Musings on Modesty


Even though there is still snow on ground I can tell spring and summer is just around the corner because I’ve already started to hear/read Christian people talking about female modesty. My heart aches every time this subject comes up. I start by questioning my own motivates. If you know me even a little bit you’ll know that I like fashion. But more than that I like creativity. I take joy in expressing myself in the way I dress but also in how I decorate my house, plan a party, or even the crafts I enjoy doing with my kids. The world God created is beautiful, colorful, and expressive and I can’t imagine enjoying those things is necessarily a sin. While getting dressed, I do think about the clothes I’ve put on and have sometimes changed because I’m afraid that certain movements would expose more than I wish. I have tried on dresses that were on trend and looked good on me but I didn’t buy them because I knew they more than accentuated my form. I don’t think a call to modesty in and of itself is bad. I, however, don’t make these choices because I’m afraid of what other men will think; I do it because God created my body and I want to honor Him and in doing so, I’m more comfortable.  It is not my desire to have any man (other than Jer) look at me lustfully. I do hope that Jeremy enjoys the way I dress and I will admit that there are certain women (who’s style I admire) that I enjoy getting compliments from - I do sometimes wrestle with if this possibly makes be vain/immodest.  But turning another man’s head never cross my mind. Attracting them is not what’s in my heart, so I honestly don’t think of them. I hate being reminded/told that even though I don’t want their coveting thoughts that I am somehow at fault for them. That I’m some how responsible for their coveting hearts. 

The page has been taken down now, but the website "The Rebelution" did a survey on what Christian men thought were modest and immodest attire for woman. (*If you are really interested some of the results can be seen here*) It was a bit comical because if you wanted to dress modestly for all of the 1600+ men who responded there was really nothing left to wear but maybe an Amish outfit - without the apron because it could accentuate your waist. And even then women would need to be careful not to stretch, to walk without swaying or bouncing, and to not bend over in front of men. Once again, I don't think there anything wrong with modesty; I just don't think women should have to be militant about there clothes, body movements, or facial expressions just so men (especially Christian men) don't have to take minute to exam their own souls. 

I do think that a lot of Christians are a bit confused on what it means to sinfully lust after some one. We often hear Matthew 5:28 quoted “everyone who looks at a women with lustful intent has already committed adultery in his heart.”  As I study that verse though I understand lust to actually mean to covet (to desire wrongfully, inordinately, or without due regard for the rights of others), like in the tenth commandment “thou shall not covet”. I can notice someone’s new necklace and think it’s beautiful; it’s when that admiration turns to wrongful desire or disregards the other person that I sin. Admiring something or recognizing the beauty of something is not sin. Another example that crosses my mind is that, I personally, think a man who can skillfully teach children is one the most attractive qualities a guy can possess. I can notice and even admire men who are good teachers. I can choose to be thankful for Jeremy, who also has this quality. I can choose to  be grateful that other women and kids are blessed with such men. Or I can choose to let these thoughts lead me to sin: imagining that they were mine, or comparing them to my husband, or being jealous of my friends. Admiring their gift is not a sin, wanting it for myself is what makes it a sin. I think men (and women) need to realize that noticing someone’s beauty is not a sin; it’s when they decided that they want it for themselves that they sin.

I hate the mantra of “just look away.” I think when we tell men to just look away from anything they find attractive we are weakening them (they become a victim) and as result, we weaken God’s power in them. Jeremy works with college students and they don’t all dress “appropriately” but I’d never tell him to just look away. I’d say look harder, find her heart, pray that God would show you His heart for her. I pray the same things for my sons: that they would not be men who look away but men who see women through God’s eyes. Men who delight in the inside and outside beauty God has blessed the women in their lives with. Men who can encourage and build up their sisters in Christ. Men who are really ready to be leaders and are not just following the footsteps of their father Adam and still blaming the woman.  

God can have victory over sin! They idea that coveting a women’s body is this never ending battle for Christian men just seems ridiculous to me. This is the God who created the world in seven days, parted the red sea, sealed lions mouths, healed illness, and conquered death; but the men who are suppose to be his followers cannot help but covet when they see “immodestly” dressed women. Philippians 4:6-7 says “do not be anxious about anything, but in everything by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your requests be made know to God. And the peace of God, which surpasses all understanding will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus,” The world, and sadly the Christian world, has told men that lustful thoughts are “everyman’s battle”. But God surpasses our understanding; he can bring peace and guard men’s hearts. Men do not need to continue to take on the role of “victim”. Maybe I'm being dramatic but it feels like this is the only sin Evangelicals don’t expect restoration from. 

I believe God is sovereign. I’m not sure why but He has decided to call me one of his beloved children and I know that He could have done this in lots of ways but in my life He used men who didn’t choose to “just look away” or decide I was a temptress. I didn’t grow up in a Christian home, I actually come from a broken and abusive home. I came to Christ as a teenager and while I wasn’t trying to dress like a harlot I wasn’t by any means trying to dress modestly either. As a high schooler, I went to church by myself. It was awkward at first but I was quickly welcomed in by other people’s families. I didn’t have a good father influence growing up - I was either a burdened or a sexual object. The men from my church who embraced me, saw me, and loved me despite my short skirts or straps gave me a clear picture of who God was. Wives of these men could have judged me, isolated me, or told me I was a temptress but instead they also embraced me. (Side-note, when we tell men to “look away” we also tell their wives that these women are their enemies.) It was through these families that I learned to dig in to God’s word, to seek Him in prayer, and to strive to follow His laws. When I choose to throw out a piece of “in-modest” clothing or to not buy a item, it’s because I want to honor God. 

However, when I’m told over and over again that the men in Christianity (who are suppose to be our leaders) cannot control their thoughts, that they cannot help but covet, that for some reason this area cannot be changed, my heart aches! It aches because I feel like I can’t be creative or expressive, qualities that didn’t come alive until after I met Christ. It aches because all of a sudden I feel unsafe among Christian men; just like the twelve-year-old who felt unsafe in front of her stepdad - "what if I do something wrong?" This thought makes me fear for my daughter, who is so young and innocent, but already loves to look pretty. It aches because it awakens a fearful doubt - what God is this (that I call my own), if He can't change the lustful hearts of the men who claim to follow him. 

1 comment:

  1. What a beautiful, well-expressed post. It brought tears to my eyes. Thank you.

    ReplyDelete

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