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3 {real} reasons to dress modestly

3 real reasons to dress modestly

“In like manner also, that women adorn themselves in modest apparel, with shamefacedness and sobriety; not with broided hair, or gold, or pearls, or costly array; but (which becometh women professing godliness) with good works.” 1 Timothy 2:9-10 KJV

I’ve heard it said that the 1 Timothy 2:9 call for women in the church to “adorn themselves in modest apparel” is probably more in reference to not spending lots of time and money trying to look better than each other, rather than a reference to how much skin they were covering (after all, I’m pretty sure even the gentiles of that day-and-age wore pretty discreet attire.) It should not surprise us that Paul would be inspired by God to write to women about focusing on things above, rather than vain, exterior things.

It is ironic, however, think of how this applies to us in 2015. Obviously, we should not be so shallow as to spend all of our money and time competing with one another on who has the latest, trendiest clothes. But also, in our culture in which we compete over who has the longest legs, smallest waist, most toned arms or most shapely this-or-that, our competition almost takes us back to the old understanding of the text: that women should cover our bodies.

Let’s take the sexual aspect of it out. Say there were no men who might “stumble” depending on how you’re dressed. Say that were a non-issue. Would you dress modestly, or would you still try to tout certain features as a way to compete with other women?

We will always have “designer” this and “the latest” that to use against each other, and to don as medals of fashion victories, but we’re probably even more obsessed with sizes than brands.

There are some unhealthy reasons to dress modestly, the topmost being that you are ashamed of your body. You are a designer piece, handcrafted by someone so enamored with you, He calls you His masterpiece. Your body belongs to God and He, in all his pure glory, finds it fit to dwell in. The body is celebrated in scripture as beautiful, sensual, strong and sacred. Take care of your body and don’t be ashamed of it!

The second most common unhealthy reason for modesty is the idea that women are to blame for men’s lust issues. This is somewhat complicated, but in a nutshell: we are sexual beings who should be and will be attracted to one another, no matter how we dress. However, being attracted to someone and committing the sin that is lust are two different things. We are all, men and women alike, prone to lust and responsible for our own actions. With that said, we would do well not to tempt anyone, be it our brother or sister, into any kind of sin, whether that be lust or envy or malice or gossip.

Proverbs warns continually agains “the temptress” who lures men into her web, no doubt by immodest dress, word and action. Don’t be a temptress…to anyone!

With that said, I still think it’s important that we dress modestly in the traditional sense which is, covering our bodies. What that means exactly (how long, loose and dull must our clothes be??) is not for me to say. For one thing, I have not received any special message from God about that. For another, it really is, as much as we hate to admit it, a matter of culture. As I’ve written before, it’s a also matter of personal convictions. 

With that said, here are three real reasons to dress modestly:

1. Modesty says, “I am dignified.” 

Few things have remained true throughout the centuries, but one thing that hasn’t changed is the association between modesty and dignity. Though advances in woman’s stance in the culture have (thankfully) led to fewer restrictions on what we wear, we cannot fully associate immodest dress with liberty. In many ways, showing the world our bodies says, “Don’t objectify me, I’ll objectify myself!” No matter our motive, we are still showcasing our bodies as mere sexual objects when we purposefully dress in a way that’s seen as revealing. So yes, it’s liberty from corsets and dragging hemlines and the “rules” that governed both, but it’s not true liberty. True liberty is found in Christ, and when we acknowledge that, we no longer need the attention that comes along with dressing a certain way.

If we are going to continue fighting for gender equality, let’s make sure our dignity as women is at the frontline. I don’t want to be “liberated” so that I can use my hips and waist and breasts and legs to entice, but so that, like men, I can be respected for my mind and heart and ideas and strengths. Gender equality will exist when we’re not disappointed in “plain” women who do amazing things! Einstein wasn’t “a looker”, but I’ve never heard that mentioned…

To dress modestly says to the world, “I am honoring my own body by keeping it to myself. I don’t need your approval of my measurements, thankyouverymuch.”

2. Modesty says, “I am not competing with you.”

As I said at the start of this post, our biggest method of competition between women today is not brand names (though that could still be an Olympic sport) but body type. Just click on Pinterest once and you’ll see thousands of girls pinning tips on how to have that bod. If we needed one more reason to put our clothes back on, it could be as a bit of a olive branch to the fellow woman. Maybe your body fits this year’s qualifications of “perfect” and maybe (probably) it doesn’t, but women are said to look at each other’s bodies even more than men do, so stop worrying about lust and start worrying about envy. Love your body, enjoy your body, be happy with your body and, by all means take care of your body, but don’t ever use your body to put someone else down.

3. Modesty says, “I am more than a body.”

No one should ever feel they have the right to take advantage of your body, no matter how you’re dressed. It’s yours (and more importantly, God’s) and never “up for grabs,” whether you’re wearing drapes or nothing at all. However, the way we dress sends a message, be it true or false. Wear a burka and I’ll assume you’re Muslim, wear a habit and I’ll assume you’re a nun, wear a suit and I’ll assume you care, wear a stains and holes and I’ll assume you don’t. Call that “judgmental” if you wish, because it is in a sense–but it’s also sensical.

Dressing in a way that is seen as “modest” in whatever culture you find yourself in, gives people the message that you are not looking for a sexual partner or any sexual attention. It invites others to look you in the eye and get to know you–not just your shape. It says, “I have a body, but that’s not my most important feature.”

Lingerie has a place in this world, and it’s under your clothes. When you’re in public, think about what message you are sending about Christians by what you wear. Don’t obsess over it, don’t panic about it and don’t go to extremes out of fear of failure or sin. Our clothes are merely the shell of a shell. God looks at the heart and that’s way, way more important than the dress or even the body.

I love the end of of 1 Timothy 2:10, especially in The Voice translation,

“Women, the same goes for you: dress properly, modestly, and appropriately. Don’t get carried away in grooming your hair or seek beauty in glittering gold, pearls, or expensive clothes. Instead, as is fitting, let good works decorate your true beauty and show that you are a woman who claims reverence for God.”

It’s refreshing to think that this verse which has been, quite honestly, used to put women in the church down for many years, begins with “the same goes for you.” Paul wasn’t writing to Timothy’s church to segregate the sexes and put women in some legalistic box. He was writing to encourage them all in “good works.” He says that primping and brand names and glitter are all fleeting and unimportant, but that a woman’s true beauty is found in her reverence for God. That’s a win for gender equality if I ever saw one!

Put on your clothes, put on your honor, but “above all these put on love, which binds everything together in perfect harmony,” (Colossians 3:13) because, when your heart is beautiful, you’re already a complete masterpiece.

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when God the Father seems overly protective

Though I sometimes suspect I’m turning into A Morning Person, I have to admit to a life-long hatred of alarm clocks. The sound my phone makes across the room when it’s time to get up for work is one of my least-favorite ditties ever to exist. In that inevitable moment, I forget that I am the one who told the alarm precisely when to go off and that, after all, it is just a piece of technology, not some demon set on ruining my life. I always give myself time for one “snooze” as I dive back under my comforter and appraise the day for nine minutes.

After forgiving God for allowing this injustice to happen so early in the morning, I begin to pray in short, sleepy spurts. What shall I do today, for The Kingdom? What are His plans for me? How can I glorify Him?

These prayers may sound quite pious for 6:30 AM, but I assure you they are merely the product of sleepy habit and a lot of grace. I cannot even say that my heart is necessarily “in it” at this point in the day (as is sometimes evidenced by my grouchy behavior once I leave my bedroom,) but it’s definitely a good way to start the day. I often look back on these little prayers around noon and think, “Well? Have I begun? Am I doing His work, or not?”

But do you know what irks me about these prayers? It’s the calm, consistent answer they so often receive. I can almost hear the smug tone in God’s voice at 6:33. There is no special assignment. There is no exciting task. It’s almost as if He replies with a small smile and a, “Just keep doing what you’re doing.”

Day after day after boring day.

I hold my palms out in reverent prayer. WHATEVER you might want me to do, Lord, I’ll do. I’m available to you. I am willing.

“Okay,” He replies with that little smile. “Just keep doing what you’re doing for now.”

So, I know I’m being a bit sacrilegious by characterizing God the Father this way. After all, smugness isn’t exactly a fruit of His spirit. But this is the way I feel, sometimes. Like God is not using me. Instead, He’s just keeping me on a shelf, safe and still. I can almost see the dust collecting around my feet.

The truth is, at eighteen I thought I was ready. Everyone thought I was mature for my age. They applauded my wisdom and discretion. I wanted to be married, to adopt kids, to go back to Haiti do mission work. I wanted to be on the New York Times Bestseller’s list with a riveting scrutiny of society. It wasn’t that I wasn’t afraid at times, or that I never felt unqualified, but those feelings never really go away. Big things will always make little people nervous. Why not just start now?

And God gave me that little smile. I think it was the first time I’d seen it. And he patted me on my little head and tucked me into my little bed and told me to grow up. And, like all little children do, I told Him I wasn’t sleepy and I didn’t want to go to bed! I wanted to stay up with the grown-ups and do grown-up things and have fun! And He chuckled a little as He turned out the light and pulled the door, as if to say. “That’s nice, Deary.”

So I pitched the riveting manuscript and was rejected. The guy who would’ve married me got turned down. The tickets to Haiti were never purchased. The alarm clock continued going off at the same time every morning and I continued to lie in bed, nine minutes at a time, wondering what the heck my purpose was.

Now I’m twenty-two and, I’ll admit, a bit weary of God’s overly protective tendency’s at times. I get the feeling He’s holding out on good things for me because He just wants me to be near all the time. To get to know Him better. To spend my hours with Him and talk with Him. Where’s the adventure? Where’s the launch? Where’s the applause from society that comes with great accomplishments? Where’s the fodder for my blog, for Pete’s sake? Nothing every happens to me! I shriek (and throw myself onto my bed with the grace of a prepubescent brat.)

God gives me that look like I don’t know best or something, and leaves me to my pouting.

Other girls get married. Other girls have babies. Other girls travel. Other girls get published. I was never jealous of the girls who had phones before me, cars before me, pierced ears before me…but this? Are they really more qualified? Why can’t I be an early bloomer? (Stomps Mary-janes indignantly.)

This may be an exaggerated description of my relationship with God. I would like to think there’s a little more mutual respect between us, and less whining. But the truth is, I do complain a lot, about my lot. Elisabeth Elliot says of Psalm 16:5, “Lord, you have assigned me my portion and my cup and have made my lot secure.”

My “lot” is what happens to me-my share of that which comes by the will of the Power that rules my destiny. My lot includes the circumstances of my birth, my upbringing, my job, my hardships, the people I work with, my marital status, hindrances, obstacles, accidents, and opportunities. Everything constitutes my lot. Nothing excepted. (Be Still My Heart, pg. 35)

Can I accept the fact that My Good Father secured the lot that is my singleness? That He designed me this way and set me on this path? Can I accept the fact that He ordained for my book to be rejected? That I’d have to break someone’s heart? That I’d have to learn from mistakes? That my friends would move on and move away without me?

One of my favorite stories from the Bible is about Mary and Martha. I think I love it because it’s about women, and sisters no less! And it takes place in their home and shows their personalities and, let’s face it, tells a story all women have experienced. Martha is cooking and cleaning because they have guests and she is ticked that Mary isn’t helping. She’s just sitting there, hanging out with Jesus. Hello! I  can imagine Martha thinking while she gives Mary a wide-eyed glanced over Jesus’ shoulder. A little help here?!

But Jesus is sort of related to the God I’ve been describing here. He has a way of snuffing out our self-righteous plans with a look or a word.

“Oh Martha, Martha, you are so anxious and concerned about a million details, but really, only one thing matters. Mary has chosen that one thing, and I won’t take it away from her.” (Luke 10:41-42 The VOICE.)

So what if I have an extended adolescence? So what if my life looks boring to other people? So what if I’ll never get to prove how good of a wife/mother/author/missionary I could’ve been at nineteen? God hasn’t been smug with me. He’s been patient. He’s given me years of chances to “choose that one thing” that cannot be taken away from me. I wanted to be Martha, working and doing big things for Jesus. I wanted to show the world how dedicated I was to Him. But it turns out He really doesn’t give a darn about what the world sees me do. He cares about my heart. If I cannot sing a serenade to Him, why do I think a solo concert in front of a big audience will bring Him glory?

I have a  feeling there is a Mother Theresa out there right now who hasn’t been discovered by the media and never will. An Elisabeth Elliot who doesn’t land a book deal. A Gladys Aylward who still hasn’t made it to China, despite her efforts.

God’s ways are not my ways. He actually does know better. So maybe I’m a slow learner, a late bloomer. Maybe I did need a little more time on my Papa’s lap, as my friend Jessiqua would say, before chasing my dreams. Maybe He’s preparing me for a greater work than I’ve ever cooked up on my own. And maybe it won’t win me fame or esteem. But maybe it will matter.

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when you have a whole box of matches (and none of them will light)

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It was a pink, glowing morning. I slid the key into the lock and slipped through the front door of the office, flipped the lights on and opened the blinds before plopping into my spinning chair. The day before, I had found a small box of matches in the office kitchen and I was excited to finally light the candle I had cleverly brought to work and moronically been unable to light. I pushed the box open and saw five small matches. Perfect! I thought. This will last me through the week!

I selected a match and struck it against the rough edge of the box. Nothing. It had been a while since I’d used a match. We have completely succumbed to fancy candle lighter sticks at my house. I scooted my chair out, stood over my desk and ran the match across the box again. Nothing.

I probably wasn’t using enough pressure. I struck the match again and it immediately snapped in half in my grip. I dropped the two pieces onto my desk, grabbed another match out of the box and quickly it across the scaly package. It too snapped in half! I gingerly selected my third attempt and held my breath as I rubbed it along the box. Nothing. I rubbed it again, quickly but gently. And again, and again. Finally I realized I had rubbed off all the ignition, turning my match into a useless little stick.

I carefully selected my next victim and scratched it across the rough strip on the side of the box. It lit! I held the match to the candlewick, singeing my fingers a bit in the process. Ouch! I had forgotten how quickly matches burn up. I panicked a little and blew the match out with some unwarranted vigor. There! I smiled at my candle…only to realize I had extinguished that too. 

I know it sounds dramatic, but standing there in the haze of another failed match, I couldn’t help but relate this to my love life (or lack thereof.) It seemed that for every hope, there was always some grand disappointment. There were the matches that snapped in two as soon as we began, the matches that never lit at all, much to my chagrin. There were the matches that I accidentally extinguished and the matches that left me feeling burned and dejected. And there weren’t all that many matches in the box to begin with!

Sometimes I blamed it on myself. I am too shy, he’ll never notice me. I was to forward, I turned him off. I got scared and ruined everything. 

Sometimes I blamed it on him. It would’ve worked if he hadn’t done that, if he had given me a chance, if he wasn’t already interested in someone else.

Sometimes, without admitting it, I blamed it on God. Was I even given a chance?

And that’s when the “chances are’s” begin. Chances are, I’ll never meet anyone. I say to myself as I wind down after another discouraging day. Chances are, if I do meet someone, he won’t be interested. Chances are, if he’s interested, I’ll mess things up somehow. Chances are, I’ll wind up brokenhearted and alone. Chances are, I’ll be in this same situation when I’m 25, 30, 35…

But the sun rises every 24 hours and, blinking in the light of dawn I remember that things are never so grim as they seem when you’re waiting for the shower at 12:30 in the morning. I smile to think that even if “chances are,” my life is not up to chance. My life is up to someone who loves me more than I deserve, knows me intimately and has a good plan for me. Whether that plan includes marriage or not, is not for me to know. I just have to trust that, whatever the journey is, the destination is the same.

I eyed the matchbox with the look a pitcher gives a batter before throwing a fast one. This ends now. I gingerly picked up the last match and struck it against the box with faith and determination. Much to my surprise, it lit on the first try! I calmly held it to the wick. Much to my surprise, the candle began to glow! I cupped my hand around the match and gently blew out the flame. Much to my surprise, it diffused without my burning my fingers in the process. The candle was lit at last!

I grinned and looked around, but there was no one there to celebrate with me. I didn’t mind. I dropped back into my chair, took a deep whiff of the lovely aroma and turned my computer on. Work was allowed to begin now.

of ladies and flower girls

My little sister Jubilee is eleven years and she loves all things old fashioned. She obsesses over the Little House on the Prairie books, dresses up in a colonial maid’s costume to do her chores and love-love-loves classic musicals. Her favorite actress is Leslie Caron, and who can blame her? Leslie was (and is) elegant, talented and endearing. We also adore the accent, of course.

Since my mother and sisters and I have always had an affinity for old movies ourselves, we are constantly introducing her to “new” films that peak her interest. We’ve watched her light up in the glow of An American in Paris and The Sound of Music. Two movies she had never seen, however, were Gigi and the very famous, My Fair Lady. Jubilee was starting to get upset when she heard her younger friends quote the movies. Why couldn’t she watch them? Did they have bad words? She insisted on knowing.

Leslie_Caron-publicity

Well, yes, actually. IMDB tells us that there are twenty-six uses of mild expletives in My Fair Lady, but no, that’s not why I always put my foot down when she asked to watch it. I personally prevented her from watching those two movies (which we had on DVD in our own cabinet) because I wanted to wait until she was old enough to understand my disclaimers.

Yes, even movies from the 50’s and 60’s need disclaimers sometimes, and especially when it comes to this issue. The issue of the portrayal of women may seem petty or whiny to some. Maybe it sounds like I’m trying to be political or popular. It’s nothing of the sort. The more I think about it, the more I read, the more I simply practice paying attention, the more appalled I am at the media’s portrayal of The Female and the more convinced I am that it affects nearly everything we do.

For example, the classic broadway-turned-movie starring the lovely Audrey Hepburn, My Fair Lady, is the tale of Eliza Dolittle; a poor, illegitimate English girl who survives by selling violets in the square, and is picked up by a cold and arrogant Mr. Higgins who prides himself in being a bachelor sociolinguist. From day one he is rude, degrading, disrespectful, harsh and heartless toward Eliza, who in turn is hateful toward him. However, as movies tend to go, she begins to fall in love with him in a Stockholm Syndrome sort of way. As part of an experimental bet, Higgins trains Eliza to walk, act, dress and-most importantly-speak like an upper-class Englishwoman. In the end (spoiler alert!) she comes running back to him and, in a final act of submission, allows him to demand she bring him her slippers. After all, she loves him, and we can stretch our imaginations enough to believe that, deep down, he loves her too.

audrey hepburn-my fair lady

Yes, I’m serious.

The thing is, I love this movie in a way. It has excellent writing, good humor and music and, my favorite actress in the world-Audrey Hepburn. But I don’t like the message one smidge and I let Jubilee know that before I ever opened the DVD case.

We had a similar discussion before watching Gigi, a movie I love even more. Gigi too is being groomed, only this time with the specific intention of becoming mistress to a wealthy, French playboy. Jubilee and I talked about what a “mistress” is and why Gigi may or may not want to become one. We talked about respecting women (women have to respect women too!) and marrying for love and standing up for ourselves. And then we popped the movie in and had a jolly time.

You see, I’m not going to keep Jubilee from watching anything and everything I disagree with, but I’m also not going to accidentally endorse something I am staunchly against. Much to my heart’s delight, Gigi has a wonderful ending. Everyone learns something and an entire family line is altered. Love wins.

In the words of Eliza Dolittle, “The difference in a lady and a flower girl is not how she behaves, but how she is treated.”

Oh Eliza, how true that is.

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“I like your Christ”

Christians sometimes have a bad reputation because sometimes we live up to it. Though many Christ-followers have mimicked their leader by being generous, kind and self-sacrificing, others have worn the name of Christ while leading crusades against muslims, marching through military funerals ranting about doom or just generally being a jerk. For Christians who are concerned about our reflection on Christ to the world, nothing scares us quite so much as the idea that people are rejecting God-their only chance of hope in this life-because of our nasty attitude. The peaceful Indian leader, Gandhi, was a good man who missed out on a great God. Though I love his example and definitely believe he is someone we could all learn from, his quotes sometimes send shivers down my spine. Gandhi famously said,

Jesus is ideal and wonderful, but you Christians are not like him.

(Or, alternately: “I like your Christ, I dislike your Christians.” The quotes are somewhat debated, but the sentiment remains.) It is statements like this which frighten us most, and well they should! We need to be reminded, even if through harsh words from a Hindu, when we are not being Christ-like. Quotes like these spur us on to be better Christians, more like our Christ. They might pop into our minds when we’re talking to unbelieving friends, keeping us from gossiping or reminding us to control our tempers. They inspire us to love our neighbor by giving them a more accurate depiction of the love of God. However, I think we sometimes take this so seriously, we forget one very important part of our theology.

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Though we are all innately evil (including those of us who come to know Christ,) people are never the enemy. Non-Christians are not my enemy and I am not their enemy. As a matter of fact, though we sometimes seem to have little in common and entirely different values, goals and agendas, we all have a common enemy.

Though Christians certainly need to learn some manners, our Facebook rants are not the source of all evil. Our hypocrisy and self-righteousness are sinful and may lead someone astray, but they are not what is sending souls to hell. All of these sins that pop up in our own lives (and I repeat: pride, self-righteousness, hypocrisy, gossip, bitterness, bad tempers, bad manners) are tools in the hand of the real enemy.  John calls him “the thief.”

The thief comes only to steal, kill and destroy. John 10:10

If someone was wreaking havoc in your neighborhood, breaking into every home to rob, beat and murder you and your neighbors, would you not feel unified against this threat? Would you all sit down to have an argument or pity party about who left their door unlocked and who was unarmed? No! Everyone is being terrorized, everyone has a common enemy.

We must open our eyes to the real and present danger that is Satan. Guns are not the leading cause of death, nor cancer, drunk driving, illegal drugs or obesity. The leading and only cause of death is Satan. There was no death until he slithered in and death will be the last enemy conquered. You know what pulls kids away from church? Is it the style of our music or the inconsistencies in our lifestyles? Is it illicit behavior that’s now acceptable in high school? Pornography? Gang violence? Liberal media? Broken homes?

None of the above. The leading and only cause of people falling away from God is Satan. Likewise, he is also the cause of porn and violence and broken homes, but those are merely tools he uses to “steal, kill and destroy.”

So yes, be a nicer person. Look into your heart and make sure you are reflecting Christ in your lifestyle, words and actions. Let your friends and coworkers know that those who protest at funerals and leave nasty rants on Facebook have nothing to do with you and your God. But also keep in mind, we are not the enemy. And, when interacting with nonbelievers, remember that none of us are enemies at all. We share a common enemy. And then, do not neglect the next part of John 10:10, these words from our ideal and wonderful Christ,

I came that they may have life and have it abundantly.

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