This is an article that I wrote for a college women's ministry in the Midwest called Lily 7. Thought I'd share it.
I was reading an interesting post by my friend Nikki on the blog about a sorority that required it’s girls to wear thongs in order to safely avoid the fashion faux pa of visible panty lines. I have not been able to shake this from my mind all day. This bugged me for a few different reasons, but I’m trying to sort through them, to the root of it. I would like to make a public announcement that I wear underwear, and if you see my panty lines, I’m ever so sorry. But my secret is out. I will wear a thong when absolutely necessary, but a few hours into it, I’m down-right unpleasant to be around. They make me grumpy. That little tid-bit about myself was free…totally unrelated.
This is what it comes down to for me. Phil. 2:3 in the New Living Translation. First, let me tell you I’m part-near fanatical about the NLT. I love it. Also, I always say that none of us can be a Proverbs 31 woman until we’ve become a Phil. 2 woman. I have studied, re-read, re-memorized Phil. 2, again and again, and it convicts me every time. Phil. 2 reminds us that none of life is about us. What we all need is a huge dose of Christ-like humility. I have found that almost every stubborn sin that plagues me has pride deep down at the root. Okay, now to the verse. Within verse 3 it says “don’t live to make a good impression on others.” This is found within the context of throwing off selfishness and putting on humility. But this phrase has stuck with me. In fact, I’m trying to make it my new mantra.
I would not have normally described myself as someone who lives to make a good impression on others. I would like to say I embrace ME for me, and would rather lead than follow. This may or may not be true, but other’s opinions of me hold a much higher regard than I once ought, or admitted to myself. They do for all of us. We are concerned with fashion faux pas, social faux pas, and maybe even political faux pas. (I’ve never written the word faux pa so many times in my entire life.) Some of these “rules” may seem to be motivated out of courtesy. Sending a prompt thank-you note. Being careful not to offend others, and being polite. I’m from the south, so we are brought up as experts in this. However, most of these things, if we’re honest, are meant to make us look good. We are always conscious of what others are thinking, or how they see us. Do they see our panty lines? Do we look attractive in what we are wearing? Are others impressed with our creative abilities? Do they take notice of our gifts? How do we look to others? To others of the opposite sex? To our Moms? To our mothers-in-law? To our girlfriends? We are playing the comparison game all of the time. We compare our weight, our clothes, our gifts, our abilities, our grades, and anything else we can find to compare. We have an invisible shifting standard that we as women are trying to live up to, and here’s the kicker. We never will. This is a sad description, and maybe a little pessimistic, but it hits home for many of us. I could take this directly to the issue of contentment, because that is our command from scripture. Do you know when Paul said in Phil. 4:13 “I can do all things through Christ who strengthens me” he was talking about contentment? Read that passage and the context of that verse. This must be the most highly quoted and abused verse of all time. It’s actually not a Nike commercial slogan. It’s talking about our contentment with whatever circumstances we are given! (And look closely at some of those circumstances for Paul!) But contentment will have to be another article.
My issue with this obsession of ours about what others think of us is this; we spend a lifetime of thought and worry over what man thinks of us, and very little thought and worry over what the Lord our God thinks. We are nonchalant in our persistence in sin. (Hello, have we read the Old Testament!?) We have a long list of excuses as to why we are not in His Word. We allow things that have no eternal value to pack our schedules and consume our thoughts and energies. What is our problem? When will we care about what God cares about?
I have had to ask myself so many times when struggling with something, “is this eternal?” Most often, it’s something that I am doing in an effort to “make a good impression on others.” I become a crazy lady when my mother-in-law comes to visit, trying to keep my house clean, with my three kids smack-dab in my way. The Lord has to grab hold of me and remind me of my new mantra. I am not living to make a good impression on others anymore. My life, and everything in it, is to please the Lord, the Creator of me and everything else. My purpose is to bring him glory! So under that assertion, everything else can go to pot. Okay, I’m not quite there yet. I go to the gym and run on the treadmill like an insane person because I don’t want to gain weight. (I’d like to say it’s only because my body is the Temple of God, but there’s a little more to it than that.) I search high and low for cute jeans because I don’t want to become one of those Moms. You know the ones, with jeans pulled up just under their saggy boobs, and a fanny pack around their waist. No thank you. And my house still does sparkle quite a bit more than normal when my mother-in-law comes to visit. I wish I could say that I had discarded all of that, but I haven’t. But I do have to keep myself in check. What is eternal, and what is temporary? The scripture says several times that God does not look on our outward appearance, but looks at the heart. That rules out our obsession with physical appearance. When I’m using my gifts, are they for the Lord, or for myself? Is everything, I mean everything in my life about glorifying God, or do I save a little for my own glory? What am I holding back from him? There’s so much freedom in letting some of those things go, and focusing on being a God-pleaser and not a people-pleaser. (Galatians 1:10) When we are free to focus on what pleases God, our hearts are broken for the lost, our priorities radically change, and the temporary is traded in for the eternal. Paul wrote in Phil. 3 “I once thought all these things were so very important, but now I consider them worthless because of what Christ has done. Yes, everything else is worthless when compared with the priceless gain of knowing Christ Jesus my Lord. I have discarded everything else, counting it all as garbage…” I think a lot of what entangles us in this life is in fact just that. Garbage.
How did all that come from thongs? I do not know. My mind is a scary place. But in my opinion, if you must sport a pant line, do it proudly. From one sorority girl to the next, I would turn in my pin and save my money if there is an actual rule about your underwear. That is ridiculous. We as women need to start encouraging each other to focus on pleasing the Lord, and care less about impressing everyone else.