Do you ever feel like you’re hiding? That you have to present a particular image to others, or that there are parts of you that you have to keep to yourself because they seem strange or unacceptable?
Maybe there are even parts that you feel you have to hide from God.
Maybe it’s been going on for so long that you’ve begun to hide even from yourself, and to lose sight of who you really are.
I think many of us feel this way at times, and I was privileged recently to read two books exploring this topic – looking at the human tendency to hide, and encouraging us to step out from our hiding places to live more authentically with God and with one another.
“Losing The Fig Leaf” by Nicki Copeland and “True You” by Michelle DeRusha have a similar message in many ways – and both use metaphors involving trees and gardens – but they come at the topic from slightly different angles, which means that the two books complement one another well.
“Losing The Fig Leaf” takes us back to the Garden of Eden – the place where the hiding began as Adam and Eve hid among the trees and covered their shame with fig leaves.
It then looks at “trees” that we may choose to hide behind today: power, possessions, productivity, perfectionism, pretence and pastimes. It explores what hiding might look like in each of these areas, and then looks at Jesus’ example of living authentically as a human and the lessons we can draw from him.
Here are some of my favourite quotes:
“Sometimes we invite God into our hiding places with us, instead of stepping out from them with Him.”
“We hide behind our power and influence because we fear the intimacy of relationships, or because we fear we might lose control of the way things are done.”
“Allow yourself to be loved for who you are, not for what you can give.”
“I learned that what people really want is authenticity, not perfection.”
“True You” draws a parallel between a Japanese gardening technique “open centre pruning” and the work that God wants to do on our souls. Pruning open involves not only stripping away the dead wood, but also removing several healthy branches to strip the tree back to its essential structure.
The book focuses on the practice of silence and solitude, taking time to step away from the busyness of life to discover our deepest feelings and longings which often remain buried beneath the surface, to name these things before God, and to make space for him to work in us.
Here are some of my favourite quotes from this book:
Busyness allows us to avoid the deepest questions of our souls. It keeps us at arm’s length from our truest, most authentic selves.”
“It is only in moving towards smaller and less – in cutting back in order to open up – that we uncover who we are at the very center of our God-created selves.”
“I realize now that “transparent” memoir writing was actually a way for me to control my story and the image of myself that I presented to others and to my own self.”
“God doesn’t want just the best parts of our selves – the parts we’ve polished and prettied up with a fancy silk bow. He desires the worst parts of ourselves most of all – the parts we despise, the parts we are afraid of, the parts we most want to hide from the world, from our own selves, and even from Him. He even wants the part of us that doesn’t have faith or trust in Him.”
Both authors draw on several biblical examples as well as sharing stories of their own on-going journeys of coming out of hiding, and both remind us that, ultimately, the result of discovering our true selves and living more authentically is that it empowers us to love and bless others.
“God longs to bless His people, to equip us to go out and serve Him. But let’s remember that His blessings and gifts are not to be received purely for our own benefit. They come with a job to do, and we have a responsibility not to keep them for ourselves but to use them in His service.” (Losing The Fig Leaf)
“The purpose of pruning open is ultimately not only about uncovering our true selves, but also about coming to recognize and understand our place in God’s kingdom on earth. When we know who we are, when we know we are loved unabashedly by God, no matter what, we can’t help but recognize that love in others, and we yearn to reflect God’s love back to them.” (True You)
To finish I thought I’d share a song that has been in my mind in connection with this topic:
I’m grateful to Instant Apostle, Baker Books, and Netgalley for access to complementary digital copies of these books. These are honest reviews and I only share books here that I genuinely believe will be beneficial to my readers.
Amazon links are not affiliate links, but simply provided for your convenience.