March of 2013* and already I feel that this will be a year of great change for me, as well as for my family. Beginning in the last few months of last year and into this year, many things have been brought to my attention and my priorities have been majorly rearranged. God has used a large number of his resources in my life, my friends and family being the most powerful of all.
One thing I always unconsciously stuck to about how I dressed was this: “As long as I’m “modest” (assuming I am capable of understanding what that means) then it’s on the guys shoulders if how I dress causes some kind of temptation. I’m not hanging out anywhere and I didn’t have to oil myself to get into my clothes, so if some guy has trouble with how I dress, he must just have a dirty mind. Shame on him.” Part of this reasoning came from my misunderstanding of men. I looked at it from a female perspective and thought to myself “It’s not that hard, guys! You’re just not trying hard enough!” Having not really discussed this with my dad, and not having a guy friend whom I could comfortably talk about these things with, I was living in “blissful ignorance”. (Which is an oxymoron, by the way, but that’s a whole different topic for another day.)
I’ve always considered myself a modest dresser, although there are some things I wore when I was younger I wouldn’t wear now. I don’t think I have a whole lot to change about how I dress. However, my motives about how I dress have changed drastically. Before, I strived to dress modestly because I didn’t want to have the attention of creeps and perverts looking for an easy catch. I wanted to glide under the radar, not be noticed by those who’ve allowed lust to take over their minds. I didn’t want my body to be art-on-legs for guys like that. Rarely did I consider the guys who are constantly striving to stay pure in body, heart and mind. I kind of left them out of the thought process. And never did I imagine how difficult that goal is to accomplish.
One particular work of art helped me understand this better than anything else. I call it a work of art because never before have I read or seen something that helped personalize a guy’s daily struggle so completely for me. Upon reading it I felt like I could finally understand, at least as well as any girl can, what it’s like to be a guy with standards in our fallen world. It’s called “Burning”, it’s written by a dear friend of mine with a talent for words. It still amazes me that he wrote it at the age of 13. Allow me to include it here, I know it’s a bit long, but I can’t bring myself to extract a “quote” from it, it’s too good to tear apart.
“Do you hear it?
The soft voice in the breeze,
the faint whisper in the night,
Do you feel it?
the craving …
that craving in the back of your mouth,
crawling though your head,
tugging at your eyes,
just to look …
just a glance will be sufficient.
But you know it won’t,
you know you want more,
You know it’s a lie,
You know one glance would only spur the eyeing,
You know that it’s wrong,
It burns the back of your mouth,
You deserve it,
You know you do,
This meat is yours,
it’s rightly yours,
Just one look,
what could it hurt?
You know it would hurt no one,
it couldn’t, why would it?
A harmless look never killed anyone,
You steal a glance,
and quickly turn your head,
then, you steal yet another, lingering
you snap your head to the side,
the craving burns,
it burns the more you look,
You didn’t remember staring,
but you are now …
You try to turn your eyes,
but they hunger for your gaze,
they burn for it– for a glance,
for a stare,
and divert your eyes to the floor,
the voice whispers again, quietly in the breeze,
agitating the craving,
copper engraves itself in your throat,
You feel like choking,
you feel like staring,
You need to stare,
You should stare,
Something prods your eyes
Something pulls your gaze
something calls to you,
What is wrong with looking up?
Your thoughts are clouded,
the cravings fog your thoughts,
motivating you to glance, just once,
Why don’t they understand what they do to you?
Why don’t they stop and think, “does dressing like this hurt anyone?”
They don’t understand.
The ones that do understand, do it simply for the fact that they know,
They know what it does to you, they know what it does to all who are in the battle,
to all whose thoughts are clouded and disordered by the craving,
by the burn,
by the need to glance,
you wrack your head in frustration
In your weakest flank,
you are pressured the most,
attacked and prodded,
by naive innocence and seducing devils,
It’ll be the death of you.
You know it,
the devils know it,
why can’t you leave home without being assaulted?
why can’t you turn on the television without being ambushed?
why is the enemy so ruthless?
Why can you not have one day where the bullets wiz by
where the voice whispers,
where the battle rages?
To the guys that fight the battle daily”
It brings me close to tears whenever I read it. And the more deeply I think about the struggle guys of character have to go through each day, the more my heart aches for them. It makes me want to do something, anything, to make the load just a little lighter. But what can I do? I can’t change the adds on TV, the magazines, or the outrageous clothing on the girls waltzing around these days, but I can control how I dress. If there’s one thing I never want to do is be that stumbling block. Particularly now that I have a guy friend whom I care about. The thought of him having to fight these battles just kills me. If I could take it away from him I would in a heartbeat. It’s become a constant thought in my mind each day when I get dressed to leave the house.
Not surprisingly, the Bible has a lot to say about modesty. It took only about five minutes to scrape the surface and get the following verses:
1 Corinthians 8:9
“Be careful, however, that the exercise of your freedom does not become a stumbling block to the weak.”
Just because we are free to wear what we want doesn’t mean we should be careless of the weaknesses of our brothers in Christ.
“It is better not to eat meat or drink wine or to do anything else that will cause your brother to fall”
“Therefore let us stop passing judgment on one another. Instead, make up your mind not to put any stumbling block or obstacle in your brother’s way.”
1 Corinthians 6:20
“…you were bought at a price. Therefore honor God with your body.”
It does not honor God when we are careless about the weaknesses of His sons.
1 Timothy 2:9
“I also want women to dress modestly, with decency and propriety, not with braided hair or gold or pearls or expensive clothes,”
(Not to say that you shouldn’t do your hair or wear jewelry, but I’m not going to go into that right now.)
1 Corinthians 12:23
“And the parts we regard as less honorable are those we clothe with the greatest care. So we carefully protect those parts that should not be seen,”
Now, I’m sure there are a lot of other places that the topic of modesty is brought up in the Bible, this is just the first few that I found in a casual search. And some of them, particularly 1 Timothy 2:9, must be taken in context with the time and place and how culture was at that time. You have to be thoughtful and prayerful when studying the Bible, to be sure you aren’t taking a verse out of context within the rest of its book. Or taking a book out of context with its timeline.
Answers in Genesis has an article called “Teaching Modesty in an Immodest World”, one of the quotes they have by Nancy Leigh DeMoss, author of “The Look: Does God Really Care What I Wear?”, I found to be very good:
“If our hearts are right with God—if we’re walking in purity and humility before Him—the inevitable result will be a modest external appearance.”
In reality, if we aren’t dressing modestly and respecting not only God and our bodies, but our future spouses, how can we possibly be living in accordance with God’s will? What is the point of dressing immodestly (speaking of how we dress after we realize that we are dressing incorrectly in the first place, if we ignore this discovery and continue as we were.) other than drawing attention to ourselves and inevitably away from God?
Just something to think about next time you’re out shopping for something “hot” to add to your wardrobe, or are carefully looking yourself over in the mirror before heading out into the wild, wild world we live in. Just because you don’t look like a prostitute doesn’t mean you’re “doing okay”. Find me the Bible verse that says we should all “do okay” and I’ll change my point of view. Our standard is perfection, and though we are incapable of reaching it, we should never fall short of trying. Above average isn’t good enough. (Plus, have you seen average these days? Yeesh! It’s disgusting.)
A good while ago I came across this quote, and it annoys me that I can’t find where it came from, but here it is:
“Dress to be attractive, not attracting.”
There’s a reason guys who are womanizers can’t stick with one girl, they get bored. It’s so easy to get what they want from that girl that very quickly it’s not exciting anymore, so they look for something else. God designed men to want to, and take enjoyment in, pursuing and wooing a woman. If you’re walking around barely clothed, why should a guy with morals pursue you? You’ve already given yourself away to every guy that looks at you. You’ve made it obvious that you don’t value yourself. Even if you weren’t trying to, you have successfully communicated “I’m up for grabs! First come first serve!” Why would a guy with any self-respect want you?
Be mysterious, an easy catch is never fully appreciated. But when you have to work to earn something, you care for it much more deeply. Ever noticed how gifts are often taken for granted. You slipped some money from Grandma while she’s in town. Great, you’re thankful. And you enjoy that pair of fuzzy socks. (Just an example, I like socks) But if you get a pay check that you worked hard for, you might pass up the socks. “I did hours of labor for this money, do I really need ridiculously soft socks?”
My point is this: If a guy had to work to earn you, and to invest time and money and commitment to earn the right to have you for a partner for life, he’s going to cherish you. He’s going to take pride (as he should!) in having won your heart. But if you just give yourself up to the first guy who comes calling, he might have fun for a little while, but he’ll get bored at some point and go looking for a new challenge.
If you dress in a way that makes it clear that you respect yourself, God and your future husband, you’ll get the attention of the guy who’s looking for a woman with just those standards. And if you are completely honest with yourself, you want to be won.
“A wife of noble character who can find?
She is worth far more than rubies.
Her husband has full confidence in her
and lacks nothing of value.”
Proverbs 31: 10-11
*I changed the date, this was written in Jan. 2011, but I didn’t want the “outdatedness” of it to dissuade you from reading it.