Friday, July 20, 2012

Naked Before God

"For me to be a saint means to be myself." -- Thomas Merton

I have returned home for a week before I head off to Silicon Valley for part two of my July pilgrimage.  I took the picture above on my last day in Assisi.  It represents what I think is the most important and powerful of the 28 frescoes from St. Francis' life which ring the upper church of the basilica built in his honor. The frescoes, believed to be created by Giotto, illustrate the legends and stories from Francis' life including his preaching to the birds, praying before the crucifix at San Damiano and receiving the stigmata.  The fresco shows the day when Francis renounced his worldly possessions, publicly pronounced his commitment to God and stripped naked before his fellow citizens of Assisi and God.

I saw this fresco on my first visit to Assisi three years ago and was transfixed by its beauty and its message.  Naked before God.  That is what I believe our callings as ministers and musicians, software makers and homemakers, entrepreneurs and electricians, or whatever we do that we feel we must do in the world are all about.  Being "naked before God" means giving our life over to something bigger than ourselves.  Something that requires us to be vulnerable, real and authentic to who we truly are.

Francis had a life of privilege and material wealth but there came a time when he realized it wasn't enough.  He prayed and meditated asking God what to do with his life.  He wandered in the fields around Assisi looking for answers.  They came to him from a crucifix telling him to "rebuild my church" and eventually he gave up everything he owned to follow the directions of God.

None of us are St. Francis.  We may or may not have material riches, we may pray in churches or in forests, we may not even believe in God but if we stop and take time to listen we will invited to be more of who we truly are. Having the courage to live a called life is a bit like being naked before our beloved for the first time.  We feel a bit nervous, maybe even afraid, at how we will be perceived, and at the same time we feel the excitement and joy of giving ourselves fully to another.

Francis had the courage, some might call it insanity, to strip himself bare and fully be himself in service to God.  While we may not be saints we can be inspired to do the same; to fully be ourselves.  Sometimes it will be scary, sometimes exhilarating - always it will be an adventure.   May we have the courage and the insanity to answer the call.

The square where Francis was "naked before God"

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