Saturday, April 10, 2010
Sarah's Thoughts on Modesty
Although God commands us to be modest, His Word is very different from a 180 youth camp packing list. It doesn't spell out all of the details about what to wear and what not to wear. Do I have to wear a dark shirt over my bikini? Can I wear short shorts or spaghetti straps? How short is too short? What is a spaghetti strap? What about V-neck shirts? You see, though youth camps are very particular about what should be worn (and they can and should be), God’s word is not the same way.
There is not a verse that says, “And he said to the people, it is unwise and immodest to reveal more than one third of your skin” 2 Opinions 3:5. Why you ask? Good question [I mean it’d be so much easier]. Well, there are probably a lot of reasons, but I think mostly because fashions change like the wind and because God gives us free will to choose to obey the general principles He does give us in the Word and through the conviction of the Holy Spirit in the practicalities of our lives [modesty is one such practicality].
Here is one such principle that can be played out in many ways from Luke: 10:25-28:
On one occasion an expert in the law stood up to test Jesus. "Teacher," he asked, "What must I do to inherit eternal life?" "What is written in the Law?" he (Jesus) replied, "How do you read it?" He (the man) answered: " 'Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your strength and with all your mind'; and, 'Love your neighbor as yourself." "You have answered correctly," Jesus replied. "Do this and you will live.”
The ultimate goal is for us to love Jesus in all things, including modesty. Did you catch that loving Jesus in ALL things includes with ALL of our heart and ALL of our strength? AND to love our neighbors as we love ourselves? Wow! Hard? Yeah! But it’s also helpful to read on because Jesus says if we do this we will LIVE! What is life? Jesus came to give us a rich and abundant life through redemption! He’s given us the Holy Spirit so that we can be filled with good things that come from him (that nothing and no one else can give us) and resist following a destructive path that leads to death (Matthew 7:13-14). As we seek Him about everything (modesty included) we can trust that He has our VERY BEST in mind...a life with abundance and purpose! Isn't that so exciting? What grace!
So what does it look like to love Jesus with all of our heart, mind, soul, and strength and to love others as ourselves in modesty? Well, there are many ways, but here is a little practicality that scripture does give us in terms of modesty.
“likewise also that women should adorn themselves in respectable apparel, with modesty and self-control, not with braided hair and gold or pearls or costly attire, but with what is proper for women who profess godliness—with good works.” 1 Timothy 2:9-10
Modesty here is listed among “respectable apparel” and “self-control” and “good-works” as something that women should adorn themselves with. It’s not saying don’t go to Gap and buy those jeans! It’s not a "rules based only" type of clothing, it’s an motivation! What is your attitude toward your fashion choices? What is your motivation? That my dear friend is what it's all about... the motivation of your heart and what comes out of it!
But you may be thinking… “Yeah, Sarah that sounds real great and well, maybe a little easier said than done, Jesus is cool and I mean I think I believe that… but what you’re really saying is that I can’t wear short shorts and bikini’s like all of the other girls do. right? Ugh! No guy is ever going to like me if I don’t look like all of the other girls and I really do need to look my best! I mean I can’t let some other girl one up me or look better than me! I mean, what would I do if I walked into a room and stood out or someone looked better than I did?”
Ding, ding, ding! We have a winner! We have hit the issue on the head. Read the paragraph above again.
Does this sound like you? It certainly sounds like me not long ago. But if this is you, what you’re really saying is that it is all about YOU and what others think about YOU, and not only that, but you’re worried about being “the” best looking girl rather than “a” good looking girl? Right? Right! Can I say that WE are very SELFISH?! Eeek!
Girl, I want you to know that this is an issue that almost every single woman does, has, or will struggle with, myself included, which is why I am writing about it. The world tells us that we have to be sensual (aka sexy) in order to be beautiful. And our pride tells us that we have to look “the” best in the room rather than just being “a” girl in the room that looks good.
Only in the past couple of years have I really saw how much of my fashion life has been lived to look the “best”. It has been all about MWA! Only recently has the Lord radically convicted me and changed my heart on this subject. Do I now walk around in a robe looking trash nasty having rarely brushed my hair? Girlfriend, NO WAY! I love me some new clothes and a new haircut! However, there are a few things I now try to think about when shopping and they are things I want to challenge you to think about as well.
To start off using the verse above (the one in 1 Timothy), if my modest attitude is to be reflected in “respectable apparel”, what in the world is “respectable apparel”? Not only this, but what does it look like to respect your body? Like I said, the world’s standard is that the more sensual (aka sexier) you look and feel, the better. I KNOW that this is not what God would call respectable apparel. To be respectable or to dress respectably means that you think that YOU are worthy of respect and you are going to dress that way! Is your main concern that others think you look real good in short shorts? Do you think you have to be sensual in order to be desirable? What a lie! What a lie! So many people love you dear sister and if you think that wearing super sensual clothing makes you desirable, then you are dead wrong. You are so worthy or respect! God loves you dear girl, he loves you! So, by gosh, dress like you are loved!
With that said, what does it look like to have “self-control” in modesty? And what does doing “good works” have to do with modesty? Self-control means to have control or restraint of oneself or one's actions and feelings. What in the world does this have to do with modesty?
Well, our brothers and sisters usually suffer if we don’t consider them in our fashion choices. We must acknowledge that no matter what our body type, it may tempt the others to sin through sexual thoughts, judgment, or jealousy and if we don't have self-control over what we are wearing we're helping them to sin.
The tough question to consider when choosing our fashion then, is, “Do I look too good (cute, flattering, too sensual, etc.) for my own good and for the good of others? ”Do I have self-control over my desire to look good? Am I trying to do good to those around me through my fashion choices? Or am I being selfish because I want these outfits to make me feel and look a certain way in order to be appealing to men and to look better than other women? I should be WAY more concerned about doing good to my bro’s and sista’s than about myself and this is done through self-control in modesty!
Another way to do good, in terms of modesty, is to ask those in authority over us what they think about our wardrobe. If we're single girls it's very honoring to parents for their daughters to ask their thoughts on modesty. This might mean your dad tells you to go upstairs to change. If we're married, we need to ask our husbands what they think and then rest in their leadership. God has given women the blessing of living under authority. Husbands and parents (and their thoughts on these matters) are truly gifts and trust me, they know what they are talking about!
There were times where I would wear something that I would have never considered to be immodest, but because I look at myself like a woman and my dad (and now my husband) looks at me like a man, he was/is able to lead me to see that my clothes were actually a stumbling block. I certainly don’t want to attract the attention of any man that is not husband if I can help it! This goes for you single girls too... may the man that chooses to marry you be attracted to you, but more so for your character than your dress! Joel has been very helpful in my selection of what I wear to go swimming. There is nothing better than going swimsuit shopping as not only a pastors wife, but a junior high pastor's wife. He’s honest and affirms me that I look good. I might not look good according to some of the world’s eyes (because they want to only see me as sensual), but I look good to Joel (and he sees me as his wife, a role model to other girls, and a future mom of his children), and that’s all that matters!
So, what does that leave us with? Looking like tan-less grandma when going to the pool? Not hardly! I feel so cute and comfortable in my fashion choices because I know my motivation is to please the Lord, to have self control, to do good to others, and to submit to those in authority over me.
My hope here is to challenge you to sort out and confirm your convictions about modesty. If you’re being led by the Spirit that God has given you so you can LOVE HIM and OTHERS and HAVE LIFE, your convictions WILL line up with the principles and practicalities given in Scripture.
Modesty lived out is going to look different for all of us to some extent (mostly because we all have different bodies made by our awesome Creator). No person can fully define modesty with "rules" that will really work for all of us as women. We must work through modesty "issues" with the Lord and those who love us, asking for a teachable, humble heart and follow the general principles He's given us in the Word.
I pray we're not following the ways of the fashion market blindly, but honestly going to God and asking Him to shape our wardrobe like He's shaping our souls in every other area. May we avoid the road that can so easily lead to destruction! May our goal be to imitate Christ in all areas of our life and believe it or not, modesty is a part of this process.
So, what does modesty look like you ask? If modesty were a woman, she would be very beautiful, but not only because of her clothes, but she would be beautiful because of Holy Spirit at work in her!
As an added bonus, here are some great sites that I’ve found to help us live practically with the motivation of modesty:
Shorts (the longer mid to lower thigh): http://oldnavy.gap.com/browse/category.do?cid=35158 and http://www.gap.com/browse/category.do?cid=5715
Help and some references from the following blog: http://allthingshendrick.blogspot.com/2010/04/guest-post-modesty.html