Naked in the Streets

Nakedness isn’t about what I have. It’s about what I don’t have.

When I’m naked, as in “naked and unashamed,” I am without clothes. If I’m using “naked” as a metaphor – and I am – then I’m writing the absence of the things for which “being clothed” is a metaphor. I’m also writing about the absence of the things for which “being armored” is a metaphor.

Some time ago, God showed me a series of weird pictures about self protection. Clothes are a layer of protection, though not generally from great big bad things. A t-shirt and shorts protect me from a cool breeze, from embarrassment, from abrasions and scrapes.

Now think of wearing a layer of heavier clothes: more protection, right?

Beyond that, if I’m wearing body armor, then I’m probably planning on going in harm’s way, to places where I need protection from greater weapons and greater attack than a t-shirt will provide. (Either that, or I’m trying to impress the ladies, and that’s not part of today’s conversation.)

The image I saw was actually from the ‘70s movie Rollerball: where armored men played a testosterone-charged sport with armor and spikes (I told you it was weird!). In spite of the armor, it was a remarkably bloody sport.

The next picture was modern soldiers in an Abrams M1 tank: monster gun on top, monster engine in the back, several inches of armor protecting those inside. Did you know that there are weapons specifically engineered to successfully penetrate that much armor?

This is the way He presented it to me: no matter how well armored I am, there’s always a weapon that’s powerful enough to penetrate the armor. If I’m wearing a t -shirt, then my armor can be pierced when I trip and skin my knee, or by a stray blackberry bramble. On the other hand, if my armor is in the form of an Abrams tank, then it takes an armor-piercing shell or a larger-than-average land mine to penetrate my armor.

It’s true that were I to wear the ugly Rollerball armor or the thick steel of an Abrams tank, then I’m pretty effectively protected from skinned knees and blackberry brambles. I’m also protected from machine guns, hand grenades, and drunk drivers.

So which looks like the more effective armor? First glance rather looks like the heavier the armor, the more I’m protected doesn’t it? That’s what I thought too.

And then He pointed out that I can easily survive a skinned knee; and when my t-shirt “armor” is penetrated by a blackberry bramble, sure it hurts a little, and I bleed a tiny bit, but then I go about my day. I don’t venture into land mines or armor piercing shells, because I know that the armor that I’m wearing – the t-shirt that I’m wearing – is completely insufficient of itself to protect me from that level of warfare.

On the other hand, if my armor is thick like the steel of a tank, then when (not if) the armor is pierced, I will be destroyed: I’ll be completely dead. But think about this: if there are enemies in the neighborhood that have armor piercing shells, they’re looking for a tank to shoot at. They’ll never waste those shells on a guy in shorts and a t-shirt.

In other words, the strength of my defenses will to some degree determine the strength of the attack that comes against me. And at some point, an attack will get through my personal defenses. And then what will I do?

So which is the safer place: when I’m well protected behind several inches of steel? Or when I’m wandering around in out-of-fashion gym shorts and a worn-out T-shirt?

There is an application, of course, about walking before God with our defenses down. When we armor ourselves to keep the bad guys out, we keep the good guys out, too. Our armor may be our self-sufficiency, our pride, an unwillingness to let people speak into our lives, or it may be fear of trying something new: it’s anything that protects us from the people around us; it’s anything that keeps from being “members of one another.”

Those defenses – that personal armor – has two problems: first, it seems that people with a strong defense attract stronger attacks. And second, while it keeps out things that can make me hurt, it also keeps out things that can make me better, like my brothers and sisters in Christ, or the presence of a living God.

Now let me clarify: I am not talking about the spiritual armor of Ephesians 6. I’m talking about my own armor, my own defenses. I absolutely need God’s armor, because it’s the only thing that actually cannot be overcome; there is no weapon that is forged against me that can prevail against His armor protecting me, and His armor doesn’t keep Him out of my life.

But in regards to my own defenses, the less I have, the better. Ideally, I’ll walk before God “naked and unashamed” like Adam did. Ideally, I’ll walk with “naked and open to the eyes of Him to whom we must give account.” I’ll live with my life open and uncovered from the eyes of the world. Naked (uh… that’s metaphorical, remember) in the streets.

But doesn’t that leave me open to attack? to being hurt by stupid people or stupid choices?

Well, yes, actually it does, all that and more: I can be wounded by stupid people, by evil people, and I can be wounded by good people in a moment of weakness, too. But the solution isn’t to develop stronger defenses. It’s to be as defenseless – in ourselves – as possible, to take the hits and be wounded, and then to learn to be healed quickly and effectively.

So I am encouraging us to be – spiritually, not physically, of course – naked in the streets: without the defenses of a hard heart, of a manipulative soul: to be open and transparent before God and before our fellow man, and to learn to heal quickly from the wounds that do come our way.

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