My “Naked” Truth
This last week a Huffington Post piece went viral. It was written by Robin Korth who describes herself as an “international speaker and writer”. This description is supposed to convey status, is it not?
She opens the piece describing herself looking at herself in a mirror. She gives her vision of her naked body good marks, considering 59 years and the scar left by a C-section by which she produced a son. She considers herself, like the children of Lake Wobegon, “above average”.
If it not good for man to be alone, we might imagine that the same goes for woman. She doesn’t tell us of her past relationship or relationships. She clearly has had at least one, enough to produce a child. A woman of status like her has probably had a few, probably with men of status as well. All it seems have ended, perhaps not with death but rather failure.
She did what routine now in the cyber age and found a man, Dave, on an Internet dating service. The crowd-sourcing, expert matchmakers seem to do their job well, I’m sure far better and more rationally than meeting someone in a bar or at work. They hit it off. They enjoyed each other’s company for a time and then both decided they wanted to take the relationship to a new level.
I was enticed and longed for the full knowing of this man. And so, we planned a weekend together. That’s when things got confusing, unspoken and just-not-quite there. We went to bed in a couple’s way — unclothed and touching — all parts near. Kisses were shared and sleep came in hugs. I attempted more intimacy throughout the weekend and was deterred each time.
On Monday evening over the phone, I asked this man who had shared my bed for three nights running why we had not made love. “Your body is too wrinkly,” he said without a pause. “I have spoiled myself over the years with young women. I just can’t get excited with you. I love your energy and your laughter. I like your head and your heart. But, I just can’t deal with your body.”
How would you respond if you were in her shoes, or in perhaps in her skin?
I was stunned. The hurt would come later. I asked him slowly and carefully if he found my body hard to look at. He said yes. “So, this means seeing me naked was troublesome to you?” I asked. He told me he had just looked away. And when the lights were out, he pretended my body was younger — that I was younger. My breath came deep and full as I processed this information. My face blazed as I felt embarrassed and shamed by memories of my easy nakedness with him in days just passed.
He proceeded to give her some “tips” on how she might maker herself more appealing to him. How do you think THAT went over?
She basically told him to go to hell and then she proceeded to write this piece which has gotten more than half a million hits on Facebook. We might not know who “Dave” is but he sure does.
The Facebook meta-tag says “Man tells woman he can’t get turned on by her aging body — and she reacts perfectly!”
The Perfect Reaction
Why did this hit a nerve? Can’t you just hear and feel millions of women around the world who feel themselves devalued, despised, rejected by others because of how they look?
Last week we talked about the increasing attention paid to men in the flesh economy but we all know that this has been the case only more so for women.
The response to her “perfect reaction” was applause! Women all over America cheered her! She’s settling the score, getting even, she’ll teach him and stand up for all women who feel pushed aside, devalued, unloved, asked to hide because of a culture that idolizes youth and surface beauty!
The public laceration of “Dave” is too delicious not to be celebrated, shared, liked, enjoyed. Our anger and scorn has an object, a target, a poster-man/boy, Dave!
Hell Hath No Fury
William Congreve, 17th century playwright has of course the most famous line on this, but do you know the whole thing?
“Heaven has no rage like love to hatred turned, Nor hell a fury like a woman scorned,”
We all natural long to be fully known and fully loved. We develop masks and thick skin that we normally wear to repel the arrows of common hatred and indifference. We are accustomed to this.
When our longings get too great, we are tempted to take a chance, to look for someone to open ourselves up to, to expose ourselves to, to take off our clothes, allowing ourselves to be seen at our worst and wait longingly to hear the words “I love you”.
We long to be loved not because we are beautiful, but in spite of our ugliness. We long to be loved not for our attributes, the qualities that make us useful to others, but for our deepest, truest selves upon which the attributes are attached. We implicitly know that there is a me beneath all of my qualities that needs to be loved and affirmed and that long to have the public image of us be in full harmony with that self down beneath the surface. We long to be whole, loved, complete, and so we seek another to see us, to make us, to fulfil us.
Naked in a Garden
Genesis chapter 2 and 3 have the story of a man, a woman and God in a garden. The man and the woman are naked, yet unashamed. In their rebellion they first began to realize they were naked and so took fig leaves to hide themselves before each other and they hid from God. Last week we talked about God’s mission to undo that estrangement. The Tabernacle and the whole sacrificial system was designed to allow God and the people to live together in what was something analogous to a marriage relationship. Their relationship would be administered by a covenant and together they intended that the creation begin to function again as it should have from the start.
Moses remained with God on the mountain to finalize the “paperwork”, or the clay tablets as it was in those days, but while he was gone the initial agreement to the marriage in the camp began to waiver.
Exodus 32:1–6 (NET)
1 When the people saw that Moses delayed in coming down from the mountain, they gathered around Aaron and said to him, “Get up, make us gods that will go before us. As for this fellow Moses, the man who brought us up from the land of Egypt, we do not know what has become of him!” 2 So Aaron said to them, “Break off the gold earrings that are on the ears of your wives, your sons, and your daughters, and bring them to me.”3 So all the people broke off the gold earrings that were on their ears and brought them to Aaron. 4 He accepted the gold from them, fashioned it with an engraving tool, and made a molten calf. Then they said, “These are your gods, O Israel, who brought you up out of Egypt.” 5 When Aaron saw this, he built an altar before it, and Aaron made a proclamation and said, “Tomorrow will be a feast to the Lord.” 6 So they got up early on the next day and offered up burnt offerings and brought peace offerings, and the people sat down to eat and drink, and they rose up to play.
To Go Up Before Us
The language is very peculiar here. What exactly was Aaron making and why? The language seems to indicate not that Aaron was shopping for another god or a set of gods to do for Israel what she wanted, but rather Israel wanted an image of God, in violation of the second commandment, so that the image would go ahead of them into their future which felt dangerous and unknown.
The language of “going before” has been used of God’s angel, or the pillar of smoke/fire or Moses and the leadership. With Moses gone, Israel felt leaderless and so Aaron, Moses’ brother, the number 2 leader stepped up to give the people what they wanted. What follows in this text is a long and nuanced conversation about leadership, selfhood, and our capacity to love.
To Know and Be Known
The most telling line in Robin Korth’s piece is this:
I was enticed and longed for the full knowing of this man.
What followed was a conflict between her election of him, her choosing of him and the full weight of what a relationship with this man would entail.
Unlike God’s unconditional election of Israel, she had entered into a relationship with man based on his attributes. The surveys that both had likely filled out for the dating service looked for common interests and character traits and suggested they might be a good match. Their face-to-face relationship seemed to confirm the dating service’s findings. Now she wanted to take it to another level. She wanted to know him more, and although she didn’t say it, she also wanted to be known more, and to be affirmed.
The relationship between Robin and Dave was a gradual unmasking. I’ll reveal if you reveal, layer by layer, level by level, secret by secret. What there wasn’t, however, was an explicit commitment, to stay, even if something ugly was revealed. “Ugly”, like beauty is of course in the eye of the beholder.
The irony of this piece was that they simultaneously reached a level of knowing that elicited rejection. He did not wish to “know”, in the Biblical sense, the “age” of her body. She did not wish to know, in the common sense, his opinion of her body. He would not reflect back to her the image of herself that she wished to see. She would then go on to shout to the world an image of him that a million others would cast scorn on. Huffington Post of course knows she got the better of him. What she did to him was similar as if he would publish naked photos of her for the public scorn and amusement. “Hell hath no fury…”
We enjoy the “just desserts” depending upon which party we identify with.
Election without a Covenant
Christians may quickly wade into the conversation and quickly point out that their behavior fails the standard of Christian morality. Christians making this point too quickly are usually misunderstood by those who don’t share their moral system or their beliefs.
She choose this man but did not take the time to let her election be administered by a covenant. Election and covenant are not synonymous, but when they work together there can be great shalom, even in a broken world.
I think the Golden Calf story is best understood in parallel to the story of Genesis 3. It is a story not just about Israel but about humanity. This is the kind of “partner” that the creator God has with his creation.
While the LORD’s emotional response in Genesis 3 is quite muted, His response in Exodus 32 is full throated.
Exodus 32:7–10 (NET)
7 The Lord spoke to Moses: “Go quickly, descend, because your people, whom you brought up from the land of Egypt, have acted corruptly. 8 They have quickly turned aside from the way that I commanded them—they have made for themselves a molten calf and have bowed down to it and sacrificed to it and said, ‘These are your gods, O Israel, which brought you up from the land of Egypt.’ ” 9 Then the Lord said to Moses: “I have seen this people. Look what a stiff-necked people they are!10 So now, leave me alone so that my anger can burn against them and I can destroy them, and I will make from you a great nation.”
One of the differences between this story and Genesis 3 is that now God has a partner. He has elected Moses. Note how the LORD says “whom you brought out of Egypt”. He doesn’t say “we”. Notice how this parallels with the golden calf. The Golden Calf is not simply an image of the LORD, it is an illicit image of the manifest power of the LORD but also the servant of the LORD.
The LORD also takes Moses into his counsel. He lets Moses know how he feels. He let’s Moses in on his plans and wishes to discuss them with Moses. There is a difference in the LORD between what he feels like doing, and what he will do and he has partnered with Moses to consider this. The man and the woman in the garden had no such intermediary to make their appeal.
An Advocate To Plead On Behalf of a Guilty People
Moses steps in with three quick points to suggest to God that what he feels like doing in the moment might not be the best in the long run for his mission.
Exodus 32:11–14 (NET)
11 But Moses sought the favor of the Lord his God and said, “O Lord, why does your anger burn against your people, whom you have brought out from the land of Egypt with great power and with a mighty hand? 12 Why should the Egyptians say, ‘For evil he led them out to kill them in the mountains and to destroy them from the face of the earth’? Turn from your burning anger, and relent of this evil against your people. 13 Remember Abraham, Isaac, and Israel your servants, to whom you swore by yourself and told them, ‘I will multiply your descendants like the stars of heaven, and all this land that I have spoken about I will give to your descendants, and they will inherit it forever.’ ” 14 Then the Lord relented over the evil that he had said he would do to his people.
When we hear about the LORD’s emotional response to the betrayal of his people, to their word and to their relationship we might recoil and say “Why can’t God just forgive them”, but when do we think Robin Korth justified in her fury? If there was an advocate for Dave to plead his case before she let her fire burn through the Huffington Post she clearly did not listen.
The Anger of Moses Burns Hot
Exodus 32:19–22 (NET)
19 When he approached the camp and saw the calf and the dancing, Moses became extremely angry. He threw the tablets from his hands and broke them to pieces at the bottom of the mountain.20 He took the calf they had made and burned it in the fire, ground it to powder, poured it out on the water, and made the Israelites drink it. 21 Moses said to Aaron, “What did this people do to you, that you have brought on them so great a sin?” 22 Aaron said, “Do not let your anger burn hot, my lord; you know these people, that they tend to evil.
When Moses sees with his eyes and hears with his ears his anger burns hot. Notice now at Moses playing God’s role in the verses before and Aaron playing Moses’ role of advocate and intermediary.
- The LORD is more merciful and compassionate than Moses. His anger turns but Moses does not.
- Moses appeals to elements of God’s mission to turn God’s wrath. Aaron simply notes the weakness of the people.
- Moses is blameless before the LORD in the people’s betrayal, Aaron like the man and the woman makes excuses and lies about his own part in the affair.
Call to Repentance
“ALL” the people were responsible for the betrayal of the LORD and the breaking of the covenant, but implicit in the text is the understanding that sometimes together we are more stupid than we are alone. Moses comes in that a monument of singular sanity and sobriety and calls for repentance for any with the capacity to hear. The Levites, his own tribe, and ironically Aaron’s tribe too, rallies to him.
Moses’ judgment is swift. He acts with no permission or instruction from the LORD. This is his wrath, his justice. They take swords and by bloodshed re-establish order in the camp. About 3,000 men lost their lives.
Life Together After Betrayal?
After his wrath subsided it was time for Moses to address the calamity. There wasn’t even time for a honeymoon between God and his people before they betrayed him and broke the covenant. How could they move forward?
Robin Korth’s Huffington Post piece pretty much destroyed any chances that she and David might have had. They never had a covenant between them. They both hoped they could receive healing, community, affirmation and love in that relationship. As the levels of revelation increased the smallness and selfishness of both parties were revealed. He wouldn’t offer her the sexual experience he wanted. He wouldn’t offer her the affirmation and love she wanted. There was no moving forward.
In both Genesis 3 and Exodus 32 we have to wonder “is there a way to move forward with God?”
I know many people who feel betrayed by God. Whether they feel betrayed by things they read in the Bible or by events in their life they do not believe God is good and true to his word.
The story of the Bible makes very clear that God feels betrayed by us. What have we done with the gift of life and the gift of this extraordinary world?
In almost any conflict, especially the kind of high stakes conflict where our tender and sensitive parts of our identity is involved there is usually plenty of finger pointing. Sit with an unhappy couple and while both may accept some responsibility for the breakdown of the relationship both sides usually assert that the primary blame rests with the other. There can only be a future if the OTHER relents, takes responsibility and fixes it. When relationships die it is usually right in that spot and for that reason.
So God and his people reach an impasse. God holds the people to blame for their rebellion. The people seem incapable of seriously fulfilling even a minimal level of responsibility to the covenant they promised to keep. How can they move forward?
Exodus 32:31–32 (NET)
31 So Moses returned to the Lord and said, “Alas, this people has committed a very serious sin, and they have made for themselves gods of gold. 32 But now, if you will forgive their sin …, but if not, wipe me out from your book that you have written.”
Where was Moses when his brother made the calf? Moses was on the mountain with God. Moses was in no way responsible for the sin of the people. He was sinless in this regard, but Moses stands before God and says “don’t abandon or blast the people for their sin, let the punishment they deserve fall on me.”
The LORD will not accept Moses’ request. He will exact some judgment on the people for their sin, and as we will see in the coming weeks his relationship with Israel has been wounded. Innocence is lost here, just like it was lost from the garden in Genesis 3.
Parallels to the Christian Story
When Christians read this story they begin to see parallel story lines:
- Israel hungers to be near to God and even when God’s messenger Moses is temporarily absent from them they resort to their own devices, fashion their own gods to meet their need and to control.
- Moses, who was with the LORD when this happens makes intercession for them both from the presence of God’s throne and in the midst of his people.
- Moses is blameless in this sin but asks that the judgment against the people fall on him instead and he be cut off for them.
God rejects Moses’ appeal. God will not accept Moses’ substitution. The life of those who die in the plague and the blood of animals will have to suffice for the time being.
The clear parallel however is with Jesus.
- Jesus intercedes on our behalf from the throne of God
- Jesus, who is blameless in our rebellion offers for our judgment to fall upon him.
The difference, however, is that the LORD accepts Jesus’ substitution and he is cut off. On the cross he cries “my God, my God, why have you forsaken me?!” The answer is, “you, the true leader, the true brother, volunteered to save a rebellious people and rescue them from the future they deserved.
Robin and Dave
Robin and Dave’s story is a sad one. Love can be given and it can be received, but it cannot be secured.
We with Israel long to be naked and affirmed, to live in God’s presence, fully loved. We are, however, in capable of sustaining such a relationship. How do we know? We can hardly do it with each other, never mind the kind of pure, burning searing love from the kind of being capable of creating this universe.
What happens, therefore, is the one who has no flaws comes, and though we are petty, though we are fearful and insecure, though we are emotional burn victims that can hardly tolerate the truthful touch of another resulting in lashing out and burning down each other, he comes to say “I will burn for you.” “I will love you and commit myself to you no matter the wrinkles and wounds that the age of decay and your own rebellions have blazed upon your body. I will love you, and if you return my love you will learn to love like me.”
We are not good lovers. We take surveys to find people who will meet our needs. We look for relationships, romantic and otherwise where there the split will be close enough so that the amount of generosity we will give will not be overly large compared to the other.
Robin didn’t want to love the flawed character of Dave, or condescend to cover her naked body so he could feel her while seeing another in his mind. It was degrading and she would not degrade herself for him.
This is how we all are with each other. We are implicitly sizing each other up to see if a relationship with the other will be useful to us. Will they help me get ahead at work? Will it look good to have a friend like this? Will they listen to my stories or will I have to spend all my time listening to their boring and annoying complaints and whining?
Jesus comes to the sinful, the ugly, the wrinkled, the shallow, the selfish, the greedy, the immature, the hated, the despised and says “I will be your friend.” “I will love you even though you are incapable of really loving. I will love you even though you want to use me and use everyone else around you. I will love you and rescue you even though you don’t deserve it.”
What would have happened to Robin if she had a covenant as well as her electing love? What if she had said to David “You are shallow and your comments to me are degrading, humiliating and hurtful, but I will love you still. I won’t publically humiliate you, write about your poor treatment for me, or make a hurtful example of you for the world to see. I will love you.”
Maybe it would have done nothing. Remember, love can be given or received but never secured. Maybe Dave would have simply continued to use Robin and not love her. Maybe Dave would have said “I can get a younger woman anyway, I don’t need you. Stay out of my life.”
Maybe in time, and because of Robin’s commitment Dave might have grown to no longer be so shallow, such a user of people, actually capable of real love. Maybe he would have grown to return her love, freely. Maybe she in his eyes would be far more beautiful because of the wrinkles than in spite of them.
I would hope that this kind of transformation would be Robin’s wish and joy. I don’t know Robin, maybe it isn’t.
Robin instead decided to let her anger burn and destroy Dave in front of the world.
Jesus does for us what Robin would not. We are Dave. How would you like to respond?