I first came across the idea of praying nude in “An Alter in the World” by (my lady crush) Barbara Brown Taylor.
In the chapter entitled “The Practice of Wearing Skin,” Barbara talks about how she was admiring a grand mural of the newly-resseructed Jesus when she noticed that Jesus (who was naked except for a loin cloth that was wrapped around him) didn’t have any hair in his armpits. Or that his chest was “smooth as a peach.” As Barbara unpacks the oddity of this and the significance of Jesus remaining in skin after the resurrection, out of nowhere, she says:
I can say that I think it is important to pray naked in front of a full-length mirror sometimes, especially when you are full of loathing for your body.
Barbara went on to explain how the very practice of wearing skin is the most underrated and unnoticed miracle there is, but I had trouble paying attention. My mind was fixated on the idea of praying naked.
‘How brilliant!’ I thought to myself.
So when I decided to stand in front of my mirror after a shower this summer, I thought I was ready. ‘Spiritual God, I am ready for you! Here I go,’ I thought to myself. I was quite excited. For months, Barbara had been guiding me on different spiritual practices that had been fruitful, and I knew this was just going to as fulfilling.
I stepped out of the bathroom in a towel and slowly walked up to my mirror. I dropped the towel and studied at my body in the mirror — my muffin top, jiggly thighs, and all. I took a deep breath and managed a “Dear God” out of my mouth. What happened next was unexpected.
With roars of ferocious laughter, I knocked myself down to my knees. This wasn’t any ordinary laughter. This was the snot runs down your nose – your tummy aches terribly – you wheeze uncontrollably – your facial muscles starts hurting – people think they might have to call 9-1-1 soon – kind of laughter. My grandmother had to knock at my door to make sure I wasn’t dying or hurt in any way. I might have told her I simply slipped and fell. I couldn’t possibly explain to my 85-year-old grandmother that I just tried pray naked in front a mirror and thought it was the funniest thing ever!
I must confess, I have had issues with my body. Sure, I make rude comments to my muffin tops and flabby thighs (l do literally talk to my body parts). And of course, I’ve done everything I can to stay away from bikinis and skin-hugging dresses. But somewhere along the way, I think I started to laugh a little more. I allowed myself to eat an extra Oreo without feeling terribly guilty. I dared to wear short dresses despite my jiggly thighs. I held my head up slightly higher from the ground. Somewhere, I found the joy of bearing my body. So maybe that’s why laughter just seemed to be the appropriate response to this act of prayer. Maybe laughter was my prayer, my way of proclaiming that I think I like the way I look, so thanks be to God.