Sometimes my world seems upside-down compared to the rest of the internet. I’m busy curling up in front of a winter fire, hot drink in hand while blogs everywhere are talking about the warmth of the summer sun. Or people are busy talking about the desolation of frozen winter scenes, while I am sweltering in the humidity of a summer night.
Right now, for me at least, the trees are dropping their leaves, carpeting the ground in orange and yellow, standing proud, naked against the sky.
I feel like an autumn tree being slowly stripped of its covering of leaves by the Wind. The word translated as Spirit can also be translated Wind and Breath. It gives greater depth to Jesus breathing on his disciples, saying “Receive the Holy Spirit,” when he commissioned them (John 20:22).
In New Zealand we have a traditional Māori greeting, the hongi, where two people will press noses together. The idea is that they breathe out of themselves and in of the other. Their life-breaths are interwoven.
Lately I’ve been feeling like God is stripping away all pretense, all illusion. Leaving me with bare bedrock, nothing else to cling to. I know and trust that the seasonal changes that occur are good, but sometimes I feel rather naked.
Nudity to the world is either shunned or sexualized, but in the House of God? Nothing to be ashamed of, nothing to hide. Leaves did not give Adam and Eve covering when they felt naked, God could still see their true forms (see Genesis 3).
I’ve been reminded lately of how much I, too, have been shedding layers, casting things off, learning to stand confident in my true form. Over the last seven years I feel like I have been gradually unmasking, shedding layers I had built up over the decades to protect myself, only to discover I was still getting hurt, and that the masks were part of that hurt – they had become stifling, not allowing me to shift and grow.
I’ve given up on masks, on acting how people expect me to. God is glorified when I live out of my true and natural self. That’s not to say immature or unlearned, rather it is being true to my personality, my natural ways of doing, my quirks left in.
God made me this way, God doesn’t have a problem with it, so why should I care if people do? As God’s bond-servant, pleasing my Master is more important than pleasing others (see Romans 14:4). If God wants me (metaphorically) dancing naked in God’s house, then so be it. I’d rather be naked there than clothed and masked on the street. I know where my place is and who I serve.
My breath catches in the wind as it swirls around me, laden with leaves, dashing them against the ground.
I’m more focused on my breath mingling with the wind, our two breaths becoming one, than noticing my coverings crumbling to powder on the concrete.
The Breath of Life is filling me anew, and I struggle to care that all my carefully shaped and painfully grown coverings to hide myself from the world are being released from my slack grasp, being blown away by the Spirit, readying me for new growth come Spring.
The old must fall for the new to come. And I’m not talking about generations here, I’m talking about in our own lives. We have to let go of the old and world- or self-shaped to make room for the Spirit to grow fruit.
And I wonder, how did I get so unaccepting of the real me? Where did I lose that childhood delight of just being? Even after I became a Christian at 16 there was the “good Christian” and there was “me” and they didn’t seem to overlap as much as I would have liked.
I feel like I’ve been unlearning for the last seven years, since I crashed and burned yet again, but this time there was a daughter involved, so something had to change. I’ve been unlearning social expectations and masking skills, and relearning, probably for the first time in decades, what I really look like underneath it all, what my true form really is beneath the leaves. And I’m learning to embrace it and stand confident in who God made me to be.
And the leaves, once they are cast off, dry and brittle, crunch into dust, into nothingness, into next season’s rich compost to bring forth new life.