“No creature is hidden from his sight, but all are naked and exposed to the eyes of him to whom we must give account” (Heb 4:13).
If you were to scroll down my Instagram or Twitter feed you might get the impression that I’ve got things “together.” My timeline is filled with me teaching the Bible, pictures of me and my kids hanging out somewhere fun, and some really smiley selfies with my wife. I’m pretty gifted at presenting to the world the person I want them to see.
But the truth is, if I didn’t have the infinite opportunities for pictorial curation that social media provides, you might see images of me in a far less flattering light. For example, from time to time, you could come across portraits of me paralyzed by anxiety over my ministry. You might see a nice frame of me losing it on my kids for being too loud (in other words, just for being kids). You could even see a few classic shots of my wife and I arguing probably because I’m being a grump.
I suppose I could blame this digital cover up all on social media and our culture’s pressure to produce “good” content. But that wouldn’t really be fair or accurate. The truth is, long before I got on Facebook or Twitter, I was an expert at covering up my “less impressive” parts. I’m willing to wager you’re not all that different from me. Having lived in this place long enough, you’ve learned that to be uncovered is to be vulnerable, and to be vulnerable is to be possibly weak and to be weak is to open yourself up to all sorts of potential hurt, shame, and pain. If we are to be safe, at least some of who we are needs to be hidden. In one sense, “to cover up” is what it means to be human in a fallen world (Gen 3:7).
There is a cost to all this covering up. The sad fact is, the more we try and hide, the less capable we are of receiving and extending love. C.S. Lewis was right when he wrote,
"To love at all is to be vulnerable. Love anything and your heart will be wrung and possibly broken. If you want to make sure of keeping it intact you must give it to no one, not even an animal. Wrap it carefully round with hobbies and little luxuries; avoid all entanglements. Lock it up safe in the casket or coffin of your selfishness. But in that casket, safe, dark, motionless, airless, it will change. It will not be broken; it will become unbreakable, impenetrable, irredeemable. To love is to be vulnerable."(1)
In other words, Lewis is saying, “To refuse vulnerability is to become hardened not merely to other people, but also to God.” But of course, this is all too understandable. We hear that God is a consuming fire, that he is holy, that no sin is acceptable in his sight, and we can’t help but run for cover. Like our first parents cowering in Eden, we delude ourselves into believing that with enough fig leaves we can hide our problems from the seemingly terrifying presence of God. Those leaves have made their way into our ears, deafening us to the God redemptively calling out in the garden of our destruction, “Where are you?”
Perhaps you can’t hear his saving voice over the barriers you’re hiding under today, but maybe, just maybe, you can read his saving voice calling out to you in his word:
If we walk in the light, as he is in the light, we have fellowship with one another, and the blood of Jesus his Son cleanses us from all sin. If we say we have no sin, we deceive ourselves, and the truth is not in us. If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness. If we say we have not sinned, we make him a liar, and his word is not in us (1 John 1:7-10).
Take those words in, weary sinner, step out of the darkness and walk into the light. Far from God threatening to crush you for what you’ve tried to keep hidden, God invites you to confess the skeletons in your closet so that he might bury them in the grave for good. In fact, both fellowship with “one another” and with God come with a continual acknowledgment of one’s shortcomings, failures, and sins. In other words, before the face of God you are free to be…. vulnerable. Brene Brown, the foremost expert on the power of vulnerability writes, “Vulnerability is the birthplace of everything we’re hungry for.”(2)
What are we creatures made in God’s image really hungering for? Acceptance, grace, love, and embrace. Deep down we all want to know that if we “get real” that our true selves will not be greeted with a smug laugh or a judgmental glare. The good news the Scriptures give us is that all the embrace, love, acceptance, and grace we desperately long for is freely given in Jesus Christ. As we bring our shortcomings, failures, and sins to our Lord in confession, God has no choice but to respond with soul transforming words of pardon: “You are forgiven.”
Because Jesus Christ has absorbed the wrath our sins have incurred (1 John 2:2-2), we no longer have to hide our shame. Those sins, yes even THAT SIN is now “hidden with Christ in God” (Col 3:3). To be a Christian is simply exchanging that which hides us: We exchange the insufficient rags we’ve used to cover up, for the all sufficient robe of Christ’s righteousness given in our baptism (Gal 3:27). Therefore, we are invited by the author of Hebrews to go “boldly to the throne of grace to find grace in our time of need” (Heb 4:16). Since, there’s never a moment that isn’t a “time of need,” this means that now, yes right now, is the perfect time to get real, to get vulnerable with your God. He can’t wait to tell you you are forgiven.
(1) C.S. Lewis, The Four Loves
(2) Brené Brown, Daring Greatly: How the Courage to Be Vulnerable Transforms the Way We Live, Love, Parent, and Lead