For most of us, it is probably difficult to remember the last time we were physically naked for longer than 10 minutes. Most of us are only naked for the length of time it takes us to shower or bathe. We quickly dry off and put our clothes or pajamas on, without taking even a moment to enjoy the feeling of the air against our bare skin. We learned this procedure very early and we continue it to avoid embarrassment. And that is also how we often approach our prayer time with God—all wrapped up in words we think we ought to express, pious flannel thoughts that are comfy but fake, and a whole wardrobe of pretense we put on even as we yearn for a more real relationship with God. It’s time to get naked!
Once while traveling along the French Riviera with middle school students, our tour director offered to take us to the beach since it was over 90 degrees that day. The kids were excited and so off we went, and when we arrived, the kids jumped off the bus and headed for the water. About a minute later I realized that the French women, young and old, were topless on this vast stretch of beach. I panicked, thinking that certainly I would get in trouble when the parents found out, but it was too late in any event. The kids had fled in all directions leaving me to stew in my paranoia. That’s when I noticed something: the French women weren’t acting weird or in any way different from any American beach I’d ever been to. They were unselfconscious and there didn’t appear to be any vanity among them because they were so comfortable in their own skin. Old ladies and young girls were sitting side by side, seemingly without concern for how they looked. Wrinkles, cellulite, sunburn, acne—all of that was accepted as normal and good.
In this culture, of course, we’re the opposite. We tummy tuck and suck in and inject and slather creams of every kind to maintain the illusion that we’re not what we really are. We’re very much interested in hiding our imperfections. Even when we pray to the One who knows us like no other, the One who loves us unconditionally, the One who already knows us naked even if we do not know ourselves.
Spouses who don’t communicate on a genuine level undermine their marriage. Friends who never expose their real soul to each other devolve into mere acquaintances. Christians who try to hide who they really are from Abba God are settling for religious externals in place of genuine, naked relationship. All of this comes down to a straightforward teaching of Jesus: Love God and love your neighbor as yourself. Implicit in that law of love is self love: if you don’t love yourself, how can you love someone else?? To really love oneself, I am convinced, requires us to get naked with our truest self and then present all of that to God. Without embarrassment.
It’s summertime at last and we’re already wearing less than we did a few months back. Let’s try getting naked with God this week. You will find a deeper and more real connection to God as Source, a more genuine appreciation for who you are as a child of God and, of course, you won’t have any of those annoying tan lines either.