Wednesday, May 4, 2011

Why Modesty Matters...

1 Timothy 2:9-10 ~ 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

Several years ago, I sat in as a mentor in a class for young girls. This class focused on the subject of purity and was based upon the book, The Bride Wore White by Dannah Gresh. I received a copy of this book for participating in this study, and it is one that is going to be pulled off my bookshelf again when Lily becomes the proper age to discuss these matters (which, unfortunately, is a lot younger than most of us think.)

One of the topics of the study was the way that we as women dress. This is actually an issue that I already discuss with all of my children, but particularly Lily. In my opinion, you cannot start too early discussing modesty with your children, particularly your girls. And Lily already has a pretty good idea about what clothing is pleasing to God and what isn't. For instance, she knows that anything that shows her belly is a no-no in our home because we feel that that is exposing too much skin, no matter what the age. She also knows that she's not allowed to wear skirts or shorts that are too short.

In a culture that is so sexified, and in one that demoralizes women so extensively, it's become normal for immodest dress to parade through our towns, stores, schools, and, yes, even churches. The modern day church is not immune to the influx of immodest dress.

I have been guilty of dressing immodestly. And maybe others would not think of how I dressed at these particular times to be immodest, but, in retrospect, maybe that shirt was a little too low-cut or a little too tight, and those shorts were definitely too short. And, yes, I used to wear bikinis in high school.

As I've grown in my walk with the Lord, I've been learning more on this subject matter. What exactly is modest dress?

Well, I suppose that this could possibly be a matter of opinion to some extent since the Bible does not give any dimensions on the length of our skirts or anything that specific. However, I think that we all have common sense to know what should be considered modest and what should not. And if we are truly seeking the Lord in this area, He will convict us.

Here is how I feel convicted...

When it comes to shirts and tops, I like a well-fitting (ladies cut) shirt. I certainly don't like to look frumpy so I'm not one to wear loose, ill-fitting shirts. However, skin tight is too tight. If the shirt totally conforms to every curve of my upper body, then I probably shouldn't be wearing it unless it's layered under a jacket or other covering.

Also on the topic of shirts, the cut of the shirt matters. I feel totally uncomfortable wearing shirts in which I show any cleavage at all, even the shadow. The shirt should be far enough up on my chest that the top of it is taut against me. I also need to be careful of shirts with a looser collar, especially when leaning over (which seems to happen a lot with young children.) I do not need to be showing anyone what is meant to be hidden.

I'm also not comfortable with shirts that leave my bra straps exposed. So, this means that camis and other spaghetti-strap shirts are probably not going to be worn unless under something else. I also do not feel that wearing shirts with big cut-outs in the front or back is appropriate either.

Pants and jeans should fit well, but not skin tight. It is possible to look great and stylish even without wearing the skinny jeans that curve your backside as if you had nothing on at all. I know, some of you disagree with me on this one. The only time I would feel comfortable with wearing skinny jeans or leggings is if the top I was wearing was a long one and totally covered my behind.

I wear a lot of skirts. They are just more comfortable to me, and I like that I feel feminine in skirts. No, I am not going to tell you that you must wear a skirt, that the Bible tells us that we must wear skirts to our ankles. I know that some believe this, but this is not one of my personal convictions. I wear both pants and skirts, depending on my mood or what I will be doing on that particular day.

All of my skirts hit either right at the knee or below the knee to varying lengths. Anything shorter than that makes me feel uncomfortable. One of my skirts even has built in shorts in them, which is such a great idea, especially on days when I know I'll be more active.

Now, to the verse at the beginning of my blog post... Some may interpret this to mean that women should never braid their hair, that they should never wear jewelry, that they should never pay full price for a piece of clothing. However, I disagree. If you read to the end, we are to clothe ourselves with good works. Therefore, it does not matter if we wear a diamond bracelet or a pair of expensive jeans, as long as we are loving Jesus, following Him with our whole heart, and seeking to please Him in all we do.

I wear jewelry. I wear necklaces and earrings almost every day. And I also wear rings and bracelets and the occasional brooch. Wearing these things do not make me less godly. I can still wear these things, but they are not my focus in life. My focus needs to be on serving my God. And as long as I can wear a necklace and keep my priorities in line with God's priorities, I am okay.

This verse does specifically say that we are to wear modest clothing. We are to exert self-control in what we choose to wear. Sure it might make you feel good to know that men are looking at you, but we need to realize what's really going on here. Did you know that when you dress seductively, you are setting your brothers in Christ up for sin? You are setting them up to commit adultery in their hearts? I didn't fully grasp the importance of modest dress until I grasped this concept.

Men are easily enticed visually. I've read several books on this topic, in an effort to get to know the male gender/mind better so that I could better understand my husband. Men are very visual, and when a woman is standing in front of them talking to them while their cleavage is exposed, it is very difficult and awkward, especially for a man who is honestly trying to do the right thing by keeping his mind pure. I've talked to men, including my husband, about this. We ladies need to dress and act like ladies so that we're not leading our brothers in Christ into temptation. Ponder that.

To conclude, I'm not saying that we have to walk around in denim jumpers and big, frumpy shirts to remain modest. It is totally possible to have a stylish and, at the same time, modest wardrobe. And when we do, we are presenting our bodies as pleasing sacrifices to God. We are sacrificing the pride that we feel when we see a man turn his head to look at us, we are sacrificing the pleasure that we experience to know that someone (other than our husband) finds our bodies enticing. This is real. This is a real struggle for some women. It's a matter of low self-confidence, really. And, hey, I've been there!

So I encourage you women to learn about modesty along with me. Pray and ask God to show you what He views as modest. Pray through your closet (I know that probably sounds strange to some), and ask Him to reveal to you any clothing that He does not find pleasing. And then you need to decide to be willing to remove any clothing that is not modest.

And as the swimsuit season approaches, I wonder if you would consider a moment what you're aiming for in the swimsuit you purchase? Is it just a suit so that you can go and enjoy the sun and water? Or is it more than that? Is it something skimpy to wear to show off to the world what God has given you physically? Swimsuits are a difficult topic in modesty, but there are modest swimsuits out there and they are worth the little bit of extra money spent.

I am still learning about this topic. I am still learning about what God would consider pleasing and modest. I am still, at times, fighting battles with my pride. But, I am sure of one thing. When I get dressed in the morning, I need to look at myself and ask myself, "Is what I'm wearing going to potentially bring a man to sin with his mind?" If the answer is yes, I need to find something else to wear. If the answer is no, I can wear it with confidence in knowing that my self-worth comes not in how much I show of myself but in how much I am in Christ.


Dusty said...

This is a wonderful post! I am trying to teach my 5 year old about modest dressing and it is so difficult in this day and age when you have to literally scavenge through store after store to find appropriate clothing EVEN for small girls! It's horrifying really.

And btw, I am totally in agreement with you on skinny jeans!

theboysmomma24 said...

Sweet Amber, wonderful post. I agree with you 115%. I talk to my boys about this subject along with my nieces. It is a subject I believe is often overlooked. I don't like the skull look on boys and of course Isaac wants to wear them because they are EVERYWHERE. I think our boys need to be taught what to wear as well. Sorry I seem to be rambling..Great post Amber. Miss you guys

Dina said...

Modesty is one of the most important commandments for women in Judaism. There is a reason for this - our very souls depend on it, as do those of the men who we can cause to falter. To respect ourselves, our men, and G-d, we must cover the holy bodies we were given. In my home this means my girls will cover their elbows, collarbones, and knees at all times and we do not wear pants. Long sleeves year round sounds crazy to many secular people but when you're raised with it, it's really no problem. My girls are paragons of modesty, I am proud to say. Even my 5 year old daughter lets me know when a skirt falls too close to her knee for comfort. I know I am modeling dignity obedience for them by diligently covering my hair and all of the forbidden parts of my body, as well as saving parts of myself to be enjoyed only by my husband. I am glad to see Christian women are starting to also understand the importance of modesty. Best wishes and blessings!