Once upon a time, two people realised they were naked.
Being naked wasn’t a problem, though; it was just a single part of the whole essence of their humanity. They were created, pure, perfect, LOVED.
But they lost sight of the big picture, the love picture. They inspected a faultless body with the narrow lens of judgement, and they deemed it to be shameful.
They deemed themselves to be shameful.
And they slapped a fig leaf over the entire sorry business.
Ever since then, we’ve been obsessed with covering the parts of our lives that we deem to be shameful. Worse, we set about covering the parts of other people’s lives that we deem to be shameful.
We scrutinize each other with medical callousness, trying to pinpoint the unworthy parts. Trying to spot the flaws so we can exfoliate them with holy water and ultimately Maybelline them out of our sight.
Got a tat? Hide it under a fig leaf.
Transgender? Fig leaf.
Opposing side of abortion rights? Get ye behind that fig leaf.
But we’re ignoring something as we cower behind fig leaves. You see, when God asked our foliage-wearing ancestors about their sudden cover up, it wasn’t anger speaking.
It was LOVE. Sorrow. Grace.
He saw our clumsy camouflage as a tragedy. He watched us decree which parts of our humanity are acceptable and which are not. Which people are acceptable and which are not.
And Jesus wept.
Because Love doesn’t look at us that way.
Love flowed out for EVERY part of His magnificent creation – that wondrous human being – long before any fig leaf came along.
Because Love sees every wrinkle and curve, and smiles. Love delights in our alabaster skin and gently holds our crooked scars. Love takes in the multifaceted parts of a single life and embraces the whole.
Love does not exclude the parts now hidden behind a fig leaf.
But the panicked application of a garment of shame did not end in Eden. A wave of fear-induced shame set off the ocean of judgement and narrowmindedness that we still tread frantically today.
And as we paddle onwards, we chant our figgy mantras:
Figgy Mantra #1: We must manifest faith homogenously.
The fig leaf smothers differences, leaving only a matching set of arms, legs and wide-eyed heads. Faith is no longer acceptable unless it falls in line with mainstream expectations and takes care to keep inside the lines. Inside the box. Behind the fig leaf.
It was not only Hitler who suppressed diverse members of society.
We too do a fine job of “fig-leafing” diversity out of our church doors and social circles. Sexual orientation, sacramental practices, marital status, eschatological views – all become measuring points of someone’s acceptableness or lack thereof.
And if we do let someone in, we take great pains to point out where they are falling short, exhorting them to hide their pubescence behind a fig leaf, adopt our puritan methods, and mould themselves to fit our cookie cutter standard of a figged up person of faith.
And thus Love is buried beneath a fig leaf.
Because once this filter of fear is placed before our eyes, and once every uncertainty is suppressed to fit into the outline of the fig leaf, we can no longer view our own species through the pure lens of Love.
But what if we took a step back?
Viewed each other from a wider angle? Allowed our hearts to broaden with the scope – the unique, complex, diverse vastness – of another person?
What if you looked past my climate change views?
What if you saw beyond my intermittent swearing?
What if you didn’t narrow in on my cyclical dance with PTSD?
What if you looked broad and wide and deep enough to see… that I am just as human as you are?
I just wear different tangles of humanity to yours.
So stop trying to hide the knots and swirls of life behind a fig leaf.
Stop flinching at the turban.
Stop gasping at the sexual orientation.
Stop holding back your smiles until you’ve ascertained whether or not someone’s divorce is “acceptable” in your coffee group.
Stop getting so hung up on someone else’s lifestyle that you completely miss what they are:
A life. A soul. A being.
We’ve become a gospel of fig leaves.
We’re so quick to condemn what we disagree with or dislike. We rush to hide another person’s colours and stripes. We slap fig leaves around like it’s our sole duty to bully every other person onto the same page we occupy.
But at the end of the day, all of these pieces – these messy, complex, different-than-you pieces – make up a magnificent human being.
And God greets that messy, complex, different-than-you creation of His with nothing but openness and grace.
It’s time to join that dance.
It’s time to throw away our default greeting of fig leaves, and start with seeing each other first.
It’s time to dance hand in hand, holding your scars and mine, and moving to the rhythm of love.
It’s time to dance naked.
Emma is an Italian-South African with a New Zealand passport and an international heart. She spent years training student choirs and co-running a puppeteering business, before working for a humanitarian organisation in New Zealand (7 years) and Papua New Guinea (3 years). Currently a nomad living between various countries and towns, Emma's deep joy is in writing, music, cooking up an Italian storm, and taking time to listen to people’s stories.
Read Emma's creative expressions at http://www.girlkaleidoscope.wordpress.com or https://pngponderings.wordpress.com/2016/09/02/finding-the-beauty/
Emma’s previous articles may be viewed at www.pressserviceinternational.org/emma-mcgeorge.html