On Being Naked

- Carissa Woodwyk

Have you ever wondered what it felt like for Adam and Eve to wander and play and cultivate and chat and rest in the Garden of Eden? Naked? I have. And when I imagine what that would be like, it feels so vulnerable, so awkward, so naughty. Seriously...to run around, bend over, stretch, eat, each day, unclothed, feeling comfortable and stellar? Really?

I find it so interesting how God begins the story of humans unclothed and uninhibited. And then, after the rebellion, how their first instinct was to hide, with fig leaves, covering up what was private; the places and parts that once graced the new earth with ease, suddenly felt the weight of shame.

So they hid.

Perhaps the leafy outside coverings were intended to cover more than just the physical vulnerability. Maybe in this story, in the human story, those leafy coverings symbolically represent all the ways we all hide the things we feel ashamed of, on the outside, on the inside - what we feel and think and condemn…in us, about us, about others. Because in that moment, in Adam and Eve’s decision to rebel, our very identity became distorted; the essence of our goodness, our femininity and masculinity, was bent. “Who” we were created to be - our outsides, our insides - got replaced with “what we need to be,” “what we should be,” “what we must be,” in order to win God’s favor back. But you know what? Adam and Eve didn’t lose God’s favor. They lost their ability to be vulnerable with him, to be “naked” with him.

When we hide, intimacy dies.

In our culture, there are numerous creative ways we can hide our “outside” - hair color, Proactiv, high-waisted pants, toupée, spanx, deodorant - you name it, we can cover it. But what about our insides? Sure, we can use things like booze or food or work or Facebook, but usually it’s harder to hide the anger and grief and sadness and shame. Because it shows up, not only in our eyes, but in our bodies. 

Our bodies carry the weight of our broken world.

And all we want to do, what we obsess about, is to get rid of all that’s wrong and ugly and hard and flawed, all that’s fallen. Because it doesn’t feel good. Because we forgot. We forgot that when our Creator made us, he called us good. Very good.

There’s a song titled, All of Me by John Legend. Part of the chorus says this:

‘Cause all of me
Loves all of you
Love your curves and all your edges
All your perfect imperfections

When I listen to these lyrics, it’s easy for me to believe that there are people who love my great parts, but it’s not so easy to believe that anyone would love my “edges,” my “imperfections.” Whether that’s my gray hair and soft stomach or my anger and resentment, the ways I loathe what I embody seem impossible for someone else to love, all of.

But what if our bodies are the very way God wants to remind us of him, that he made a very good thing, back in the garden? Could he actually be speaking to us, through our bodies? Could he love us, not in spite of what we show on the outside and hold on the inside, but because of what we show on the outside and hold on the inside? Could his love and kindness and delight in us be because of our identity in him rather than in spite of how the brokenness of the world touches us? 

We have to remember that the story started in the garden. And, that the story ends in the garden. And maybe all that lies in between is in invitation for our eyes to see all that skin and all that soul, however wilted and scarred and beat up and bad it may feel, and let it remind us that it is ALL loved…relentlessly. I love Barbara Brown Taylor’s perspective of the body in An Alter in the World: “…our bodies remain God’s best way of getting to us.”

Maybe for many of us, we’ve been living in ways that show and tell the world that Jesus is in our hearts, but maybe we’ve never allowed God to be in our bodies.

So as your eyes see and your hands touch your body, and as your heart feels the mad and sad and scared and shame, remember…remember that the story of humanity started with wandering and playing and cultivating and chatting and resting…in the garden. Naked. And it was good. Very good.

Let’s be the kind of people who return to our “nakedness,” over and over again.

Carissa Woodwyk is a writer, speaker, counselor/marriage and family therapist, wife, mom, advocate for the human heart. In each of these roles, she offers her story and voice in ways that invite people to connect with themselves, with others, with God. She is a co-author of Before You Were Mine: Discovering Your Adopted Child's Lifestory. She and her husband have two children and live near Grand Rapids, MI. Read more from Carissa on her blog, catch up with her on facebook and twitter