Losing the Fig Leaf
Did you ever play hide-and-seek as a child? There’s a real sense of satisfaction about finding a good hiding place, isn’t there? It’s quite gratifying to find a spot where you know no one will find you. There’s a feeling of safety and security in the knowledge that no one can get to you.
But isn’t there also an underlying fear – of exposure, of being found out? You run and hide, and all the while your heart is pumping, your mind is racing; you don’t want to be caught. You know it’s only a question of time before your cover is blown.
I was never particularly good at hide-and-seek. I was nearly always one of the first to be found. It is quite ironic, then, that as my life progressed, I became very good at hiding my true self and concealing who I really was.
For many years of my life I didn’t like who I was and wished I could be more like someone else and less like me. Sometimes I would try to make myself someone I thought people would want to spend time with because I didn’t think people would enjoy being with the person I really was. I didn’t feel that I was particularly attractive to look at, or especially witty or funny, or could contribute intelligently to conversations; I didn’t think I had good enough fashion sense, or artistic abilities, or that I was interesting to talk to. But then I felt that my efforts to be more ‘acceptable’ to people weren’t good enough either, so I would end up retreating into my shell and wishing I was a fly on the wall, or that I was somewhere else entirely, because my efforts to be ‘someone else’ didn’t work either.
Part of the problem, I think, as I look back, is that because I was so uncomfortable in my own skin, I would put my own interpretations on people’s words and actions. Yet often, probably, my interpretations were wrong. If someone chose to sit somewhere else when there was an empty seat next to me, my assumption would be that the other person they chose to sit next to was, of course, far more interesting to talk to than I was. If people didn’t chat to me, I naturally assumed it was because they didn’t like me and because I was soooo boring to talk to. But if someone did choose to chat to me or to sit with me, I would be so nervous about saying something stupid or coming across as dull that I would tie myself in knots and end up fulfilling my own prophecy. Either that or I would assume that the person hadn’t really wanted to talk to me or sit with me, but now that they had done, for whatever reason, I wouldn’t inflict my boring personality on them! Boy, was I hard work!
Gradually, however, over a number of years, God has brought me to a place of learning to accept who I am and to enjoy being the person He has created me to be. I am learning to recognise that I do have particular strengths and certain abilities – as well as my many shortcomings – and that actually, people (for whatever strange reason) do appear to enjoy my company. Perhaps this is partly because I am more relaxed within myself now, and rather than falling over my own feet to try to impress people, I have made a decision just to be me, and if people don’t like who I am, then there’s not much I can do about that! Different personalities naturally gravitate towards certain people and away from others. Of course, I don’t go out of my way to be obnoxious or annoying, but I have realised that there is real value in the old desktop publishing term WYSIWYG (what you see is what you get).
As I chat with people and share my story, and as people talk to me, I realise that there are many who share the same struggles as I do, and that many of us are hiding our true selves in some way or another. You can read more about my story in my first book, Less than ordinary? My journey into finding my true self .
In this book I want to explore what being made in the image and likeness of God really means for each one of us, what it means to be ‘fully human’, and what it means to fully embrace our humanity and enjoy being the person we have been created to be. God made us all to be unique – there is no one else like me, or like you, on the face of the earth, nor has there ever been, and nor will there ever be.
First I want to spend a bit of time examining what it really means to be made in God’s image and likeness, and considering some of the blessings God bestowed on humanity at the time of creation, and the implications of that. Then I want to look at the consequences Adam and Eve faced after they disobeyed God and ate the fruit from the tree from which God had told them not to eat, and their response to their disobedience. They tried to hide, from God and from each other. Hiding is something we still do today: we, too, try to hide from God and from each other, and I want to examine some of the ways and some of the places we try to hide – the six Ps of Power, Possessions, Productivity, Perfectionism, Pretence and Pastimes.
As we explore these hiding places, I also want to look at the way Jesus, the perfect, unmarred image of God in humanity, handled being human and to take encouragement from the way He lived His life on earth without hiding, and to suggest some practical ways we can begin to come out of our hiding places.
I believe that if we can begin to understand where we come from and who we are, this will help us work out where we are going. While we can never be truly sure where our path in life will lead us (God is always full of surprises!), if we can learn to embrace who we are and have confidence in our strengths and our abilities, as well as an awareness of our weaknesses, this gives God much greater freedom to use us in whatever way He chooses. Lack of confidence and low self-esteem inhibit us and lock us into a state of fear, leaving us unwilling to step out and take risks. So we choose to stay among the trees where we know it’s safe and where the risk of failure is smaller. It’s so much easier to stay hidden away than to step out, to face exposure and to feel vulnerable.
Sometimes we invite God in to our hiding places with us, instead of stepping out from them with Him. We know He loves us and wants a relationship with us, and we want a relationship with Him – but we want it to be on our terms. God is gracious, and I believe He does join us in those cramped, dark places – He loves us so much He just wants to be with us. But He also longs for us to take the hand He is offering and to step out with Him. We might feel safe and comfortable where we are, especially if God is there with us, but there is so much more to be enjoyed beyond the trees, if only we would have the courage to walk out with Him. He is offering us the opportunity to sing and to dance with Him, to express who we really are, to enjoy true freedom.
Over the last few years I have taken a few risks, stepped out from some of my own hiding places and done some things I never dreamed I would do. I’m still not sure where the road is heading, but one thing I can tell you is that the journey is exciting, and I’m really enjoying the ride! Yes, it’s taking me way out of my comfort zone at times, and some things have been really hard to do, but my heavenly Father has been with me all the way, holding my hand and leading me forward, step by step. I know there is so much more to come, and I’m looking forward to discovering what else He has in store for me.
I also know that at times it will be difficult, and that I’m going to have to face more of my fears and insecurities along the way. But I know that God will help me do that too, as and when these times come.
I hope this book will encourage you to take the hand that God is offering you, to allow Him to lead you out of some of your hiding places and to walk with Him on the path He has set out for you. God has a Big Plan for your life – an important role in His Big Story – and I want to encourage you to embrace what He has planned for you.
A final thought: it’s not easy to go about the practical business of daily living – working, eating, caring for ourselves and our families, and so on – if we’re holding something in our hand. Imagine trying to prepare dinner with one hand because you’re holding a big leaf in the other to hide behind, or driving to work with a tree branch in your hand. Holding on to our fig leaves restricts us, inhibits us and reduces our freedom to move and live. They get in the way and are a real nuisance! We need both hands to live as we were truly created to live!
Let me encourage you to step out from among the trees, to let go of your fig leaves and to enjoy the freedom of living without them! Live your life in the way God intended you to live it!
Losing the Fig Leaf by Nicki Copeland will be published by Instant Apostle on Thursday 1st October 2015 and is available from Christian retailers and online sellers. Pre-order from Amazon in print or on Kindle here.
 Nicki Copeland, Less than ordinary? My journey into finding my true self (Watford: Instant Apostle, 2013).