Naked and Not Ashamed: Lessons in Vulnerability From Adam and Eve
Each death brings up the last one and the one before. When it happens, I have to let the names reverberate in my soul like residual sound waves from the repeated crashing of cymbals. I can brace myself, but each vibration is stronger than the last, emanating from my chest until I’m on my back. At that point, I am drained. Nothing is real except the patterns on the ceiling and the disdain for all foods that are not pizza delivery.
I’ve admittedly been uninspired. I have seven blog entries that I’ve started, each of which went no where. It’s not that I haven’t known what to write, but that I couldn’t. I would latch on to an idea and in the few minutes it would take for me to hammer out the first few sentences, I’d be through with it. The words would disappear. My mind would be blank leaving only distorted faces and traces of names.
What do you do in the aftermath of loss? How do you cope?
I draw in. I keep to myself. I hide.
I write, of course, but not publicly. I write everything down in my leather-bound journal to be viewed only by me. I feel less vulnerable that way. Everything written in the journal is protected by its secure location and the indecipherable code that is my handwriting. I am free to be as candid as I please. The walls can come down, and emotions can flow. Of course, I’m expected to be vulnerable here too, but there is a difference between expected vulnerability and unexpected nakedness. When I am expected to be vulnerable, I get the feeling that I can prepare. Not all of my secrets have to be shared, and I get to pick and choose which ones I air. Unexpected nakedness leaves nothing hidden. All of my faults and insecurities are open to scrutiny. The world chooses what to do with the information as if it was never mine.
The Bible speaks quite a bit about nakedness, usually in regard to sex and sexuality. However, I think there is something be said for reading some of those passages with vulnerability in mind. The last line of Genesis 2 is particularly interesting: “And the man and his wife were naked, and not ashamed.” Usually, you will hear this line discussed in terms of sex. To be naked is to be sexual, and to be not ashamed of it is a sort of ignorant bliss in which Adam and Eve lived before “waking up”. This line, though, admits a sort of vulnerability that I think needs to be examined.
They were two naked folks without the shame that we so often feel surrounding bodies. They showed their whole selves to each other with no reservations. They lived without worry as to what the other would think, or whether they should be ashamed of revealing so much to the other. It’s not just the act of creation that bonds them, but the vulnerability of their relationship that links them together.
Maybe applying Genesis to my situation is a bit of a stretch. Perhaps the sexual implications of the text are too hard to ignore. More exegesis of the story would bring up some interesting social teachings regarding gender, not to mention the whole thing about homosexuality, but this one-line verse is packed with so much beauty and innocence that I needed to look at it in terms of all that nakedness suggests. The act of being naked is not inherently sexual; our reading of this text is what makes it so. There is more to nakedness than just physicality. Nakedness is also a feeling. Being naked does not necessarily depend on whether one has on clothes. I can feel naked while fully clothed.
Nakedness suggests an openness with my vulnerability that requires trust. In an emotional context, the willingness to reveal myself creates a bond between that person and myself that makes for a more intimate friendship. In that type of friendship, I am able to be as open about my feelings as I need to be without fear or shame. The friendship itself becomes a safe space in which all parties involved can explore the depths of their feelings while trusting that the others will not take advantage of those feelings or that situation.
I have felt a sort of raw vulnerability that makes it difficult to trust other with that vulnerability. I have felt as if my words would give away too much to people I don’t know I can trust with that information, thus leaving me open to those undesirable feelings of unexpected nakedness. I tell myself I’m totally OK with everything, then I go to the ‘new post’ screen and freeze. Suddenly, I forget the boundaries between private and public information and feel naked in front of the screen, as if anything I type will reveal too much. I don’t share anything to keep myself from sharing too much.
I’ve had it drilled into my head that there are certain things that are OK to talk about and others that are not. Death is definitely in the camp of things that are not OK to talk about. It’s private. The feelings associated with it are private. We don’t talk about it. There are some for whom this approach works. I am not one of those people. I need to process my feelings with those who are experiencing the same thing. I need to know that I am not alone, even if the only other person feeling the same thing is across the world somewhere. I have to write about it.
It’s not a neat process. It’s hard to tap into that space knowing that these words will be read by eyes other than mine. I get uncomfortable and think that maybe it would be better if I kept it all to myself. I start imagining my life without assigning words to the difficult things I experience. My alternate world is one where I can only express happiness. That world is the more terrifying than most of my nightmares. In that world, I do not relate to others and I do not grow.
Someone once taught me that moving forward with life requires being able to sit with discomfort. Things don’t have to be OK including myself. I am not always in control. I do need to be able to sit amidst the chaos and feel it permeating all aspects of my life– including my faith– to understand that I am vulnerable. I am delicate and fragile. This is not something that I must hide or control. If I accept anything as truth in life, it will be this one thing.
Really though, what’s the use of writing if not to convey difficult emotions and experiences? I want to write such that I am moved. I want the words to take me on a journey that makes it impossible to get back to where I was previously. Hopefully, whoever reads it will experience the same.