When I was a young girl I had a recurring dream. This dream was a nightmare, but not in the typical and most used definition. But it was my nightmare; I hated this dream more than any other. Frantically I would wake up—desperate to be assured that “it was only a dream”. The disturbing dream subsided as I grew older and ceased altogether for many years, until I became pregnant with my first daughter.
You know this dream. There is a chance you have had it also, because I have learned that it is a fairly common occurrence.
I was at school (whichever one I was attending at the time) at the bottom or the top of a staircase in the presence of a large crowd. Now, crowds don't bother me except when something is amiss. And in this dream something was truly amiss. I would always be missing a very necessary piece of clothing. Always. And everyone else seemed to notice long before I did.
Naked before a crowd. No where to go—if I went up the stairs or down or if I took off running—there was just no where to go. No where to hide. And at the height of the embarrassment I would wake up.
Earlier this week I had an email conversation with Mac, my surrogate pastor and a true southern gentlemen. He said something that reminded me of this dream.
I shared with him that I had been removing some “garments” that I had thought I would never have to remove. I was taking off some clothing that in my mind had been a permanent part of my wardrobe. He said, “ I am very thankful that you have taken off some clothing; in fact, I am trusting that you will take it all off and stand stark naked before Him.”
That phrase “stark naked” caught my attention. I tried to avoid and ignore it for a few days. Then I remembered the dream. Why was this dream my nightmare? why did it cause such trauma? cause me to wake in a panic?
Because I was exposed.
I was bare and vulnerable. I was naked. The fact that I had a few clothes on did not matter, the most vulnerable parts of me were visible to the cruel scrutiny of the crowd. I could find no route of escape. I had no plan to avoid the stifled laughter, the outright taunts, and the pointing fingers.
Laid open. Exposed. Bare. Vulnerable.
Only my waking saved me. Or so I thought.
Over the years I started dressing in layers. Insulation to cover and hide my awkwardness, my discomfort, my insecurity, my embarrassment, and my shame. Maybe if I wore layers there would be more protection, and I would be less likely to lose an essential piece of clothing. Safety clothes. My clothing was also designed and chosen to camouflage my unsightly scars and excess flesh.
Mac's phrase uncovered a deep longing in me to stand stark naked before God and not be ashamed. I want to be free from the confines and fetters of my inadequate wardrobe.
But this is not easy. I am stripping away many garments that feel like a second skin. Adhered to my body by the years, the heat, the sweat, and the grime. And by habit. And even by love.
I do not know how close I really am to my own nakedness.
It is unclear to me how many layers I have left to shed—to pull away. But I need to be stripped: exposed, bare, vulnerable, and unashamed.
Long ago, when I was a girl having my dreams, I did not want to be naked. I am no longer a girl. I am a woman—grown, and I must put away my childish ways.
Someday I will stand naked before God. I will need no route of escape. I will need no plan of cover. There will be no stifled laughter, no taunting jeers, no judgmental head shaking, no wagging tongues, and no raised eyebrows. There will be no pointing out of my embarrassment and shame.
I will no longer need to hide. I will not need the layers anymore.
God will cover me. He will come behind and before me and envelop me in his garment.
And then he will reveal to me the stark, poignant beauty of my nakedness.