Children love being naked. It seems I no sooner gather a room of respectable people for dinner than one of mine shows up in some degree of undress, wondering if I know the location of their pajamas or who stole their underwear.
Nakedness gets less cute with age, however, not only because the aging body starts to show serious and unsightly signs of wear, but because baring too much can score us an all-expenses-paid night in the local jail. Ever since Adam and Eve bit the forbidden fruit, clothes have kept our most private areas from public view, a fact for which most of us are wildly grateful.
Sometimes, however, covering up goes too far.
My naked self is something even I avoid, and I don't just mean the physical one that confronts me every morning in the mirror. Rather than face my rawest self, sometimes it's easier to wrap myself up in-for a completely hypothetical example-my children. If I place at the forefront their cuteness/talent/rampant popularity/scholarships/maturity/and what surely must be an uncommon devotion to the faith, I can ignore my own spiritual cellulite. When the little old ladies at the Cracker Barrel swarm around me, patting my babies on the head, waxing on about how well-behaved they were despite the 30-minute wait for our blueberry pancakes, another layer covers me up. I would be lying if I said it didn't warm me to the bone.
Money, like whale blubber, offers another level of protection (albeit a rather thin one these days), as do advanced degrees and robust health. Let me cuddle with my MacBook, my iPhone, and a cable connection and I'm all set. Wrap me in political activism, advanced degrees, veganism, and Germ-X. Trust is so early 20th century.
And, if all else fails, I can burrow down into the thick downy fluff of busyness and convince myself it's all profoundly meaningful, ignoring the nagging suspicion that should a cold wind gust up out of the south, both me and the fluff would go right along with it.
Like a reversible coat, my own failing can be the flip side of the equation. When it suits, I don guilt and defeat like war badges and wear suffering like a fashion accessory. Self-pity, excessive navel-gazing, and victim status can be cozy bedfellows. Even trials get me attention.
Eventually, however, the holes in my "clothes" become uncomfortably obvious. Scholarships fall through. A child rebels. Someone gets sick. As layer after layer strips away, my well-constructed covering becomes threadbare. I wobble, snapping at a child for accidentally hitting me with his light saber, or refusing to take a meal to a family because it would mess up my afternoon plans. I add more layers against chilly drafts of guilt. The best excuses, like cotton, are worn close to my skin and made buttery soft by repeated use. I am busy. I have six kids. I haven't slept since 1994. What do people expect?
In the end, though, I'm still naked. I'm the Emperor strolling through the streets in the buff, convinced the world can't see through me, forgetting that one day the things I've wrapped myself in-the labels sewn inside my clothes, the prestige of my zip code, my number of Facebook friends-will be dust, leaving nothing between me and my Creator but the Kansas wind.
"Christian," my pastor asks, "in whom do you trust?" Those Nicenes were onto something because it's a good question. Despite my claims to sola scriptura, sola fide, and sola gratia, despite the fact I know my salvation isn't dependent on these things, what I fear is that most days my life shows my trust is more in Me Alone than anything else.
And with all this scrambling for cover, I forget that the only coverings I really need-the garment of salvation and the robe of righteousness-are already mine. They fit perfectly, cover all flaws, and prove once and for all that white is always in style, no matter the season.