Let’s have a show of hands—who has had a “naked-in-public” dream? Come on, admit it. I bet just about everyone has, including me.
You know the one: You show up for a big presentation at work or school, or you’re riding a bicycle through rush hour or working the first day of a new job, and you suddenly realize everyone is looking at you strangely. Some of them laugh and point; others turn away in shocked indignation. Puzzled, you look at yourself and discover—Horror!—you forgot to put on clothes that morning. All day long you’ve been cruising around stark naked. In your birthday suit. Au naturel. In the buff. Exposed!
For me, this kind of dream usually shows up when I am under unusual stress:
Over my head with some task or project…
Or, feeling guilty over something I don’t want other people—or God—to see.
It’s my subconscious mind’s way of tapping me on the shoulder to say, “Hey, Buddy, you’re not nearly as together as you pretend to be.” The dream details will differ, but if you are like me it always ends the same way: You run. You hide. You grab anything you can to cover your nakedness. You wake up in a panic, desperate to get away from all those accusing eyes. What a relief to find out it was only a dream!
Or was it?
The truth is, most of us go our whole lives feeling “exposed,” even when we are awake. It is an inescapable dimension of human nature. Deep down we know we don’t measure up, and we live with the constant, nagging fear that we’ll be found out at any moment. We feel naked on the inside and there is nothing to be done about it, no matter how fast we run or how cleverly we hide. It doesn’t matter who you are: rich or poor, pretty or plain. Sure, there’s the occasionally day when things go our way and we feel like the king or queen of the world…until the next time we look in the mirror or slow down long enough to be alone with our thoughts. Then we hear that familiar voice accusing, “Who are you kidding? Everyone is laughing at you—want to know why? Because you’re naked—totally exposed with nowhere to hide!”
Doesn’t this sound a bit familiar?
Of course, this common human condition isn’t a recent development. It is not simply the result of the pent-up stress of modern living. No, the story of humanity began, literally days after creation, with the mother of all “naked-in-public” nightmares. Just ask Adam and Eve. Here’s their story…
Trouble in Paradise
In the beginning God created the heavens and the earth, and it wasn’t just good—it was awesome! Mountains and verdant valleys; rivers, lakes and oceans; a playful and wondrous variety of plants, animals and fishes; the sun, the moon and stars in the sky. It was a perfect paradise, a lush and fertile garden called Eden. And on the sixth day of His work, God created something really special—people, made in His own image, and after His own heart…a man and a woman who would inherit all this newly created splendor and live there in perfect, unhindered communion with the earth, with each other, and—most importantly—with God.
And it worked! For who knows how long Adam and Eve frolicked freely in paradise with God Himself. Like a dad and kids rolling in the grass together, spotting shapes in the clouds, telling stories and laughing—they were utterly absorbed in each others’ company. In those days Adam and Eve were every bit as holy as the Creator Himself—what could be better than that? Oh, and there is one minor detail I left out: Adam and Eve were naked. As a pair of jaybirds.
But here’s the cool part: They were so free, so accepted, so innocent, they didn’t know they were naked. They didn’t even know what naked was. Why should they? What was there to hide, and from whom? God created them as they were, perfect and complete in His eyes, so that’s how they saw themselves as well. It is like when my wife allows our toddler to run loose in the backyard to play on a summer day—no diaper, no clothes and absolutely no awareness he is naked. What difference does it make, when there are butterflies to chase, sprinklers to run through, and popsicles to eat? What a life!
Of course, it would be nice if the story had ended there: “And humanity lived happily ever after.” But we all know the next chapter in the saga. Inevitably, Adam and Eve blew it. Like most toddlers, they had a small issue with boundaries. Well, boundary, really, because God placed only one restriction on them. They could eat anything they wanted in the whole garden—anything at all—except for the fruit of the tree of the knowledge of good and evil. He warned them that, if they did this, they’d surely die.
Eventually, along came the serpent—Satan—who had his own lurid history of rebellion against God. He said, “Really? You buy all of that? Here’s what I think—God doesn’t want you to eat that fruit because he knows that, when you do, you’ll be just like him. Surely you won’t die. Just take a bite.” Who knows how many times the serpent had already come around to pitch this con to Adam and Eve? A hundred? A thousand? Maybe this was the very first. In any case, on that day something in his argument appealed to Eve. She was convinced, and she took the fruit and ate it. Adam was right there and didn’t mind helping himself as well.
Bam! Pow! Sure enough, their bodies didn’t die; but something on the inside did. Oh, their bodies carried on the appearance of life for some time, but deep within, something was terribly wrong. In retrospect, we know God hadn’t been talking about immediate literal death, but the end of innocence, the end of the holy life they had known. Suddenly—and here’s the part you’ll be able to identify with—they realized they were naked, and had been all along. Now, just as the tree’s name implied, they knew the difference between right and wrong—and saw that they had been wrong. They were exposed and vulnerable for the first time ever. Only moments ago they’d enjoyed perfect safety and freedom in God’s garden.
If our present-day dreams are any guide, what do you think they did next? You got it. They ran. They hid. They grabbed the first leaf handy and covered themselves to escape their shame. And we’ve been hiding ever since.
You see, eventually, we all blow it too. Why? Well, it actually has nothing to do with our actions or the poor intentions of our heart. Because of Adam and Eve’s decision to defy God, sin is now a part our very nature. “Therefore, just as sin came into the world through one man, and death through sin, and so death spread to all men because all sinned” (Romans 5:12).
All men. No exceptions.
That fact makes us feel as naked as Adam. We may not even know why we feel so exposed, but it doesn’t matter why. We just know we don’t measure up for some reason, so we run and hide—from ourselves, from each other, and—above all—from God. Adam and Eve retreated to the closest hiding place they could find. They sat under the cover of dense undergrowth and dirt of the garden, desperate to remain unseen. They made themselves small and quiet and hoped the all-seeing, all-knowing God who lovingly crafted them out of the dust wouldn’t see them cowering there in the dirt.
They hid from Love Himself. “I heard the sound of you in the garden, and I was afraid,” Adam said to God. He grossly underestimated the presence of God by thinking he could hide. Even worse, he said he was afraid because he was naked—“That is why I hid myself.” I am sure this fear was not only of God’s impending judgment but also the terror of thinking he’d lost the intimate relationship he loved the most. Now he stood bare with nothing to his name except the shame on his face. He hid like a kid crouched behind the couch after eating the forbidden candy bar, with the evidence of chocolate smeared all over his face. I’ve been there; I’ve felt Adam’s fear. After the deed is done, I can’t help but quiver in my soul to think I just disappointed my Creator who I love to please.