I came into this world naked and not ashamed.
If I had been smarter on my zero birthday, I would have been afraid, too. I mean, there were all those bright lights, masked people, bloody rags, and sharp instruments (one was really sharp). But I don’t recall any fear or pain. In fact, I recall nothing about the experience. Nevertheless, I’m told I was naked.
As a baby, I enjoyed being naked, I think. I know I did as a toddler. I’ve heard too many stories about me running around in just a diaper or less, indoors and outdoors, barefoot and bare-bottomed.
Then there were all those years as a boy growing up in northern Ohio and spending some of my summers in the Cumberland Mountains of Kentucky. I don’t recall many instances of running around naked in Ohio but there were plenty in Kentucky.
It was innocent enough. Every evening I’d head to the swimming hole, take off my clothes, and dive in. A bar of Ivory soap lay in the mud at the water’s edge, once in a while slipping into my hands against its own slick will and lathering up my naked body. The soap floated, so I couldn’t lose it; and I had no excuse to not bring it back to the house. I also had no excuse to not clean my dirt-infused body. Aaarrrggghhh! I had unlosable, unsinkable, unremitting soap!
There were times those skinny dipping excursions turned into naked races to or from the creek with my cousins or local friends. There were also other times I’d hike the mountains, ditch my clothes, cool off in a mountain stream, go exploring away from my clothes, and wonder why I had to wear something that far out in the wilderness in the first place. I was all boy in search of pure manhood. It was all innocent.
Some boyhood activities don’t have to end in adulthood. There are times when it’s perfectly fine to go skinny dipping; when a naked hike in the woods is more meaningful than a walk encumbered by sweat-soaked outerwear; when watching TV or working in the hobby room is just more relaxing in my birthday suit; when reading my Bible is more comfortable just as God made me.
I jokingly tell my children that we were so poor when I was growing up that I had only one change of clothes to wear; and when my mom did the laundry, she wrapped me in a blanket while my garments were washed (insert rolling of my children’s eyes here). If that were true, I’m pretty sure I would have been okay with it, notwithstanding the blanket.
It appears I have a fairly solid foundation for choosing to be naked at times (taking a shower comes to mind, too). It’s certainly not a lifestyle, but it can be convenient, practical, and therapeutic. I’m not alone in this. Ask any red-blooded, all-American, God-fearing man or boy (one who has the guts to admit it), then get back with me and we’ll talk.
And then along comes Naked and Afraid, a reality TV series that aired on the Discovery Channel, and barely erred on the side of caution. These people are living out my dream! Walking around with no clothes, skinny dipping with man-eating crocs, starting fires with their bare blistered hands and birds’ nests, battling insect infestations and flesh-eating diseases, scavenging meals from rotten gut piles, trying to avoid death. Where was this show when I was growing up? I could have been the star, if I weren’t eaten by something first!
The show has brought to the attention of many the topic of nakedness. Not that it needed attention; I mean, we’re all pretty much naked underneath. Even my coworkers and I have discussed it. I’m not sure what to call it though. Nudism? That name rings for some (accurately or not) of communal, simple, basic living or a practicing lifestyle. On the other hand, when you are nude, then you are in a state of nudism. Yet few would say that they are nudists then, so that’s out.
Naturism? That name implies a state of being au naturel for practical, convenient, or as I said above, therapeutic reasons. That would include skinny dipping, survival (think naked and afraid), in the privacy of your own home or property, in some situations outdoors, in the locker room, for surgery, or any other number of times and places where taking off your clothes is the natural, healthy, if not expected, thing to do. And in the defense of both, neither should have any sexual connotations outside of a marriage between a man and a woman.*
I’m just being honest here about nakedness… the naked truth, from a Christian man’s perspective. Just to be clear, I am not a nudist (that is, practicing that lifestyle). Skinny dippers aren’t nudists either, although nudists are by default are skinny dippers. As for considering a Biblical view of nakedness, we naturally think of the first couple, but I don’t think Adam and Eve were nudists either, even though their lifestyle was one of complete nakedness. Clothes-free was how God created them, the Great I AM choosing instead to fully clothe them in His righteousness alone. Theirs would be another choice.
Nor were they naturists (that is, being practically, conveniently, or therapeutically naked, which I can relate to). Again, clothes-free was God’s choice for them – there was nothing practical or convenient about it. He wrapped them in His righteousness, making their nakedness normal, natural, clean, healthy, pure, holy, innocent, and virtuous – and dare I say glorious… yes, I dare. They were His image and glory, and because of that, nakedness didn’t matter. God’s glory mattered. And still does.
Although the Bible isn’t silent about other situations of nakedness (good and bad), the first man and first woman gave us the first lesson about nakedness. The Bible simply says that they were naked, and in only two states:
– naked and not ashamed (Genesis 2:25)
– naked and afraid (Genesis 3:9-10)
And they were both naked, the man and his wife, and were not ashamed.
Before we go any farther, let me set an innocent tone for this…
As the 26th president, he was famous for many things. Among the insignificant things was skinny dipping in the Potomac River, or other places for that matter. That would be Theodore Roosevelt.
My experiences skinny dipping are just as insignificant. What I mean is that swimming in the natural is an innocent if not wholesome way to enjoy that activity. It should not be a big deal, in the proper places of course. It was an acceptable practice not many years ago, and it’s still the norm for certain people and places. Don’t misread what I’m saying. There’s a time and place to be naked and a time and place to be modest… and a time and place to be both naked AND modest. As you read on, keep that in mind.
We avoid the subject, really: nakedness. I think it’s mostly because we associate illicit sexual activity with nakedness.* And that’s the pity because in the Beginning, nakedness had nothing to do with a sinful lifestyle. Clothes-free was the natural norm in the presence of the Creator, where man and woman were sin-free, naked, and not ashamed, clad only in holy things of the Father’s weaving. Sadly, yet sometimes out of necessity, we shun nakedness today. I see that cocked eyebrow and casual glance at the picture, so let’s dig.
God created humans to be holy beings without jeans and shoes – just bare skin and hair and thought and will, yet in His image, nevertheless. That means He created us to be creative, too, naturally, innovatively, and expressively; and we are. We design and build, create and procreate, enjoy and celebrate. This is how we are Divinely made.
But we are fallen creatures as well. Adam and Eve made sure of that; again, not because they were naked but because they were willing (to fall). Their glorious nakedness was the grand design of a Holy Creator. Something else entirely unrelated to bare skin stripped them of their Godly image.
Imagine the scene: They just finished tending the garden naked. Lunch time rolls around and they dine naked. In the evening, they are seen strolling hand in hand in the cool breeze naked. They go to bed naked. They get up and brush their teeth naked. Swim naked. Fellowship with God naked. Sing naked. Everything really, naked.
Then one day the serpent finds the man and woman (did I say they were naked?). It’s a talking snake, people. Run… oh, I mean streak! Yet here they stand, naked in front of the serpent, debating over the will of God, and fruit trees, and The Garden, and good and evil – not about their state of nakedness. Needless to say, they lost the debate. Their consolation prize: a dimming of the glory of God.
Then the Lord God called to Adam and said to him, “Where are you?” So he said, “I heard Your voice in the garden, and I was afraid because I was naked; and I hid myself.”
A new sensation comes upon them: guilt. They know they have been stripped of the righteous garment of God (Genesis 3:10). They are exposed, afraid. This new-found knowledge of good and evil occupies their every thought. They can no longer enjoy a sinless, obedient life wrapped in their Father’s righteousness. To no avail, they try to wrap themselves in stuff of their own making: leaves that dry and break and crumble – things that cannot take the place of the righteousness of God. They can no longer enjoy nakedness, that mark of beauty and glory once cherished by the Father.
Modesty was not the issue. The were afraid because they could no longer stand before God naked, normal, natural, clean, healthy, pure, holy, innocent, and virtuous. They were now without righteousness, spiritually naked, and that is a frightening state. It’s ugly and sinful. For Adam and Eve, it was a new, uncomfortable kind of self-knowing, which they confessed. This was knowledge of good and evil. This was knowledge gained, knowing that something was lost.
God is the Great Physician. He alone can bring order out of chaos, and light out of darkness (Isaiah 45:7). He alone can heal. Only God could fix this so that His beloved creation could once again stand in a state of holiness before Him; a state in which the only wardrobe is woven out of truth, righteousness, peace, faith, salvation, and His Word. Those lifted up from the Fall are clad in these Blood-soaked garments. This is the believer’s uniform, the knowing and wearing of which defeat the rulers of the darkness of this world (Ephesians 6:12-17).
Clothed only in the suit of the Savior, we can once again be naked and unafraid. Naked and not ashamed. There’s no alternative when in a right relationship with God. Thus adorned, it is the Father’s good pleasure to welcome us into His presence as the image and glory of Him (Luke 12:32; I Corinthians 11:7).
And THAT will happen without fig leaves and fabric.
* Being naked for harmful, crude, or illicit sexual purposes is better defined as exhibitionism or lewdness, or even deviancy or perversion. However, nakedness for private, sexual pleasure between a husband (male) and wife (female) is a beautiful part of the Creator’s gift to His children.
Copyright © 2017, by Don Hamlin. All rights reserved.