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Naked and unashamed

If you’re from the South and over 40, you may remember Lewis Grizzard, the newspaper columnist to wrote for years for the Atlanta Journal-Constitution. Gizzard once said that God talks like we do, meaning southern. “Southerners can take a word and change it just a little bit and make it mean altogether somethin’ different,” Grizzard once wrote. “Take the word ‘naked.’ (for instance). Instead of saying, ‘naked,’ we say, ‘nekkid.’ … There’s a difference. ‘Naked’ means you ain’t got no clothes on. ‘Nekkid’ means you ain’t got no clothes on and you up to somethin’ . . .”

When the story says in Genesis 2 that the first humans were “naked and unashamed,”  the point was not that they were “up to something” but that there was no need for hiding. Before the Fall, there was complete vulnerability and trust. It was about deep interdependence with another person. It was about surrender and submission, in the highest and best sense of those terms. And it was also about fruitfulness. It was everything you’d want in a relationship.

“Naked and unashamed” was the Garden standard. This relationship is sacramentally (and necessarily) expressed inside of marriage because it depends on covenant to blossom fully. In every other relationship, we are called into self-discipline but because we are wired for full intimacy, most of us will end up on the trajectory toward marriage, covenant and a commitment to one relationship that allows us to be “naked and unashamed.”

This is the biblical definition of intimacy. The creation story teaches us that marriage is the place on earth where we might experience at least the shadow of an intimacy that is fully expressed in our relationship with the Father.

Man and woman together make an important statement about the love that exists inside the Trinity and between Christ and the Church. Marriage is a sacramental expression of Trinitarian love. Male and female together offer us an insider’s look into the character of God.

To be naked and unashamed is the opposite of autonomous solitude (the state of complete independence, not trusting in God or any human).  Instead, it is to be vulnerable and trusting at the deepest levels both with God and people. It is how Jesus functioned, allowing himself to be open and vulnerable over and over again in the midst of people who would constantly disappoint him.

“Naked and unashamed” is also the essence of repentance, which challenges us to lay ourselves bare before God with the confidence that he is faithful and just and will not condemn us but offer a kind of forgiveness that heals.

Repentance is to be truly “naked and unashamed.” Surely this is exactly why Jesus came into his ministry on that word: “Repent and believe.” He was calling humanity back to the Garden standard — that state of complete openness with God that allows us to trust him deeply even as he transforms us fully.

Repentance is the opposite of shame. It is freedom — freedom from shame, guilt, fear, condemnation. James teaches us to “confess your sins to one another and pray for each other so you may be healed” (James 5:16). Confession helps us hear our own voices admitting our own weaknesses. There is no condemnation! “The earnest prayer of a righteous person has great power and produces wonderful results” (James 5:16).

“Naked and unashamed” is the posture of freedom. The old is gone. Our thorns are no longer a shame, but a crown — part of our story of God’s power to transform.

Is it possible that the yearning you are expressing for a relationship that answers the loneliness you feel is very much a yearning for your created design — a design that calls you to be “naked and unashamed” (vulnerable at every level), first with God and then with that one with whom he calls you into covenant?

Carolyn Moore

I follow Jesus.

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Holiness is at least this: a design of life that exposes us most fully to the heart of a good, loving and creative God.