Get Naked

Two. That’s all.

If you’re a Bible trivia veteran, you probably know that the Christian Scriptures contain 1,189 chapters. That’s a lot. Read one per day, and it will take you over three years to get through all of them. And yet in this vast, sweeping narrative of God’s work in the world, it only takes two chapters—just two—before things go completely haywire.

Genesis 1 and 2 are unique. Together, they comprise the account of our world as it was made to be. No mistakes. No brokenness. No sin. Reading these two chapters is like looking out the window at a fresh layer of winter snow before the boots and shovels and plows have intruded. It’s a portrait of pure, unspoiled goodness. Very goodness.

And yet for all their pristine beauty, these chapters unfortunately don’t give us much information. They tell us precious little about the world before the fall. What was the weather like? How did the food taste? Were the animals different? Plenty of questions go unanswered in these foundational chapters, focusing instead on more important theological points the author is trying to make.

But there is at least one curious factoid to be discovered here. It appears at the very end of this all-too-brief section of Scripture, and it’s likely to catch the unsuspecting reader by surprise: “The man and his wife were both naked and were not ashamed” (2:25).

At first, this seems like a pointless (and slightly awkward) revelation. Is it really necessary for us to know that Adam and Eve were strolling through the garden in the buff? Surely there could have been a better way to close out this succinct account of the world before sin.

But this note about nakedness serves much more than mere idle curiosity. It reveals to the reader a glimpse of the openness and vulnerability that the first human beings enjoyed in the presence of one another and of their Creator. In the Garden of Eden, there was no need to hide or cover up. No shame. No embarrassment. No fear. These two Image Bearers were comfortable in their own skin, and God loved them just as they were.

Once sin entered the picture, however, all of this changed. In the very next chapter of Genesis, after the man and woman ate the forbidden fruit, we learn this: “Then the eyes of both were opened, and they knew that they were naked. And they sewed fig leaves together and made themselves loincloths” (3:7). Carefree indifference had been replaced with self-conscious shame. No more were the man and woman able to dwell freely with God and each other in their nakedness. Suddenly aware of their exposure, they frantically looked for a way to conceal themselves.

And, as it’s often said, we humans have been busy sewing fig leaves ever since.

What does it mean to live beneath the curse of sin? Among other things, it means that we walk in perpetual fear of our own spiritual nakedness. We know, deep down, that we are not presentable. We are flawed, scarred, and ugly. And so we resist anything and everything that would allow our true selves to be seen. We shrink from exposure. We hide from the light. If there is a garment anywhere nearby, we’ll grab it. We may look like complete fools in our makeshift, ill-fitting ensembles of threadbare spirituality and self-made righteousness. But at least we’ll no longer be naked. And maybe—just maybe—we’ll look nice enough for God to love us.

Lately, I’ve been wrestling with these things as I come to terms with the reality of my own nakedness. Having recently resigned from a position as a pastor of a local church, I’ve been learning first-hand what it’s like to be separated from an identity-shaping vocation. Try as I might, I can no longer hide behind my job title. I can’t prop up my sense of spiritual worth by standing at a pulpit. When I enter the presence of God, I’m exposed. No more redirecting his gaze toward the hours I spent studying, the energy I invested into other people, or the care I gave to my sermons. Those clothes are gone. I’m unemployed, unimportant, undressed.

And in this frightening state of fresh vulnerability, I can’t help but ask myself: Is there anything left for God to love? Now that these fig leaves have been taken away for a season, is God repulsed by what he sees?

In her book Liturgy of the Ordinary, Tish Harrison Warren confronts these questions head-on. And she reminds those of us feeling spiritually naked that it’s precisely at the place of our deepest vulnerability that God meets us with the full force of his unconditional love:

As Christians, we wake each morning as those who are baptized. We are united with Christ and the approval of the Father is spoken over us. We are marked from our first waking moment by an identity that is given us by grace: an identity that is deeper and more real than any other identity we will don that day… I am not primarily defined by my abilities or marital status or how I vote or my successes or failures or fame or obscurity, but as one who is sealed in the Holy Spirit, hidden in Christ, and beloved by the Father. My naked self is one who is baptized (pp. 19-20).

Like Adam and Eve, we’re quick to scurry around the gardens of our lives, searching for ways to cover up our nakedness. But the mystery of divine grace is that God loves us just as we are. Unadorned. Our naked selves.

As the Apostle Paul memorably put it, “God shows his love for us in that while we were still sinners, Christ died for us” (Rom. 5:8). What a statement! The perfect, holy God was fully aware of our ugliness. He saw right through our fig leaves. And yet, despite our sin, he loved us and gave us Jesus.

I wonder, do we really believe that?

More often than not, the answer is “no.” That’s why we prefer to bundle up like spiritual Eskimos, dressed head-to-toe in the cozy comforts of our impressive self-made identities. That’s why we can’t relax unless every inch of our souls is covered in hastily-sewn patchworks of self-justifying lies about who we are.

In this season of my life, I’m learning that it’s a healthy thing to come out from behind the labels that I’ve used to define myself. In my struggle to believe that God loves me as I am, it’s a gift of grace that I’m forced right now to meet him as I am.

But this can’t be a momentary experience. Spiritual nakedness is an ongoing discipline to be cultivated with care and intentionality. If I’m not diligent, I’ll quickly slip back into believing that true spirituality is about showing off my latest outfits to a God who sits back with arms folded, waiting to be impressed. I must choose vulnerability. Regardless of my employment status, regardless of my role in the church, regardless of what people are saying about me, the steady posture of my life before God should be one of honest emptiness. On my best days and my worst days, I must come to my Creator without pretense. I must let him accept the undressed me.

It’s a scary thing to embrace our own spiritual exposure. But try as we might, we will never know the warm embrace of God’s love for us in Jesus until we first experience the cold shiver of our own nakedness.

So strip off those layers of camouflage. Take a few boxes to the nearest Goodwill donation center. Compost your fig leaves. You may feel unworthy and unattractive. But those rags you’re wearing can’t fool the one who formed you in the womb. He made you. He sees you. He knows you are dust. And he stands ready to clothe you in his own righteousness.

So go ahead and get naked. You’re loved just as you are.

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