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Wednesday, May 07, 2008

Modesty


We've been talking about this with the Her Hands girls.
Romans 12 is one of my all-time favorite chapters of the Bible.
It punches me everytime.
"Don't copy the behavior and customs of this world, but let God transform you into a new person by changing the way you think. Then you will know what God wants you to do, and you will know how good, pleasing, and perfect his will really is."
Romans 12:2

We have definitely been taking all our cues from the world in regards to the way we dress, from our culture, rather than from God, haven't we?
I admit, I have.
I put myself on the throne of my closet, making all clothing decisions based on what made ME look the best, what I enjoyed wearing, sacrificing very little of what I wanted for the sake of modesty.
We girls...we have this burning desire to be beautiful.
I wish it weren't true.
But we have chain-linked our self-image to outward beauty.
The Bible anticipates this, of course.
1 Peter 3:3-5
3 Don't be concerned about the outward beauty that depends on fancy hairstyles, expensive jewelry, or beautiful clothes. 4 You should be known for the beauty that comes from within, the unfading beauty of a gentle and quiet spirit, which is so precious to God.

We've all read that. I just don't think we get it yet.
In order to achieve the outward appearance and approval from either the males or females we are dressing for (because we all know girls most often are dressing to impress other girls) we overlook our call to modesty and holiness.
1 Tim 2:9-10
9 And I want women to be modest in their appearance. They should wear decent and appropriate clothing and not draw attention to themselves by the way they fix their hair or by wearing gold or pearls or expensive clothes. 10 For women who claim to be devoted to God should make themselves attractive by the good things they do.

Is that truly how we're making ourselves attractive?
I realize more and more, in our culture, we deny ourselves very little.
We pretty much do what we want, when we want to, without delay.
We sacrifice virtually nothing in a day for ourselves.
I have found myself standing in my closet, battling over a piece of clothing that I really like, not wanting to sacrifice it for the sake of modesty.
My selfishness makes me sad.
Over the last few years, God has been growing me.
I have been longing to learn what it means to put others' interest above my own. (Phil. 2)
When it comes to modesty, the very first thing we ought to know is that our dress affects men around us.
This is a "duh!" Of course it does! We already know how visual men are.
If you have a husband, you definitely know this! You can't deny it.
We have the power to draw an eye. As a wife, that's marvelous. But it's a power we have abused and used to hurt and cause our brothers to stumble.
"Decide instead to live in such a way that you will not put an obstacle in another Christian's path." Romans 14:13
If you have ever had an honest conversation with Christian brothers about this, you would know this. We have encouraged our Her Hands girls to go to their HOPE groups and ask Godly men about this. We have. It's been good. But they haven't said anything I didn't already know.
Really, we DO know this, all of us. We just don't care very much.
We continue to wear whatever we want, whatever flatters us, whatever makes us feel good, without regard for our weaker brother.
This is clearly a heart issue. It's not a set of rules we must live by, but a sensitivity to the Holy Spirit, letting Him lead us in every area of our lives! It's a matter of love, or lack of love, for our brothers in Christ...really caring about the battle they wage against sexual temptation. It's a really small way to die to ourself. Really small! Yet we cling to those tiny sacrifices, as if they were big ones.
I remember, not very long ago, when I had categories in my closet. You know "church clothes", and OTHER, because there were certain things I would wear out, to work-out in, to swim in, whatever, that were NOT what I would wear to church or in front of my pastor. What's up with that? Why is it okay in one situation, and not in another?
I'm still asking the Lord to show me the double standards I have set up. I want to be above reproach in this area. I've not arrived yet. But my heart is much softer and more willing to hear Him on this than it used to be.
So let's be honest. There are some things we Christian women continue to wear that they are saying are a problem.
For the sake of specificity, let's throw out a few.
*Two piece swimsuits
*anything that shows our middle, really.
*anything showing cleavage (for those women who have it!)
*anything showing any "boob skin" as we called it in Her Hands on Sunday night!
*short shorts!
*even some guys say tank tops (especially when bra straps or any part of your bra is showing.)
*Stretch across your boobs shirts. The kind that totally outline and frame your chest. (The ones you think you look really good in.)
These are just a few examples taken directly from coversations with Christian guys recently, who have been vulnerable and honest enough with us to give us specifics.
I appreciate them! I appreciate them helping us attune our ears to conviction, and for helping us "older women" (yes, I live in a town where being 32 is being an older woman. Awesome, hu?) teach the younger women.
As swimsuit season and summer approaches, this is something to consider again.
As I've thrown out a ton of clothes and asked God to lead me, have I felt less attractive? Oddly, no.
Do I feel less fashionable? Really, no. I thought I would. I don't.
Do I feel more comfortable? YES. I also like wearing clothes without the nagging feeling that I'm pushing the limit. I hated that feeling. I still hate it today when I wear something I feel a little strange about, but then wear it anyway. It's not worth it.
So I want to hear from y'all...what are your thoughts, questions, points of discussion here. The last time I opened this up for discussion on my blog, I learned a lot! Let's hear it.

8 comments:

Tamara said...

We went to the Children's Place recently and my daughter (9) picked out a little tank top...WITH RHINESTONES all over the "triangles". She said "I LOVE THIS ONE" and so I held it up to my chest and asked my daughter what people would be looking at if she wore that particular shirt...she caught on VERY quickly and immediately put it back on the shelf. I was very proud she was able to make the connections between the rhinestones emphasizing a chest that doesn't need to have attention drawn to it and what God wants us to wear...

bekah said...

ur FAVORITE question at the Facts of Life house is,

"Am I modest?"

I have had to get rid of HALF of my wardrobe. My first thought is STINK! but my second thought is: its worth it!!!
I feel SO comfortable. I may not be the most stylish person alive, but all of my clothes cover me and I do not feel self concious (sp?)

My newest discovery: I have a long torso, so most of my shirts are too short when I bend over.
Tuck in your long tank tops and you can bend and twist as much as you need to! This is especially helpful when you are watching children or teaching!

Finally, girls, I think we need to ask ourselves what we REALLY want in the long run.

Do you want to sit in a marriage someday thinking...
1. what did my husband notice FIRST?? did he like me for how I looked?
2. and will he get tired of me when I start looking OLD?

I don't know about any of you girls, but I want someone to love me for me, FOR MY HEART, not what I can't help about my body.

Finally, I love that Believers take care of themselves. And you can be SUPER modest and still look cute. You can still style your hair, you can still WASH your face, you can still keep your nails pretty and your shirt matching.
Learning to take of the little details blew my mind, and it makes a HUGE difference

Christy said...

I follow a blog of Vicky Courtney who writes books aimed at parents of kids, tweens and teens, specifically daughters and technology. Anyway, she has a new book coming out at the end of the summer that looks great called "5 conversations you must have with your daughter". Here is a link http://virtuealert.blogspot.com/2008/05/have-daughter-get-excited.html

Anonymous said...

I went through my closet and emptied out a bunch of things I didn't feel comfortable wearing anymore - and the stuff I liked but knew I shouldn't wear out, I put in a box and saved to wear ONLY for my husband one day. Just a thought...

Julie said...

Jenn - I'm a friend of Tamra's and I have enjoyed reading your blog. This subject is SO great for young women! I find myself wanting the same things...to look pretty and wear flattering clothes, but knowing in my heart the priority of keeping my brothers from stumbling. There is a great resource for this that I've found, that I thought I'd mention just in case you didn't know about it. It's from the girl talk blog, and it's called the "Modesty Heart Check." It is a list of GREAT guidelines to go by when you are dressing, and is not a legalistic wear this/don't wear that list, but instead a procedure any girl can walk through before she leaves the bedroom. Here's the link (I put a return in there so it wouldn't be cut off...):
http://girltalk.blogs.com/girltalk
/files/modesty_heart_check3.pdf

Just in case you have trouble with the pdf file, here's the link to the specific blog post that introduces the "Heart Check".

http://girltalk.blogs.com/girltalk/
2006/04/modesty_heart_c.html

I hope this is helpful to someone!
Thanks for blogging, Jenn!

Amy Jo Kite said...

Hi!

My name is Amy Jo. I have come across your blog a few times and have definitely been encouraged by it.

It really encourages my heart to see people who desire to live modestly. In the past few years, God has deepened my view of what modesty is. Like you said in your post, it ultimately comes down to a matter of the heart.

A few years ago, I started asking the question, "what parts of me will be 'sacred'(what only God, & my husband will see/know) and what parts of me will be 'public' (what the rest of the world sees/knows)."

I understand that different people have different perspectives on what should be "sacred" or "public" but God showed me that for me, even things such as my bare shoulders and bare legs are sacred and I desire even those parts to be only for my husband. I can say, now being married, that it has been and is still worth dressing very modestly.

He has even led me to wear long skirts, to save my form for my husband. This was a bit of a struggle for me to do, coming from a family and community who doesn't dress as such, and, honestly I didn't want to look like a mawmaw (no offense to any "mawmaws" who read this). Of course, it wasn't as "hard" as I thought it would be, and it's been fun to get creative in developing my own "style" so to speak.

God has led me and my husband (even before we got married) to not swim in mixed company (girls/guys). I understand that swimming is such a part of our culture, but I believe that the standards of modesty are the same across the board, no matter the situation. We obviously would say that you shouldn't wear even a one-piece swimsuit as your regular apparel to work or in public if you weren't going swimming, so I honestly don't see what makes it okay for guys and girls to see/be around each other in wet swimsuits (unless they are married). Even now, as a married couple, my husband will only swim together, not even with other couples (1. We don't want anyone seeing those "sacred" parts of us; 2. We don't want to put ourselves or others in a position to stumble).

These things have really encouraged our marriage and our life and it's taught us to value our bodies and realize that we aren't "public property".

Thanks again for sharing your heart and experiences through your blog; it really is encouraging.

-Amy Jo

Amy Jo Kite said...

Hi again.

Something else I meant to mention is that you may want to check out the results of a survey called "The Modesty Survey". It was done by brothers who started The Rebelution (www.therebelution.com). They had Christian girls come up with questions about modesty, and Christian guys responded.

It's quite eye-opening to see the results and some of the guys comments about specific ways girls dress. Just thought it might be helpful if you hadn't come across it already.

Here's the website: http://www.therebelution.com/modestysurvey/

If you click on "survey results" it will let you view different categories of modesty and see the guys responses.

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