Have you ever heard someone say something about you, and the instant you heard it, it made sense?
Like it ticked a box, you connected with it in some deep divine kind of way, almost like you always knew this thing about yourself, or had felt it on some level, but someone saying it had merely confirmed it or vocalised it for the first time? You may even have thought this thing about yourself, but had either been too afraid or unwilling to admit it.
That happened to me the other day.
As part of my discipleship and growth I have booked myself in for some Skype coaching sessions with a well-known worship leader, someone with experience in ‘full-time ministry’ (though I dislike that phrase, as we all are one way or another) and who has studied theology and reflection at length, someone who can sharpen me, challenge me, and push me and move me on in my walk with Jesus and indeed in my writing.
For a while I’ve been trying to figure out my own distinct voice, my own message, my own style. I’ve known that although I’m pretty clever I’m not an academic in the traditional sense, however at the same time I’m passionate about church, theology & discipleship as well creativity, especially writing/speaking and video/audio communication. I’ve modelled a lot of what I do on people like Rob Bell, Brian McClaren and my own pastor Jason Clark.
I was talking about my style with this worship leader/coach and having read a lot of my blog and heard my story they suggested one other person - of whom I’m also a big fan - who my style closely matched and seemed to fit with. Donald Miller.
Now Don Miller is my favourite author outside the Bible. Rob Bell is a great speaker/author/communicator, but as a pure author Don Miller is supreme (and he’d probably be the last person to say it). I recommend his books to pretty much everyone I meet, especially his most recent, ‘A Million Miles in a Thousand Years’, about the concept of story in our lives (a book I read at least twice a year now, if not more). So to have someone say my style was similar to his and that these were the kind of books I should be writing, was encouraging to say the least.
But unlike the others, I’d not tried at any point in the past to be like him. I’d not copied him. Although I’d learned from the others, I’d essentially been me, and when I let me come out, then something a lot better emerged. Something similar to someone else entirely but something that was different.
It was me.
That’s thing this whole process opened my eyes to, simply that despite how similiar in style what I create might be to someone else’s work, whoever it is, it’s going to be different.
It’s going to be mine. It’s going to be me.
I mean I’m passionate about things that Don Miller isn’t maybe as much, I have experiences he hasn’t had, I have a different story to tell. The same with Rob Bell, Jason Clark and any others you may mention. I have a different story to tell than any of them and my work is going to be different to all of theirs - although their styles might have had some influence on mine, the work that I produce is still essentially going to be mine, and I don’t have to pretend to be anyone else or subconciously mimic anyone else, I just have to be me.
It’s a scary thing actually, being you, baring your soul - as someone who writes, I know this and I’m sure it’s true with anyone who creates. It’s almost like baring your entire soul in public, when you give out something of yourself you’re exposing yourself a little.
Almost like being completely, stark
We don’t like that word do we? Naked. It makes us feel uncomfortable even reading it on a page, yet alone saying it. It’s not a rude word as far as I can see though. It’s merely a statement of something, which can imply something else. I almost didn't use it in the title of this post, but to me it expresses most the message I really want to convey here.
But when you look at it's core meaning and examine it, this word has endless connotations, which go way beyond the physical. It's almost a divine word in a sense. Being naked is exposing the deepest, darkest, most honest places of your soul to the outside world. Showing people the things you don’t want them to see, that you try to hide. Things that only you (and God) know.
But sometimes, it’s the only way we can be really ourselves isn’t it?
We get so conditioned by the world to act, live and think a certain way, that everything can become a show for someone and we don’t even realise it. Sometimes it’s only when we go to bed on our own - which of course some people often do physically naked - that this comes off, and we say our most honest prayers, think our most honest thoughts, and feel the most honest.
God sees this part of us all the time. He knows it better than we do. He sees this all the time, and nothing we do can hide it from Him.
But there is a message hidden in Genesis. Before humans rejected God, they were ‘naked and felt no shame’. I think we often miss the meaning there. It wasn’t just that they were physically naked and felt no shame, but that they were completely themselves, in the way God originally planned them to be, living in total harmony with God. To me the story says that when we’re in that condition
there is nothing to be afraid of
nothing to hide
nothing to divide us or come between us
In many ways, God wants us to be naked with Him. Divinely naked.
He can already see our naked souls - but He want us to expose ourselves to Him so that He can show us who we really are, and heal the scars and wounds that we might find, and heal the division between us.