Saturday, March 1, 2008

Wife Rule #23: Naked But Not Ashamed

Last summer, I attended a day of the girls' camp sponsored by my church. I was serving the vital role of Man Help, which meant that if the camp was attacked by any bears or mountain lions or emotionally unbalanced Man Help from another camp, I was to serve the vital role of offering myself to the attacker as a snack. Hopefully it would take enough time to chew me up and spit me out for the girls and the women leaders to make their escape. At least that's how it probably would have worked if a wild beast had attacked the camp on my watch, because all I had to defend the girls and myself were some hot dog buns and a can of non-stick cooking spray.

Well, in the lazy, late afternoon, the day's planned activities were done and there were a couple of hours to kill before dinner. Being a man in a woman's world, I didn't really know how to contribute, so I decided to kick back in a lawn chair in the center of the camp, where I could keep my keen eyes on the lookout for wild beasts in all directions. While I was thus engaged, the girls gathered together, and as girls are wont to do, started sharing their Most Embarrassing MOments (MEMOs).

Well, if you can imagine a gaggle of twenty or so teenage girls, gabbing together at girls' camp about their MEMOs, you can see how inhibition would quickly give way to candid confession, the entertainment value of each story topping the previous. It did not occur to me at the outset that this could spiral into an uncomfortable situation for the Man Help. Not having had the experience of being a teenage girl, and having been fairly shy around most girls when I was a teenager, I naively listened to the start of their MEMO session with interest. Surprisingly, it turns out that the themes of most teenage girls' MEMOs tend to be teenagey and girly! You know, the kind of themes, such as wardrobe malfunctions and (ahem) other girl functions, that you wouldn't necessarily bring up in church, but seem appropriate at girls' camp, when only teenage girls are present. So these girly themes surfaced in their MEMOs again and again.

It didn't take more than a few stories for me to wish that I could shrivel up and crawl into a deep hole. Yet, I had committed to stick to my post in the camp as Man Help, so I couldn't just get up and leave. There wasn't exactly anywhere else in the camp I could go either, out of earshot of the MEMO festival. I quickly decided that the best way to avoid processing the mental images that I was trying not to overhear was to lean back in the lawn chair, close my eyes, and try to fall asleep. I knew full well that sleeping in such a situation meant risking having my lips or eyelids or fingernails painted in girly colors, but at that point I was willing to take that risk (and that's saying something!). If anyone there had asked me at that time what my most embarrassing moment was, I might well have replied, "I'm having it right now."

Well, I succeeded in drifting off, and thus survived girls' camp (without incurring any paint damage, either, though nefarious plots were in the works when I woke up). All that MEMO talk made me think about my most embarrassing moment. I think there's a clear winner, and my wife was there to witness it.

While we were still in college, we had gone for a date one night to see two movies at our local dollar theater. When we entered the first theater, we took an immediate right, and walked down the black-painted hallway until it opened up into the theater. By the time the first show had ended, the previews had already started for the second show. Thus, the black-painted entrance to the second theater was already dark when we walked through the door. So naturally, I made an immediate right, and walked straight into the wall.

My velocity was such that I made solid contact simultaneously with my face, arms, and knees. With the resulting flailing of my limbs, I collapsed completely and managed to take down a large metal trash can in the process. This, of course, provided the appropriate auditory fanfare, a giant gong sound to alert the whole theater to the presence of the guy who, exhibiting the intelligence of Tartar Sauce, had just pasted himself squarely into a wall.

I have to admit that I felt so dumb immediately afterwards that I would have been embarrassed even if I were the only person to have witnessed my fall. My wife and I both got a good laugh out of the situation at the time, and we chuckle now whenever we remember it. But as I have thought about this story, I have noticed something interesting in my memory of it: I felt a little self-imposed shame at the time, but I can honestly say that I never felt ashamed because of my wife being there. For some reason, I'm almost glad that she was there to witness me crashing and burning in all my glory, so we can share the laughs together now.

I think the reason why I feel this way is because of the way she treats me. I don't have to worry about impressing her; she loves me. I don't have to worry about saying the right thing around her; she loves me. I don't have to worry about meeting any artificial expectations; she loves me. I don't even have to worry about whether I look dumb, or crash into a wall and take out a garbage can in front of her; she always loves me.

In short, she knows and loves me better than anyone else on earth, for the depth of our relationship reaches to the unembellished, honest, naked core of my heart. I can't hide anything from her. She knows my weaknesses, my fears, my failures, and my faults, but never holds them against me. Sometimes I think she may even love me better than I love myself. With such unconditional love buoying me up, there is really no room for shame, as far as my wife is concerned.

I think such unconditional love is just what the author of Genesis had in mind when speaking of Adam and Eve: "And they were both naked, the man and his wife, and were not ashamed" (Genesis 2:25).

Not ashamed, because of love. That's the kind of naked that will never become a most embarrassing moment.

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