In Genesis 2, we read how Adam and Eve were in the garden and “naked and unashamed.” But most women with body image issues aren’t experiencing this kind of freedom in their intimate lives. Just thinking about being “naked and unashamed” is nerve-wracking for most of us.
But the truth is: What your body looks like has little to do with how well you can connect with your husband in the bedroom.
If having a “hot” body meant great sex and great marriages, then Hollywood would be the mecca of great relationships. And, yet? That’s not what we see playing out there. What is sex designed for? Does sex require us to look a certain way in order to enjoy it?
Sex isn’t supposed to be “Look at me” but how can we join together and love each other well.
Can We Even Expect to Be Naked and Unashamed with Body Image Issues?
On today’s show Heather makes three observations about this Genesis 2:25 verse. She discusses all the ways we’ve absorbed culture’s messages around sex and our bodies and how they hurt our intimate lives. Heather also digs into how culture teaches us to strive for being “naked and unashamed” in every area of life. But what if this goal is misguided? Could it be that the only context in which we are designed to be naked without any shame is in the context of marriage after we’ve become one flesh with another person? What’s our motivation to be naked and unashamed?
Heather encourages you through this episode that intimacy issues are rarely about our bodies, which gives us great hope for better marriages and sex lives–no matter how our bodies age or change.
The Burden of Better is available for only .99 on Kindle for one more week. Check it out here and learn more.
Here’s a transcript of today’s episode:
Naked and Unashamed:
I’ve heard this verse taught a lot in the realm of marriage and how we should be inside the bedroom with our spouses.
But I wonder: For those of us with body image issues, it feels like too big of a stretch. How it this even possible? Today I want to break down 3 observations from this passage.
Let’s read it first:
Genesis 2:22-25- Naked and Without Shame
New International Version
22 Then the Lord God made a woman from the rib[a] he had taken out of the man, and he brought her to the man.
23 The man said,
“This is now bone of my bones
and flesh of my flesh;
she shall be called ‘woman,’
for she was taken out of man.”
24 That is why a man leaves his father and mother and is united to his wife, and they become one flesh.
25 Adam and his wife were both naked, and they felt no shame.
Observation 1: It was easy for Adam and Eve
It was easy for Adam and Eve to be naked and unashamed. They were sinless, unbroken. They had no evil, jealousy, deception, or insecurity. They were quite literally made for each other – there was no temptation to doubt that.
God fully provided all they needed. They needed nothing else, not even clothing. They didn’t have shame because they were innocent and pure.
And this is the ideal, right? The perfect picture of what marriage should be like – yet, here in our sinful, fallen world – there are so many other ideas that overcomplicate things.
It was easy for them. It is not easy for us.
Messages from culture tell us that if you want a better relationship, or if you want to get married in the first place – you have to look a certain way. You have to be “hot” or else your relationship will be a dud. Culture teaches us that it’s impossible to have good sex without having a great body. And by that, of course, I mean a body that looks like it meets culture’s standards of beauty, size, and shape.
So, we have this pressure. First, we have the pressure that just comes from our world being broken, but then we have these added messages of culture that are teaching us – in many ways – consciously and subconsciously – that the only way to show up in the bedroom is looking hot. And if you have some extra pounds or pooch – you better hide. This is not what sex is all about – sex is about two hot bodies lusting after each other.
But, that’s not what sex is about at all. And, honestly, if this definition and understanding of sex was working out so well for culture – than Hollywood would be a mecca of great relationships and marriages. And, yet, it’s far from it. The “best bodies” in our land have a really difficult time staying in committed relationships – yet alone getting and staying married.
So, as believers and followers of Jesus – I think our first take away from this observation is that we have to reject the message of culture that our physical appearance determines how well our sex lives go. This is a blatant lie. Sex is about the intimacy between a husband and wife and the foundation for good sex is built by everything else in the relationship. It is the act of loving each other well in every other area of life – and when you come together you are again demonstrating this love to each other.
It’s love that makes sex beautiful, not lust. And that, too, gets confusing in our culture. We know it’s better to be loved than lusted after. But, honestly, friends, those of us with body image issues kind of believe that if someone lusted after us it would make us feel better about our bodies. If he would only just want me for my body…than I could know that my body is good enough.
But even if you find it, it won’t solve it. In fact, what often happens is then you’ve got increased insecurity about this reality that you have a man who only wants you for your body and now you’ve got to try to keep that body as you age or have children. It feels very shallow, sad, and hollow to only be wanted for your body. You’re being objectified and you feel that rather than feeling truly seen, known, and loved.
So – take away one. Let’s stop believing that a quality sex life is something that we can only attain when we get a better body or when our husbands go blind. I’ll confess – I’m much more comfortable now than I was when I married 18 years ago. But, body-wise – I was younger, thinner, and had many more reasons to be “body confident” in marriage back then than I have now. Some of you have had this experience too. You’ve learned over time that thinking about yourself and what he thinks of you during sex is an obstacle to actually being in the moment and enjoying it. When I coach women in this area of their body image struggles – I encourage them to go in and try not to think about themselves and how they look, to try to completely focus on how I am using my body to love my husband. You know it’s funny – we fear being a disappointment to him because of how we look – but I believe any woman that is going in to sex saying, “How can I use my body to love you physically” – will never be a disappointment to a man who is healthy and committed to the relationship. Now, hear me, I’m not saying that sex is just for the man or that you shouldn’t get anything out of it – not at all. But, for those with body image issues – I think this is the first step to enjoyment. Learning to show up without feeling overly self-conscious about every inch of your body.
Observation 2: Naked and without shame is only in the context of Eden and marriage
Naked and without shame is in the context of the Garden of Eden, the only perfect world, but it’s also only in the context of marriage.
I feel like we often take this sentiment as an aspiration of what we should be like everywhere. As if being “naked and unashamed” were a status we could reach when we got our bodies to a certain place.
Culture teaches us that you can be naked and unashamed no matter what your body looks like – if you just have enough body pride. This is why I’m not a big fan of body positivity movement because I think most of it is about falling in love with your own body and mustering up enough body pride to just put it all out there and “flaunt it” while kind of giving the middle finger to anyone who questions whether or not you’re good enough.
I don’t think body pride draws us closer to people though. Pride always separates us from God – he opposes the proud and gives grace to the humble. It’s difficult to be in a deep and authentic relationship and really connect to someone who has a pride problem.
So if pride is not the answer – then how can we be naked and unashamed always? The short answer is: We can’t. We don’t live in Eden. And, that shouldn’t be the goal. The only place we should be safe in our nakedness is in the bedroom – in the context of marriage and marital sex. Any extra-marital or pre-marital sex may always cause us shame because it’s outside of God’s protective design. There’s no security or safety in other relationships to show up naked. And, when or if we do – we can feel the consequences of that.
I think many times girls, women who struggle with body image issues get into sexual relationships outside of marriage because they want to prove that their bodies are good enough and feel wanted, physically. I understand this, I’ve been there. I’m not saying any of this to condemn, only to help you gain understanding. But, the reality is that God didn’t design it that way and anything outside of his design will hurt us. Rejection that comes after you’ve given yourself to someone sexually who is not your husband hurts far worse than any other kind of rejection. If this has been a part of your body image journey – please hear only grace and compassion. But, let me encourage you with the truth – the next guy won’t solve it any more than the last guy did. Protect your heart and your body by saving it for a man who is willing to commit to you only.
Our shame is about our own awareness of our rebellion against God and our sinful state – We want to hide our true selves because of fear – what will others think of us.
Now, let me loop back and address another distortion of naked and unashamed I eluded to a few minutes ago. As I was thinking about this verse I was thinking about how often I’ve bought the lie that a certain body could allow me to be naked and unashamed everywhere. Not literally of course – I have no desire to actually be naked anywhere, candidly. I’m very happy our culture advocates for being clothed most of the time. But, I think that there’s this secret desire (which isn’t so secret if I’m sharing it with you) -but this desire that I should want to look good naked for everyone. Not that they will see me naked -but that they’ll see me in swimwear or clothing and that I could feel unashamed in front of them in my swimsuit because I’ve reached naked and unashamed status.
But, friend – that’s what naked and unashamed is for. We’re not supposed to be naked and unashamed for the glory of us, it’s for the glory of God and the beauty of our marriages. My desire to want to look good in a swimsuit isn’t about wanting the beauty of intimacy in my marriage bed, it’s more about selfish ambition. I want to look good so you will think well of me. It’s for the glory of me.
I sold something on Facebook marketplace yesterday to a young man – probably in his late 20s. I always stalk the profile of people who buy stuff from me, and I was startled by the pictures in this guy’s friends list. I literally was trying to make sure it was a real profile and I hadn’t been absorbed into some pornographer’s fake page. Every woman in his profile had taken a selfie of herself – as her profile picture. Most were wearing next to nothing, posing like porn stars, angling in such a way so that you could tell they didn’t have anything on, but you couldn’t see all the parts. It was jarring. Not because I’m a prude -but because all of these young women were trying to show themselves as naked and unashamed. And, yet, like I said before, there’s no protection or safety for them in this. How dangerous is this for their hearts and their bodies to be out there like that. If I had access to see it, that means everyone does.
And I think we see people on Instagram or in the media who are showing us pictures of themselves as naked as is legal or possible . . . we can tend to do one of two things. We can believe that they really are naked and unashamed – that they feel no shame and that, perhaps, if we looked like them, we’d feel no shame too. But, that’s just not reality. Instead, I’d propose that they feel a ton of shame – they’re just trying to cover it the world’s way – with pride. If I have enough pride – then maybe I won’t feel the shame. Yet, the shame lingers -it’s just stuffed down deep.
Jesus is the only cure for our sin and our shame. He’s the only one who promises to cover our shame. Sin came into the garden, separated us from God, and brought that initial sin and shame. Now, the only cure for it -the only cure to cover our shame and connect us to God again so that some day we can live in a perfect Eden/Heaven with him again is Jesus.
There is no body size or shape you can achieve that will take away your shame.
So, friend, my encouragement to you is to stop believing culture’s lie that shame disappears when you’re thinner or fitter. It doesn’t. Naked and unashamed is not about getting a better body. It’s about knowing who truly covers your shame.
Observation 3: Naked & unashamed may not be the reality for your marriage right now
Naked and unashamed may not be the reality for your marriage at this time, but that’s not about your body.
I don’t want you to hear today’s show and then be frustrated because you go into the bedroom tonight and still feel all the same insecurities.
To be naked and unashamed with your husband takes an investment of time and trust. And trusting each other in this fallen, sinful world isn’t always safe. There may be a history of pornography use for one or both of you. There may be past sexual partners. There may be a history of abuse. There are so many external reasons that complicate our marriage relationships. So, don’t despair if it takes time and healing. Don’t be afraid of getting counseling- we spent almost a decade in counseling, on and off. I highly recommend it for everyone.
But I talk to lots of women who believe that improving their sex life in marriage is about getting a better body. And they spend years, even decades, focusing on how to improve their bodies, or even saving for surgeries – sure that sex will be better when they have a bigger chest or less flab. Now, yes, there are ways we can neglect our bodies that may make sex uncomfortable. But I’ve watched too many women believe that when they lost weight – their marriages and sex lives would get better- only to watch it backfire. I’ve seen some go have affairs because they lost the weight and the marriage didn’t get better- they felt less connected than ever before – I’d say in part because they spent so much time focused on themselves and improving their bodies -that their partners felt less connected. Then, someone shows up who notices their bodies and they get lured away.
Good sex is about connection, intimacy, which I heard someone define once as “in to me see” – are you seeing each other? Are you hearing each other? Are you connected emotionally? That’s what will make for better sex. When you feel accepted on these other levels, you will feel freer physically. You will still have to choose to get out of your own head – you’ll have to choose to focus on loving your husband well or feeling and receiving his love rather than focusing on what your stomach looks like.
And that’s the ticket to freedom. Just like in every other area of body image that we talk about here on the show – the freedom is in self-forgetfulness. That doesn’t mean self-neglect – it means I’m so focused on using and caring for my body for the glory of God instead of for the glory of me, I don’t get obsessed over what others think or even what I think about myself. I’m free to just live and serve and love.
I hope this has been an encouragement to you today. If it has, drop a review for the show or drop me a note at heather @ comparedtowho.me.
If this has stirred up some stuff for you and you need someone to talk to – reach out. I’m taking a few more clients this month and I’d be happy to help you work through this aspect of your body image issues so that you can experience more freedom, joy, and pleasure in your marriage.
Thanks for listening.