28 Sep 2016

How to look good naked

Our church finished a 247 prayer weekend a few days ago. As requested by Madi, our room contained a prayer den. It was an ace idea. Both kids and adults could engage with it and it took 5 minutes to assemble and cost NOTHING: 1x table, 3x blankets, some pegs, a random assortment of cardboard boxes and a huge length of white gauze fabric that we pulled out of a skip in London 9 years ago after an event. A few hours after it was set up, the den even included a pillow. Genius.

The den, along with the other activities, encouraged people to pray and think and sing and write in sand or on stones and maybe cry at the state of our world and be thankful for grace and pray for more of it to go around because things are broken and we have to live on a dysfunctional planet and not go crazy in the meantime.

I did all that. But the most significant thing I found was purely accidental -  the position of the prayer den itself. Although the table, blankets, pegs and cardboard boxes were there to be constructed by other people, we had to set it up in such a way so that it looked like a den in the first place - otherwise it's just a bunch of clutter that someone forgot to clear up. It ended up being right up against the wall by the lectern at the front of the church so as not to obscure the other activities in the room. If all the seats were out in their usual place (which they weren't), they would all have been facing towards the den.

While we were still setting up, I was totally distracted by the juxtaposition of the den with the lectern. The hidden and secluded vs the prominent. The seen vs the unseen. Secret vs public.

What we want to be known about ourselves vs who we actually are.

Of course some things need to stay private or you're (perhaps correctly) branded a social weirdo - but how much energy and time is wasted in keeping our seen and unseen lives separate things? Regulating both of them to ensure they touch in only controlled ways lest they collide abruptly and splinter into a million component parts that scare other people - or God - away? Or worse still maybe, kidding ourselves that what happens in either of these two realms is contained there in isolation and bears no relevance to anything happening in the other one.

What an absolute and tragic waste of time. Jesus totally got this and made a huge point of teaching that thought processes are JUST as important as outward actions. One directly influences the other. Like cause and effect, they are inextricably linked. This is simultaneously wet your pants scary and the most liberating thing ever. There may be no place to hide - but there's no need to hide either.

Unlike the Orwellian thought police, God wants healing of our motivations rather than control of them. He's arguably more interested in mending the secret damage of the heart than the public stuff that we tend to fixate on. If the story in Eden ended with humankind hiding from the creator and covering up with fig leaves, Jesus offers the chance to reverse that process - but far beyond the physical limitations of naked flesh. Further even than Robbie Williams went in the banned Rock DJ video.
The offer is to unwrap it all.
Every last secret thought.
Every buried attitude.
Every concealed motivation lurking on the fringes of consciousness.

Then to stand bare-souled and healed before him - unafraid, unashamed and loved.

To be loved but not known is comforting but superficial. To be known and not loved is our greatest fear. But to be fully known and truly loved is, well, a lot like being loved by God. It is what we need more than anything. It liberates us from pretense, humbles us out of our self-righteousness, and fortifies us for any difficulty life can throw at us. (Tim Keller)

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