Don’t worry – he was gentle.
Donald Miller, the author of such masterpieces as Blue Like Jazz, Searching for God Knows What, Through Painted Deserts, and To Own a Dragon (along with the upcoming A Map of Eden, apparently) made an appearance at Warsaw Community Church last Friday night. I was able to see him speak, along with a few friends of mine, and I thought he did a great job.
With the ease of a stand up comic taking the stage Don had no problem at all stepping up in front of an audience. This was very relieving, because part of me was worried that he would be a tremendous writer and a tremendously awful speaker. This was not the case.
First, I’ll talk about Warsaw – or as I like to think of it, the Merillat of churches. It really does look like a hotel (a nice one) as you drive up. I enjoyed the very open atmosphere of the church – it seemed very capable of expanding. More impressive than anything else, though, was the hardcore acoustic paneling covering their sanctuary. Walls, ceiling, carpeted floors, and soft chairs were all very purposefully there to aid the sound. And the sound was perfect. Warsaw Community Church is only about an hour away from Fort Wayne, so I’ll probably go visit some Sunday morning. If I (when I) do, I’ll post pictures and a more detailed overview of their church. Now, on to…
Nudity. If I had to describe the central focus of Don’s teaching last night, it would be nudity. Okay, maybe it was a little more than that, but it was still very important to him. Miller supposes (and one day will probably write a personality theory about it) that all conflict in the world rises from the fact that we can’t walk around naked anymore. That’s basically it. He began by quoting Genesis:
And the man and his wife were both naked and were not ashamed ((Genesis 2:25)). [the fall occurs] Then the eyes of both of them were opened, and they knew that they were naked; and they sewed fig leaves together and made themselves loin coverings. They heard the sound of the LORD God walking in the garden in the cool of the day, and the man and his wife hid themselves from the presence of the LORD God among the trees of the garden. Then the LORD God called to the man, and said to him, “Where are you?” He said, “I heard the sound of You in the garden, and I was afraid because I was naked; so I hid myself.” And He said, “Who told you that you were naked? Have you eaten from the tree of which I commanded you not to eat?” ((Genesis 3:7-11))
The bolded words are mine. For emphasis. Miller pointed out that the word naked shows up quite a bit in the first part of Genesis. This is pretty significant, considering how often we use it normally in stories we tell. Picture this: I’m walking down the street, and I meet up with a couple friends. We figure we might go see a movie, maybe grab a bite to eat. Oh, and we were naked. And then we saw –
The story quickly becomes a naked story, doesn’t it? So there is quite a bit of significance to the author pointing this out both before and after the fall. Miller’s theory was that the author of Genesis (whoever it was) explains conflict and the human condition in a couple paragraphs; the complete works of Freud could never do that. So Miller proposed that everything wrong with us can be traced back to the fall and the resulting “lifeboat” mindset. Here’s how it works.
If man was able to walk around naked before the fall and not know it, there must have been something different about them. It’s a very distinguishing characteristic. Think of the last time you were naked in front of someone. Who was it? Do you even remember? That’s not important – the important part is that for you to be willing to be naked in front of someone, you must feel extremely comfortable (whether naturally or with the help of some unnamed substance). You must feel accepted. Now, take it a step further. What kind of acceptance and love would it take for you to feel comfortable enough to be naked in front of everyone all the time? A lot.
Adam and Eve were receiving their love and acceptance from God. He was their Provider. So they didn’t care that they were naked. But after the fall God had to send them away – He was perfect and couldn’t associate with beings that were no longer “clean.” They were no longer receiving the perfect love and acceptance. Where do they find their acceptance? They immediately look to each other. Thus began the human condition that eventually became what it is today. Back to the lifeboat idea. Have you ever played the life boat game? It’s where there are five or so people (or more) in a group and each one is given an identity: doctors, lawyers, athletes, even mothers. Then they are given the news that only four of them are allowed to stay in “the lifeboat.” There isn’t enough food, they’ll all die otherwise, you get the idea. Now each player must defend himself or herself to the rest of the group: Why should you live? What is your worth? Why should we appreciate you? Then there is a voting process, someone dies and everyone has a good laugh.
But do you see how quickly our lives can become/are the lifeboat game? Immediately after the fall Adam and Eve were left to find acceptance from each other. They saw they were naked. They hid. They became ashamed. They felt inadequate. Fast forward a few thousand years. We hide. We feel ashamed. We feel inadequate.
Who knows, Miller may be on to something with this idea.