Therefore a man leaves his father and his mother and clings to his wife, and they become one flesh. And the man and his wife were both naked, and were not ashamed.Genesis 2:24-25 (NRSV)
Nakedness was the first truth of Adam and Eve’s relationship. And when they ate the fruit, it became the first thing to go.
But I think there’s something in us that wants to get back to that place.
Nakedness is obviously compelling, but it’s so much more than that. It’s the implied intimacy in relationships as much as anything else—the fullness of who we are being seen by someone else without any presence of shame. The kind of intimacy that drives us toward the oneness described in this original relationship between Adam and Eve.
Nakedness, of course, can happen in a moment. Some of the shame that wants to define our sexuality can come from the fact that we sometimes get naked (literally and figuratively) much too quickly.
True intimacy always takes time.
I’ve known my wife Alex for eight years, and we just celebrated our sixth wedding anniversary. I know her better than anyone does, and vice versa. But I’ve been delighted to find how I’m also still getting to know her. What we’re still learning about each other certainly shows up in big moments: the birth of our son two years ago revealed quite a bit about both of us, from what we’re like on zero sleep to the voices of our own parents coming out of our mouths in ways that both surprise and terrify. But it’s also there in the everyday: the more we seek to be fully present with each other, the more we continue to pursue oneness, the more intimacy we discover. And I very much like the idea that this might not only continue but grow.
Eugene Peterson captures these ideas beautifully in his paraphrase of 1 Corinthians 6:
There’s more to sex than mere skin on skin. Sex is as much spiritual mystery as physical fact. As written in Scripture, “The two become one.” Since we want to become spiritually one with the Master, we must not pursue the kind of sex that avoids commitment and intimacy, leaving us more lonely than ever—the kind of sex that can never “become one.”1 Corinthians 6:16-17 (The Message)
A church can spend so much time making its sexual ethics about what not to do. What if we spent more time talking about what we say yes to: commitment, intimacy, and oneness. Because I believe our sexuality is at its best and most fruitful in the pursuit of these truths.
With our nakedness (again, both literally and figuratively) comes the unveiling of some of our imperfections, a fact that can make it so hard to be seen that way. Our commitments and even our covenant relationships sometimes falter. Our reflex may still be to hide from intimacy the same way Adam and Eve did. No matter how long they’ve been together, two people might always be in the process of becoming “one flesh.”
But I’m comforted by the way this same journey plays itself out in our faith as well.
Peterson’s paraphrase notes that “we want to become spiritually one with the Master.” In more traditional translations, this line of text reads something like, “Anyone united to the Lord becomes one spirit with him.”
To me, commitment, intimacy, and oneness are compelling in both our own relationships and our relationship with God.
Jesus speaks of His body and blood as not just a commitment but a new covenant, given and poured out for the forgiveness of sins. He speaks of eternal life as knowing God, an intimate concept that, by definition, takes time. And the oneness we share in Christ is both something that happens in a moment of salvation and something we’re living into for the rest of our lives.
Our nakedness carries the weight of our imperfections. But in the resurrection, not just our sexuality but our very lives can carry the truth of grace. And that grace isn’t just here for forgiveness. It’s here to call us to something more.
In our pursuit of nakedness and intimacy, it’s true we can’t go all the way back to the garden. We can’t live in a world where we don’t know what it’s like to want to hide. But I’m not sure Adam and Eve had the better deal, even before they ate the fruit. They might have enjoyed the absence of sin for an undisclosed amount of time, but we can enjoy the truth of grace and the presence of God living within us through the Holy Spirit.
Our nakedness has its imperfections. But we have more than enough grace for that.