It wasn’t until about a year ago that I became puzzled by something I read in Genesis. Genesis 3 tells us the story of the fall of man, how the man and woman were corrupted and ate the forbidden fruit. But what caught my eye was what the account gives as the first response of Adam and Eve when they had eaten the fruit:
“Then the eyes of both of them were opened, and they realised that they were naked; so they sewed fig leaves together and made coverings for themselves.”
Genesis 3:7 NIVUK
They realised they were naked.
It’s strange that the very first thing you’d notice after eating fruit that gives you the knowledge of good and evil is that you’re starkers. I can’t imagine suddenly Adam felt a breeze around his nethers and that’s what made him realise! The garden of Eden probably wasn’t chilly.
But the fact that Adam and Eve were naked is also mentioned in chapter 2; in fact it’s the final verse:
“Adam and his wife were both naked, and they felt no shame.”
Genesis 2:25 NIVUK
The fact that the Bible chooses to reinforce this point twice shows that it’s meant to teach us something. But I didn’t know what. But then I listened to a Timothy Keller podcast on Genesis 3 and how it shows us the different behaviours of sin. He made the point that the nakedness in the garden represents a different kind of nakedness for us.
The nakedness in the fall is a reflection of the fact that Adam and Eve had not sinned and only realised they were naked when they had sinned. Why? Not actually being naked, but realising that others can see your nakedness. And that changed how Adam and Eve saw each other and wanted to be seen.
Being naked means the people who see you can see you for who you truly are. There are no tricks, no way to hide, nothing to conceal all the things about yourself. You are completely exposed. Being naked in public is one of the more common nightmares people admit to having, and I think that speaks to the primal fear within us of what people might think if they saw us that way. Everyone could see all those little imperfections, those unsightly lumps and scars, that weird mole that’s slightly too big.
But it’s not always physical nakedness. There are some people who have no problem being naked in front of others (nudist camps, events and beaches testify to that). It’s not even nakedness within the context of sex, as some people find it easy to have multiple sexual partners. It’s rather more subtle and interesting than at first glance. Because the nakedness in the garden of Eden wasn’t just physical, it was spiritual.
The Soul Laid Bare
Adam and Eve only realised they were naked once they sinned. This is crucial to understanding spiritual nakedness, because being physically naked and spiritually naked are perfect parallels. When you’re naked in front of someone, you have no secrets. They see all of you, all the bits you normally cover up. We cover our shame with clothes to hide those pieces of ourselves (or in my case, many layers, but that’s due to being cold all the time).
Before they sinned, Adam and Eve had no need to hide because they had no secrets. They hadn’t done anything that they would need to hide from one another. But once they ate the fruit and had realised what they had done, they covered themselves, because they now knew too much that could be used by others against them.
We are not so different. There’s loads of stuff we hide and keep concealed from one another in order to make our lives ostensibly easier (although whether it makes them better is up for debate). We are scared that if people can see us they won’t like what they see. I know I kept a lot of stuff in for a long time, and to an extent I still have trouble trusting people with my secrets. I’m scared that people will abandon me or decide to use them against me.
But it shouldn’t be that way.
Just think for a moment how many people you’d be willing to be spiritually naked with. Probably only a few right? Only closest family and friends, or if you’re lucky, your partner. You can be naked with them because you aren’t afraid for them to see your secrets. You can remove “clothing” around them to actually show them who you really are.
I was fortunate to make the group of friends I now have when I did. Before then there was a lot of hidden anxiety and trauma that I hadn’t begun to unpack. But what helped me was someone was willing to be vulnerable in front of me and lay bare their problems and worries. This allowed me to see that opening up wasn’t a bad thing, and that allowed me to open up and develop more meaningful relationships with my friends.
So yeah. In order to love, you have to be willing to get naked. You have to be able to let people see you at your worst, all the stuff you don’t think people would love you if they could see. Yes it’s scary, but you can achieve a depth of friendship or partnership you wouldn’t have done otherwise
And do you know what? Remember that God can see all these things that you hide from everyone else. He sees it all. And he loves you anyway. So you never know, others might too.