Denise and I were at an old fashioned church, where we had been a number of times before. As I was looking at the clothes I should wear to the meeting I was to speak at I found it felt very inappropriate to me to wear any of them. I couldn’t wear any of them. It just seemed that I had to go to the meeting naked. This seemed more appropriate. In the car on the way, there were five or six others including Denise, none of whom made any comment or seemed to have any reaction to my being naked amongst them. Maybe they were hiding their thoughts but I think they were just respecting me, not thinking what was obvious and so treating me as normal.
The church meeting was in an open field with several rows of long tables and about fifty people present. As I came through a building to the outside door leading to the people gathered I was suddenly embarrassed and filled with fear. A few people went out in front of me and I wondered what would happen when I stepped out naked to walk to my place at one of the tables. I stepped out and walked and no one seemed to be shocked. However as I took my seat I realised that I was now clothed but in short pants and short sleeved checked shirt like a country boy might be dressed. The clothes were a little bit undersized but at least I was covered. I had bare feet, ruffled dirty hair and missing teeth where I have crowns and a bridge normally. No one reacted in any way that gave me any sense of being anything other than normal.
Denise and I started to discuss; as we so often do, what I should speak about when I would be asked to speak. We came up with nothing that I felt had life in it in my heart.
After we had been seated for a few minutes we were all asked to go to a certain place near the tables where there were doors with elders of the church waiting for us. My elder at the door I was directed to go to gave me a small book and asked me what I was feeling. The book had no title and no writing on the pages. After ten or twenty seconds of getting my mind to focus on any feelings I had holding the book rather than the strangeness of the overall situation I said to him, “The Bible is a naked book”. In it God is naked.
That was the dream.
Immediately as I walked back to my table and sat down I began to see.
In this world nakedness is either sexual and therefore very intimate and to be kept undercover, to be hidden from the sight of others. Or it is pornographic and a shameful and therefore to be hidden also. Or nakedness is undignified, funny and ridiculous therefore to be ridiculed and laughed at when it accidentally happens in public. These perspectives are because this fallen world has corrupted and distorted vision. This world does not want to see, and cannot handle seeing, the deep intimacy and reality of the human condition. It is because it cannot correct it, heal it or remove the shame of the realities nakedness reveals. It sees it in a distorted way and hides it; sees it as a reality for behind closed doors or conversely some dark entertainment. Some of course, by constant exposure become immune to the shame by searing their conscience; a kind of self harming that normalises the abnormal.
Nakedness in public in this world is vulnerability, exposure of flaws, exposure of weakness or revealing of a perceived ugliness and brings shame and ridicule regardless of whether a person is acceptable looking or not.
But in God’s world nakedness is the norm. He created Adam and Eve naked and walked with them naturally in the Garden of Eden. There was no shame because there was total love. God made them naked and walked with them there in freedom because of course, God was naked too! All of Him was exposed to them and all of them was exposed to Him so there was not the slightest shadow of shame. There was the love that honours, the love that sees worth, the love that adores and the love that wonders at the beauty of the whole being with all of its unique differences to all others.
It is like the wonder of the mother who has lifted up her naked baby with absolute adoration nearing on worship but which has matured in that love to something that most people won’t see in this world in ten lifetimes. The mother sees the nakedness of her baby for a few years as the baby grows into childhood but finally the child’s nakedness is hidden in clothes from her too. The way of the world takes over. The intimacy of nakedness ends for her too. But God’s love is like the love for that baby as it matured into human adulthood but remains seen with the same eyes all the time continually. His love for us continues while He sees us naked all through our lives. Our individual weaknesses, flaws imperfections and oddnesses are absorbed by Him and loved without question because with adoration. He walks with us in our nakedness but also in His nakedness.
Adam and Eve were created to walk in life naked in clear observation for any to see for what they actually were, warts and all we might say. But when they were able to see their warts they clothed themselves so they could retain something of the love they lost between each other in the darkness of the fall. Their intimacy was ended. They attempted to clothe themselves to make themselves acceptable to each other! So mankind has been attempting to do ever since. Be clothed so as to be respected and loved in this world amongst others. The sadness of it is that in result what gets loved and respected is the image of what the clothes project. ‘Clothes maketh the man’, someone once said. ‘But he has to take them off when he wants to love’, some wit replied. In a perverse way this worldly wise joke reveals a truth. If we want to love we need to remove the clothes of this world. Physically nakedness is a part of that but it is symbolic of a deeper intimacy sought.
Jesus was bought into this world naked of course but it was deemed necessary to wrap him up, in swaddling clothes, as quickly as possible. Babies need the protection and warmth of clothes in this world. Apart from his mother Mary unclothing him in private and admiring him I am sure as all mothers do, he wore clothes in public for the rest of his life. In adulthood many were able to see into his naked soul and find the treasure there. The beauty of his spirit, the wonder of his actions and the power of the words of his heart. But at the final act of Jesus’ life he was crucified naked. Exposed for all to see his body. Crucifixion’s purpose was to expose him as a helpless victim shamed and weak. To appear ridiculous and pathetic. But it was his final glory. To be seen naked and exposed, victimised and weak was to him to be honest, real and true and intimate. It was his greatest act of love towards us. He was saying, “this is me”. And he was saying, “this has always been me and always will be. I will always be naked in front of you. I give you all I am and nothing less”. It was his expression of love for us and his eternal desire and willingness for intimacy. In the worlds eyes it was meant as ultimate indignity, for him it was expressing the desire for intimacy. He was exposed physically but it was a statement of His heart to be known fully in deeper intimacy throughout His entire being heart and soul.
For us in this world clothes state clearly a hiddenness of being and we use them to convey an image that gives us a dignity of personhood to those around us. The world judges us according to this outer presentation. It cannot do otherwise and we need to be aware of that. To see each other in nakedness is impossible for the world to handle. It laughs nervously at it, hides it behind closed doors or skulks in dark rooms of pornography reaching out for an intimacy it can’t find there.
In much of our expressions of Christianity today many want to walk with God clothed. When we see some unplanned nakedness and weakness in another’s life we so often act like the world does to all nakedness. We ridicule them. We laugh at them. We condemn them. We reject them, judge them and find high towers of morally clothed dignity to occupy. We magnify the nakedness of the ‘fallen’ for more and more others to join us in our indignation of the weakness exposed. In the Body of Christ it is not to be like that. Jesus befriended those whose nakedness was exposed. He loved them. He honoured them. He made them sons and daughters of God. He made his life one with them. The naked One came to those who were forced to be naked and clothed them with His own glory.He is still there doing the same for each of us every day.
Many think to be co-labourers with God you need to wear the best clothes. Be seen with a public persona as acceptable, capable, respectable and worthy of credit to this worlds eyes. To be the man or woman of God in power clothed in faultless character. To drive the best cars, live in the best houses, modify countenance etc, all just clothing. To be clothed with confidence etc, which however always leads to its inevitable partner, arrogance. To be clothed with dignity, respectability and honour in the eyes of the people around us so as to present Christ to this world is not worthy of the one who hung on the Cross.
Ours is to walk in the humility of nakedness with our naked God. To preach from our nakedness in this world but in our glory in God’s sight. Love is our covering. This is the hidden wisdom of God and the nakedness of His Being and Word.