“Naked I came from my mother’s womb, and naked I will depart.” Job 1:21
I have this recurring dream. I find myself in some back room of a random church, changing clothes. There is a knock at the door and someone (a friend or family member) is asking me to come out to see something – just for a minute.
I explain that I don’t have my pants on. But this isn’t good enough for the person, “Come on, you’ve got to see this. Just a step. Just right here.”
So, clutching my jeans, I peek out and take a baby step. Before I know it, I’ve lost the way back to the room and my pants. The person has vanished, and I’m behind a water cooler trying to look inconspicuous. In the most awful version of the dream, I end up crouching underneath the grand piano just as a service is starting. The whole congregation is filing into the pews. My knees are into my chin, I’m shivering and desperately wishing there were more ferns on the stage.
In the dream interpretation books, they say this dream reveals the fear that your inadequacy will be exposed. Well, that’s not too hard to figure out.
But this isn’t just a dream for me. This particular anxiety – the exposure of my inadequacy – is with me all the time. It comes out at night because I repress it during the day. But it’s always there. Even when I have really nice pants on I’m still naked. No amount of layers change the deep reality. Underneath, I’m naked. I don’t just feel inadequate, I am inadequate to make life work.
Nakedness was the first fact about me, and Job tells me that it will be the last. But I can’t quite admit that it is true in between those two bookends of life. I am confronted with my neediness every time I’m hungry, every time I want someone to like me, every time I need forgiveness – yet I still try to deny it. Failure shows me. Loneliness reminds me. Funerals really bother me. I defend myself from all this evidence by putting on under-armor and thick camo pants. But it’s no use.
Something eventually lures me out of my denial. The lights will come up and there I am – pasty white behind a very thin fern. Everyone will know unequivocally that I am naked. And so will I.
I am naked. And ashamed. I am naked and terribly, utterly, completely ashamed.
I can’t do anything about the naked part. God made me dependent. But perhaps something can be done about the ashamed part. Maybe it’s time to accept who and what I am. Maybe it’s time to not only admit my neediness but to learn to enjoy it.
After all so much of life (maybe all of it) is grace. Things like food, friendship, forgiveness and love. The only way to have them is to receive them. And you can’t receive unless you have need. So… maybe nakedness isn’t the worst thing about me. Maybe it’s the best.
Roger Edwards joined The Barnabas Center in 1991. In addition to counseling individuals & couples, Roger teaches & leads discussion groups about applying the Bible to everyday life. He is a licensed professional counselor, holds a master’s degree in biblical counseling from Grace Theological Seminary in Indiana & earned a bachelor’s degree in engineering from UNCC. He is married to Jean, and they have seven children.