The Problem With Layers (and 5 ways to get naked)
The unveiling came last night. A hot bath and a book. Layers of clothing peeled off to reveal parched skin, prickly legs, and toenails in need of an intensive pedicure. As Land's End likes to remind us, winter is all about layering. We need to protect our 98.6 degree epidermis from the negative temperatures, icy wind, and moisture-stealing dry air that Old Man Winter blows our way. My closet shelves are piled high with tank tops that tuck in, long-sleeve tees, knit sweaters, and zip-up fleece. Layering is super effective for keeping the bad stuff out, but just as effective at preventing the good stuff from getting in. It's mid-February, and this girl could use a little lotion, a razor, some exfoliating apricot scrub for heaven’s (read: my husband’s) sake.
Unfortunately, we’ve all become adept at layering all year round. The schedules we keep, the mini-emergencies we tackle, the shimmying devices that vie for our attention. These everyday stressors demand that we don protective covering simply to fend off sensory overload. Chronic loss, such as that experienced with infertility, a prodigal child, or a shaky marriage, can cause us to pile on even more layers merely to cope with emotional overwhelm. But the false strength we project becomes a shroud through which few people glimpse the true us. And underneath all those layers, we are starved for true connection.
Love covers a multitude of sins, but we must first shed our coverings and expose ourselves to its healing properties. Yep. We need to get naked.
Though scary, peeling off layers of pride, independence, and self-protection is well worth the effort. Sharing our authentic selves opens us to others' comfort and companionship. It reminds us that we're not alone and allows us to experience the reality of God's grace flowing through our fellow human beings.
Photo by Emanuel Hahn on Unsplash
So how does one begin to strip down? Here are five ways to get naked.
5 Ways to Get Naked
1. Share your struggle
Whether it's a negative pregnancy test, a demanding boss, or a bout with depression, burdens are not meant to be carried alone (See Galations 6:2). Share your struggle with a trusted friend. Sometimes simply voicing your concerns brings relief. You might be surprised to learn that your friend has been there before and can advise you with the wisdom of experience.
2. Ask for help
Need someone to take the kids for an afternoon so you can soak in the tub? Ask. Do you struggle to put dinner on the table without the help of KFC? Get some friends together and prepare a month of freezer meals while trying out your stand-up routines. Can't pull yourself out of a sadness rut? Dial your primary care physician and make an appointment with a Christian counselor. Often we are baby steps away from a new and improved life. All we have to do is ask.
Photo by Seemi Samuel on Unsplash
3. Invest your time
Life is too short to spend your free time out of obligation. At the same time, there's nothing like quality time with a chosen few to bring out the real you. Be intentional about the relationships you keep and invest in the ones that bring life. A date with your spouse, coffee with that witty co-worker you want to get to know better, a wardrobe clean out with your bestie (or future bestie). These are all opportunities to shed that tired facade and let the balm of relationship work its magic.
4. Chuck the filter
A gorgeous, mid-40's friend told me last week that an acquaintance suggested a iPhone "smoothing" filter so my friend could doctor up her Instagram photos and "look her best". I believe we've all had more than enough "fake", yes? Let's face it: I have wrinkles, you have wrinkles, and we're all a mess sometimes. Covering up our imperfections only ramps up the pressure for everyone. Be honest. Be real. You might just start a movement.
(Check out Ephesians 4 for more on Christ-like honesty, not to be confused with Hollywood's penchant for letting it all hang out).
Photo by Yana Lizunkova on Unsplash
5. Be Weak
It's safe to say this statement will not make any "inspirational quotes" books. Yet Paul positively gushed about the virtue of being vulnerable.
In his second letter to the Corinthians, Paul states:
But God said to me, “My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness.” Therefore I will boast all the more gladly about my weaknesses, so that Christ’s power may rest on me.
10 That is why, for Christ’s sake, I delight in weaknesses, in insults, in hardships, in persecutions, in difficulties. For when I am weak, then I am strong. (2 Corinthians 12:9-10)
Photo by Ben White on Unsplash
The weakness Paul speaks of is not the Charlie Brown, moping about type. It is shouting our messiness from the mountaintop and claiming Christ's strength within us. It is the opposite of everything we've learned from our individualistic American culture. It is showing off God, not ourselves. My weakness=God's strength. A simple equation demanding a difficult assignment: The first step to embrace weakness is to let go of pride.
While exposing our tender skin to winter's harsh elements is ill-advised, exposing our hearts to human connection is imperative. Like loofahs and lotions, deep relationships with those we trust exfoliate self-reliance, save us from isolation, and allow grace to permeate the rough patches. Belief in the extraordinary power of love will give us the guts we need to strip down.
Homework: Choose one tip from "5 Ways to Get Naked" and put it into action this week.
P.S. I love to hear from my readers! Please share your tips and experiences related to shedding those pesky layers in the comments section below.