southern humorist Lewis Grizzard explains the difference between being “naked” and being “nekkid.”
” ‘Naked’ means you ain’t got no clothes on. ‘Nekkid’ means you ain’t got no clothes on, and you up to somethin.”
the first naked people in the Judeo-Christian tradition are, of course, Adam and Eve. their origin story ends with the world in a state that God himself called “very good”.
“And the man and his wife were both naked and were not ashamed.”
naked and unashamed. but it didn’t last long.
“Then the eyes of both of them were opened, and they knew that they were naked; and they sewed fig leaves together and made themselves loin coverings. They heard the sound of the LORD God walking in the garden in the cool of the day, and the man and his wife hid themselves from the presence of the LORD God among the trees of the garden.”
nekkid and hiding.
the were naked and unashamed. now they were nekkid and hiding. this is the moment to which we give a tragic moniker: the fall of man. this is our “end of act one” moment, world turned upside down. chaos.
God, having sought them, asks a question of pain, of disappointment, of hurt feelings:
“Who told you that you were naked?”
Jonathan Acuff brings this ancient question to our very present falling.
“Who told you that you were not enough?
Who told you that I didn’t love you?
Who told you that there was something outside of me you needed?
Who told you that you were ugly?
Who told you that your dream was foolish?
Who told you that you would never have a child?
Who told you that you would never be a father?
Who told you that you weren’t a good mother?
Who told you that without a job you aren’t worth anything?
Who told you that you’ll never know love again?
Who told you that this was all there is?
Who told you that you were naked?”
thousands of years pass. Jesus walks the earth. too short to see over the crowd, Zacchaeus climbs a sycamore tree. from here, he can clearly see Jesus, and Jesus can clearly see him.
at the end of this rich story, Jesus shares a personal mission statement:
“For the Son of Man has come to seek and to save that which was lost.”
the NASB is one of the closest English translations to the literal rendering of the Greek text. you can see the Greek here. note the last phrase.
not “those who were lost.” “…that which was lost.”
not necessarily lost people. a lost quality. a lost condition. something missing. something that needs seeking out, restoring. something that needs salvaging, saving.
what have we lost? what does every person who lives yearn for?
imagine what it would feel like to be naked, exposed to the world. not barren of clothing, but rather barren of burden, of secrets. imagine you could lay out every hurt, every insecurity, every doubt, every dark thought, every insult, every disappointment.
imagine you could lay it all on the line… and be unashamed.
naked and unashamed. exposed and loved. found out and invited in.
sin creeps in and divides and rots and topples. sin seeks to ruin. we hide our sin, and in so doing hide important parts of ourselves. if Jesus believed He could take away the sins of the world, then surely it meant restoring this important aspect of the Garden — the ability to be naked and unashamed…
i watched ET with my friend Greg the other night. Greg is a huge Spielberg fan, namely his early stuff. we can’t get together without one of us mentioning JAWS or ET or Close Encounters or Raiders. beyond Spielberg’s directorial style, there was something metaphysical amid those early films. it was something that both came from and spoke to our culture in America at that time.
Leo Grin writes about how Lucas and Spielberg changed the face of cinema in the late 70s and ushered in the optimistic cinema of the 80s:
“They did this not by being avant-garde or trying to impress liberal critics or professors, but by refreshing themselves at the wells of myths, old movies, and pulps (much of them politically incorrect), and then infusing their new versions of those tales with a sense of optimism largely absent from the hyper-politicized movies of the Seventies.”
even my most atheist friends search the heavens for signs of life, dreaming of one day being a part of a society that is larger than the one we know now. everyone desires to be a part of something greater, bigger, more noble. whether you consider this a hard-wired desire to seek a creative God or whether you consider God a creation of a species looking to fulfill this desire, it would be hard to argue against this deeply-rooted human craving. there must be more than this.
so much of our everyday adulthood stifles this innate yearning. act this way, say these things, don’t talk about that. adulthood has become a parade of societal constructs attempting to tame and civilize a man who was placed in the center of wild creation and given the charge to “fill the earth and subdue it.” (Genesis 1:28)
this realization isn’t peculiar to adults. children know it, too, and they resist adulthood. this is the tension between parent and child. this is the dissonance of adolescence. there is much to value in the path to adulthood, but we often make the journey by hiding our true selves in the process, ashamed of that which we find lacking, broken, ugly.
one thing that strikes Greg about ET is how even the adults drop their walls by the end of the film. to witness something so amazing as a life from outer space, a spaceship taking off in plain sight. there is an awareness in every soul that to be present on this occasion is a rare blessing, and it may never happen again in human history, certainly not in their lifetime. the awe and spectacle has lifted them above their crowded lives to see something that is so much bigger than them.
one thing I noticed was that there are no bad guys in the end. the brother starts off as an instigator, but then makes a solemn promise. Gertie, first afraid of ET, teaches him to talk. the mother joins the team. “Keys” becomes a friend, based on his common yearning: “…since I was ten years old…” even Elliot’s brother’s friends who do nothing but poke fun at Elliot the whole movie become willing accomplices at the end, helping get the newly resurrected E.T. home. everyone who is “the bad guy” at some point in the film eventually becomes part of the small band of people watching the ship take off at the end.
everyone is fully enraptured in this mysterious event. how often do people that argue over minutiae become allies in the fight against a common enemy? how many spats and trifle arguments become weightless in the gravity of larger ideas?
spectacular Mystery beautifully interrupts.
Max Lucado describes John’s recounting of the woman at the well from John, chapter 4:
“Did you notice what she forgot? She forgot her water jar. She left behind the jug that had caused the sag in her shoulders. She left behind the burden she brought.
Suddenly the shame of the tattered romances disappeared. Suddenly the insignificance of her life was swallowed by the significance of the moment. ‘God is here! God has come! God cares… for me!’
That is why she forgot her water jar. That is why she ran to the city.
That is why she grabbed the first person she saw and announced her discovery, ‘I just talked to a man who knows everything I ever did… and he loves me anyway!’
The disciples offered Jesus some food. He refused it — he was too excited! He had just done what he does best. He had taken a life that was drifting and given it direction.
He was exuberant!
‘Look!’ he announced to disciples, pointing at the woman who was running to the village. ‘Vast fields of human souls are ripening all around us, and are ready now for the reaping’.
Who could eat at a time like this?”
i believe something new is coming, something exciting. something that will make all of us — the stuffiest doctor, the stodgiest lawyer, the most uptight priest, the most-hated tax collector — drop all adulthood barriers. we will come out of hiding. we will leave shame behind at the well of myth, legend, and story, and we will run to tell everyone we know about the Mystery we’ve encountered.
innate in each of us is the belief that there must be much, much more than this. and when we realize this, when we realize that we can escape into something bigger, higher, unashamed, bold, empowered, free…
…what will it look like to be fully alive?
“For the anxious longing of the creation waits eagerly for the revealing…”