite selfishly by not seeking the honor of God in my life. Again, it’s time to prune towards a flourishing David that honors God.
Teach me your way, LORD, that I may rely on your faithfulness; give me an undivided heart, that I may fear your name.
– Psalm 86:11