Deep in the heart of every human being there is a lie that’s been rehearsed to us from as early as we can remember. That lie goes something like this: I’m not valuable. Nobody wants me for who I am. I’m only valuable to God or to others as long as I act like someone else, someone better than me, someone who has things more put together. We all believe this, to a greater or lesser degree.
We all cope with this lie in different ways. Some of us wear masks to hide who we really are. These masks hide who we are behind some kind of alternate reality. Some of them are easy to spot. Jesus called the Pharisees of His day hypocrites, a word which refered to play actors who wore masks that portrayed feelings they weren’t real. Many of us work to portray a much better image to the world around us than what is really going on. We are literally different on the inside than on the outside.
Some of us keep others at a distance. Like Adam and Eve caught in their sin and ashamed at their nakedness, we cobble together clothes for ourselves that hide who we really are. We don’t let others get close. Fear tells us that if we dropped the act and let God or anyone else see who we are on the inside, they would reject us. So we turn to things like perfectionism, business success, and even ministry to make the world think well of us, but we still live empty and broken.
But God’s design for us, the way we were designed to live and the way that is most healthy for us is totally different. Genesis 2 describes the first man and woman living together in perfect harmony with God this way: “And the man and his wife were both naked and were not ashamed,” (Genesis 2:25). They lived transparently with each other and before the Lord, hiding nothing from either.
In our lives, this is what healing looks like. We can come to a place where God heals us and we can be totally at peace with God and others knowing exactly who we are. I’m not advocating for actual nudity, but a spiritual transparency where we no longer put on masks and we let others see us as we truly are. We let God in. We let others in. We do one of the scariest things humanly possible and trust others with the ugly realities we see in ourselves.
One of the most healing things I’ve witnessed over the last ten years has been the moments where a brother gets really scary honest about the condition of his heart. This takes mad bravery, the kind you don’t find everyday. When a brother steps up to the plate and says “This is exactly how ugly I am on the inside,” it’s usually the first step on a powerful journey to wholeness.
Why is this? Most of us want to be loved by God. The problem is we don’t believe that God could really ever completely accept us in the state we’re in. This is a problem, especially if we’re believers. Jesus died because God was looking for a way to make men right with Him and anyone who has received Christ as their Savior has been accepted by God (note the past tense). God literally loves us while knowing everything negative about us.
I know so many believers, though, that don’t believe they’ve been accepted by God. Instead they live their lives behind masks and fig leaves, hiding the ugliness they believe not even God can handle. In my life, God has helped me over and over again by sending men that I got scary ugly with in my life. These men had the audacity to not run away, to not laugh at me, to not point a finger at me, but instead they looked at me and said, “You’re stuck with me. I love you. Let’s figure out a way forward.”
Because they didn’t give up on me, over time I’ve had an easier time believing God hadn’t given up on me either. And every time I see the Father’s love reflected through another human being in my life, I have a little easier time believing that God really loves me the way He truly sees me. That enables me to let down the masks.
As I’ve let down my masks and been honest about my struggles, other men around me have found freedom to be honest about theirs. Transparency begets transparency. When one guy lets down his guard and lets others in, others seem to find the courage to be open and honest. Healing comes every time we talk because God promises to bring healing where honesty and contrition meet together: “Therefore, confess your sins to one another and pray for one another, that you may be healed,” (James 5:16).
I’ve probably written about this before, but I’m writing again because I’m convinced that only the kind of scary transparency that we all fear with both God and people is the only reality many people will find acceptance, love, and an end to their struggles. If you aren’t in a relationship where this happens, please find someone (of the same gender) who you trust and you believe will love you regardless of your sin . Open up to them. Unburden your soul. Practice the kind of love for each other that Christ showed when He laid His life down for you.
God’s design for us is “naked and unafraid.” When we can get to this place, we can find true healing. It’s a scary kind of honesty, but it brings healing and transformation.