Exile is an experience that brings you to the very core of your being. It forces you to confront who you really are and decide if you can live with that person or not.
Before you enter the stripping of exile, two things have happened: you have achieved certain goals that make you feel good about yourself, or you at least have aspirations to achieve certain goals. Whether you realize it or not, much of what makes you feel good about yourself and your life is your accomplishments and the positive opinions that people have of you.
You might talk about your faith in God and sing songs stating: “all I have is you Lord,” or whatever the cliché might be. But you don’t really know what you base your worth on until everything is removed…until you are “naked” as Richard Rohr says.
Naked isn’t a very attractive condition for most of us. Clothes are a good thing for many reasons! They hide what we lack and project a positive image regardless of what is underneath. When the clothes come off and you come face to face with who you really are, (without the trophies, achievements, and pedigrees, any hope for future success, or accolades from those you respect) can you live with that person? Can you feel as good about THAT person as when all your clothes are on and you are lookin’ good.
…you don’t really know what you base your worth on until everything is removed…until you are “naked”…
Our mind typically goes in two directions at this point. We obsess about how worthless we are or look out and cast blame on God and others for allowing us to come to such a miserable state. To be stripped of our “clothing” can be devastating because we don’t know who we are without them. We can’t define ourselves without them. We NEED them…at least that’s what we think.
Exile forces the questions: do you need anything more than God to be fulfilled and happy? Is all your God talk genuine or is it just one more article of clothing that you put on to make you feel valuable and acceptable to others?
One of the reasons exile is so painful is we just don’t like our naked selves that much. Listen to your inner voice. My guess is there are many self-condemning thoughts. How could you let this happen? You are such a fool. This is what dad warned you about. This will never change. It’s only going to get worse and you can’t fix it. You had your chance. God is finished with you now...and on and on and on.
Our discomfort with nakedness makes us judgmental, toward ourselves and others. I believe one of God’s goals in exile is for us to learn how to accept our nakedness without feeling the need to critique it. Wouldn’t it be great if, when we see weakness, it immediately leads us to thank God for his grace and mercy toward us and not ranting about the ugliness of what you see?
Sadly, many people never let God do the work that he brought them into exile to achieve. We all know people like that. They are bitter, unfruitful, self-centered, and alone. You don’t want to be that person.
But for some, exile transforms them. It’s a turning point. Everything is different after that divorce, or death, or accident, or affair, or heart attack, or lay-off, or betrayal, or whatever it was that sent them into exile in the first place. They discover that it never was about their ability to acquire the biggest list of awards and achievements. Their worth came from only one place: God, purchased by Jesus with his death.
God will allow just about anything to get you to come to that realization, because once you do, it’s a game-changer. Life will take on an entirely new meaning and his Spirit will finally find full access to your heart.
How do you handle your own “nakedness”? What have you seen in yourself and how have you handled it (for good and bad)? Leave a comment below. Thanks.