We’re told we hover, clothed from a thousand fig leaves, ashamed of our figures and functions and dying an eve’s death; today is just one more day of our mortality, bought with the price of a bite in forbidden fruit.
And yes, fig leaves cover (is this our multitude of sins? hiding from the God we walked with?).
And yes, many of us lie naked and ashamed (and not, in fact, because we wish to dominate Adam’s sons).
Have you read C.S. Lewis’s Till We Have Faces? It’s a terror-ific (not to be read terrific, which it certainly is, also) manuscript full of holy and misguided theology, the kind that wears thistles to betray our fear. It is a myth that tells a truth, and it’s my favorite novel. I won’t waste words here on how it’s a book of faith and mercy but will simply quote a passage:
I felt ashamed.
But, of what? Psyche, they hadn’t stripped you naked or anything?
No, no, Maia. Ashamed of looking like a mortal—of being a mortal.
But how could you help that?
Don’t you think the things people are most ashamed of are the things they can’t help?
This passage gets at something crucial—that we humans are wearing skin that is improbably ours. That we are mortal in the face of God who can’t but look on our skin as what it is: mud weaved with grace-breath. And instead of choosing Psyche’s fear (to look like our skin), we fear our skin itself or rather, its loss, decay, disease and frailty, the constant breakdown of something that is on borrowed time.
Herein is faith: we wear a transient gift over our eternal parts. And defeat? That we mock our Maker by hating and fearing our outer selves. It takes faith to see that a True Self extends beyond our bodies, but there is faith, too, in beholding each other and ourselves as Lovely in the interim.
We long for Beauty; this is in our nature, divined in the image of One who creates. We lust after beauty, create things of beauty or images we persuade each other are beautiful, and all too soon we see only fog in mirrors and shadows instead of sunsets. We can deride constructs and tropes and counterfeit beauty (camouflage), or we can run to the shield of the inner beauty and raise her flag, and in both scenarios, we might often return to our tear-soaked pillows, afraid of our own un-loveliness.
I know I have. I know I do. And I tell myself I know better, that external beauty is skin deep, and I think that’s exactly part of the problem.
We were never meant to have beautiful skin, but we chase the elusive idea of perfection, or we shy away from being un-fully-known. This skin of ours is a wet suit designed to get us through “finitism.”
Like a fish out of water, we long always to get out of the temporal and back to eternity. And faith is trusting the journey there. Trusting that being a ‘mere mortal’ is part process, part gift, and part dying a hundred deaths to self.
It takes faith for a husband to love his wife, though she’s been abused and she still suffers with intimacy sometimes.
It takes faith for a woman to trust her husband’s words: You are altogether beautiful, my darling; there is no flaw in you.
It takes faith for a broken mother to draw her children closer when her mind is screaming for space to be herself again.
It takes faith for a battle-worn couple to face the front doors of that church, to enter a place of worship, afraid the smell of sin and stagnancy clings to them like smoke.
This skin? Kind of expensive for a bite of fruit. Cheap in the face of grace that weeps bitter 'til we can see our Father face-to-face.