Dreams are an important part of our prophetic and biblical tradition, and modern psychology asserts that dreams can be indicative of issues we’re working out in our lives. Many people (in fact, 4 out of 5) have a recurring dream in which they find themselves naked in front of a crowd or as they’re walking down the street. A small percentage of these dreamers find they are quite comfortable being naked, which shows they are unafraid to tackle difficult tasks, have great confidence in their own abilities, and feel they have nothing to hide. This is the way we were meant to be, and it’s the way Adam and Eve were in the Garden of Eden.
Far more people experience their nakedness as a source of embarrassment or discomfort. Jungian analysis sais this can indicate things like fear of having one’s true self exposed or the realization of trying to be something one is not, fear of being vulnerable, a sense of not living up to expectations, guilt over some action or fear of having a wrong deed exposed, a sense of not being prepared for something crucial, etc. Interestingly, Adam and Eve didn’t experience any of this until they sinned. Then they realized they were naked and took action to literally and figuratively cover up. Then they had something to hide. Then they were afraid, and couldn’t truly be themselves. Then they were no longer free.
It is because of sin that we develop unhealthy pride, jealousy and envy, a desire to be better than others, and a tendency to want to locate sin and evil outside of ourselves as if no such thing exists in our own hearts. This was evident in the Gospel, for instance, when the Pharisees saw Jesus doing great things and driving out demons. They couldn’t handle the threat to their power and beliefs, and they dared not be so vulnerable as to look inside to discern what personal demons they needed to drive out of themselves. So instead they defended themselves, built walls of exclusion, and accused Jesus of being a disciple of Satan.
In reality, Jesus is the antidote to this pretension, the reminder of who and whose we are. Jesus tells us we are all worthwhile and intrinsically worthy of respect and dignity. We don’t need to be someone we are not. Even as we are challenged and coaxed to be better, we are thoroughly loved and supported just as we are. In God’s eyes, there is not a hierarchy of lovability – even Jesus’ own mother is on a level field with anyone else who follows the will of God.
So how does this apply to me? I admit to having the “naked dream” many times in my life. Sometimes it occurs when I don’t feel sufficiently practiced for an important talk that’s coming up, and I fear failing in front of everyone. More insidious, though, are the times when I’ve been afraid to let people know what I really think or who I truly am inside for fear of being judged, being “found out” as the imperfect person I am, and being unloved. It can cause me to feel defensive and guarded, to blame others, and to build a safety net around my heart.
Yet, God calls to that tender heart within me. As I open myself to God, I have gradually experienced the reverse process of Adam and Eve. Sometimes more easily and sometimes with great struggle, the sinful me accepts that I am worthwhile, lovable, and “enough” just the way I am. I discover anew the unconditional love and perfect acceptance of God. I realize that God created each of us (including me!) as a unique and uniquely beautiful creation, with talents and gifts that on one else has, and with no need to hide or cover up. This is good news!! If only we could hear it.
I’m still uncomfortable being naked in my dreams. But can I continue working to allow myself to be “seen” as who I am without judgment? Can I believe in my own worth, while also constantly discerning the sinful aspects of my life that need to be removed? Can I reach out to others, even those I consider haughty, hurtful, or greedy, knowing that their sins exist in me, too, and they are also worthy of respect and dignity? Can I work to change systems that require those on the margins to be unseen, unclothed, and unloved?
This seems like quite a challenge, and sometimes I feel like a really slow learner. After all, it has taken over 60 years to get me as far as I am now! But with the help and grace of God, I’ll keep trying. It’s worth if at least some people can have just a little more Garden of Eden in their lives because of me.
Amy Florian is a teacher and consultant working in Chicago. For many years she has partnered with the Passionists. Visit Amy’s website: http://www.corgenius.com/.