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Archive for the ‘modesty’ Category

I have had two modesty revolutions in my life.  My parents raised me with rules for modest dress that were moderately conservative in the first place, so these revolutions weren’t very drastic.  But they were significant.

 

When I was 18 and packing for a week at summer camp, it wasn’t a wild rebellion I was converting from; it was legalism.  Now usually legalism-rejection is thought of as release from rules, but in this case it was understanding them, and even strengthening their practical outworking by my new convictions.

 

As a young woman hoping to be married and with an eye on one boy in particular, I had been feeling disappointed at the lack of romantic attention.  I’d been, à la purity movement, attempting to wrestle back crushes and all feelings of attraction preceding open commitment, which did at least have the advantage of helping me to trust God with the hope that He’d keep me from getting too involved with a man not meant for me.  But looking back, my philosophy of disguise and suppress had the disadvantage of being at least as responsible for my loneliness as was my modest dress.  I didn’t think of all that while I was packing that year.  I felt that form-fitting, curve-accentuating tank tops which barely met the letter of the dress code were a promising, take-charge strategy for demanding that one boy’s attention.

 

As Providence would have it, though, the radio station I’d been listening to as I folded and tried on, counted and packed, began to play a women’s Bible study program I’d recently discovered.  I don’t remember anymore the exact words Nancy Leigh DeMoss said, except that it convinced me my motives were all wrong: that the core meaning of modesty is to NOT force others to give us attention and praise.  Feeling the conviction of the power play I’d been intending, I pulled everything out of my suitcase to start over, not even daring the temptation of brining the tanks to layer with other things (the reason I owned them at all).

 

For the second paradigm shift, we have to fast forward several years, past the full-Victorian skirt alternating with denim in classic homeschool style phase, and through a deep contemplation of biblical teachings on gender roles and leadership.  This revolution was more gradual.  Part of it was a maturing familiarity with what did and didn’t look good on me personally.  More forceful was the conviction that too much “modesty” or inattention to beauty was making it hard for Christian men and also younger girls and even non-Christian women to resist the allure of worldly, far less modest women.

 

At this time of my life, I had been introduced to sidewalk counseling.  And I noticed that one of the ladies who’d been out there most consistently, and had dozens of “saves” over the years, always did her hair and came in a nice blouse and comfortable, but nice pants or jeans.  She didn’t wear t-shirts with messages that would scare non-Christians away.  There’s a place for confrontational t-shirts, but her goal was to invite women to interact with her, to listen to the help she offered, and to trust her.  I imagined being one of those pregnant women, with so many misplaced values.  While overcoming the prejudices against people outside abortion clinics, personal fears of motherhood, and priorities of a life without a child for the present – did these girls also have to be asked to get past a slovenly or completely out-of-date appearance of the one offering help?  The other lady was older, not very likely to incite jealousy in women walking in with boyfriends, but I still look fairly young, and try to balance my look with being approachable but, harkening back to my first revolution, not demanding attention that would make me seem a threat to a potentially fragile relationship.  I want to be “all things to all people” without being on the level of immodesty that some of these women practice.

 

Young girls seek role models.  They look around for someone who looks beautiful, and try to imitate all they see.  It’s natural.  Admittedly, girls go through stages where they believe anything with glitter and sequins is pretty; then they hit the lace stage, and move on to the dangly earrings.  At least I did, as a kid.  So I’m not saying young girls are the most discerning.  But they can tell, when someone is trying to look good, and that shapes what they define as beautiful.

 

Young men were once young boys who probably experienced a similar thing as the young girls, though I have not had any direct experience, and far fewer conversations on the subject with men.  Additionally, though, they start to shape convictions, all muddled together with ideals of modesty and what sort of woman would make them the sort of wife that would go with the sort of life they’re aspiring to.  And here’s where it gets tricky, because Christian young men are taught to value modesty.  They don’t have to be taught to value beauty; it’s kind of built in.  A good Christian woman may or may not be pretty, but she must be modest.  That’s the kind of girl to keep an eye out for.  So the youth pastors and the parents and the mentors say.  But biology and Disney and pretty much ever commercial or TV show ever tells them that they should look for a woman who will make them happy.  And that, they soon discover, is far easier to feel when a woman is looking her best.  But guess what:  the good, modest Christian girls are so busy being modest that they’re not trying to be beautiful.

 

A good Christian teenage girl is taught to consider her brother, and to esteem his needs and temptations.  Therefore, she must be careful to cover up.  No argument.  My revolution came when I realized that my Christian brothers needed the help of their sisters combining modesty with looking good.  It wasn’t fair to give them the impression – whether they were interested in me personally or not – that in order to choose a good woman, they had to sacrifice beauty.  It just wasn’t helpful to demand that men eschew every pretty women for one who looked like Mary Bailey, librarian, in the nightmare “what-if” of It’s A Wonderful Life: camouflage-like earth tones, hair pulled back into a tight pony tail, unadorned lips pressed together in a disapproving refusal to laugh.  It wasn’t edifying to try to redefine beauty as only having to do with the inside.

 

Don’t get me wrong.  “Charm is deceitful, and beauty is passing, but a woman who fears the Lord is to be praised.”  That’s advice given in the Bible to a man about what kind of woman is a good wife.  And men should absolutely be taught that.  Disney should be defied, with their lies that following your heart is the way to live, and that attraction is the way to know if she’s “the one”.  Attractions can and do change completely, or ebb and flow.  The lies are destructive not only to choosing spouses, but to staying married.  They lie about what marriage (and sex) even is about.  These things that I believe rather fiercely were all also at the forefront of my mind as I met this second revolution.

 

I decided to change, to be way more intentional about how I look, to be competitive for the delight of little girls, to use my appearance to speak of my intentions to stand-offish abortion-minded women, and to make it easier for any man to believe that a woman can be good and pretty.  And if a man is supposed to love me, I don’t want to make it hard for him!

 

I decided to do my Christian brothers and sisters (and hopefully myself) a service and give them something pleasant and non-seductive to look at.  If a good song or a lovely painting can be expressions of creativity designed to point attention to our beautiful God, then can’t the way we present ourselves communicate good things, too?  God made beauty, and attraction, and within appropriate limits, I wanted to represent those truths.  I tried to encourage my girl friends to think about these things.  Little girls I know are dazzled by jewelry, make-up, and pretty clothes.  I wanted to show them those things could be enjoyed without short skirts and revealing tops.  Their moms needed reinforcement that immodesty isn’t the exclusive manifestation of beauty.  Neither does one have to be unattractive to have good character.  I began wearing necklaces often, especially around little girls obsessed with sparkle.  I found clothes that fit and were sometimes even fashionable!  A while later, I noticed the actresses whose eyes and faces I liked the most wore subtle eye-liner, so I got some and figured out for the first time how to use that one kind of make-up, still not every day, but sometimes.

 

It is still hard, to care but not too much.  It is a battle to allow myself to be attractive without worrying too much about being “all kinds of perfect” (until I can invite input from my own husband, whose opinion ought to count for a lot!)  I have to deal with a bit more unwanted attention.  To be honest, my wardrobe is more lax than it used to be: I own shorts and sleeveless tops, for example.

 

Whether my ideas are “working” is hard to say, but I believe I’ve hit on some truths that are wroth responding to, however we do it.

 

To God be all glory,

Lisa of Longbourn

 

 

 

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A while back I was at a Bible study where, if I were to summarize the point, we studied the justification for cussing.  It was one of the most frustrating Bible studies I have ever attended.  How can one take the clear statement of Paul in Ephesians 5 and make it mean nothing – or the very opposite?  Positions in the group ranged from situational ethicists to ultra-conservative to Christian libertarianism to utter liberality (without much Christian consideration). 

Hardest to refute, for me, at the time was the question of definition.  Who defines which words are profane, and which jokes are coarse?  And if the majority culture decides, what does that do to Christian absolutism – let alone the call not to be like the world?  I believe that the cultural inacceptability of certain words and topics is a remnant of a spiritual life in this civilization, not part of the ‘rudiments of the world’ to which Christians should not be conformed.  It is obvious, at least, that profanity is usually associated with non-Christian cultures. 

The Pyromaniacs give a refutation of this point at their blog, using the thrust and context of Paul’s words in Ephesians 5.  Phil Johnson says that cussing is the emblem of the godless brotherhood.  In lieu of real Christian community, their weak substitute for love is this commonality built on treating sacred things lightly and good things badly and modest things crassly.  Of such things they talk.  For such talk they laugh.  Paul was discouraging us from settling.  I prefer the edification of a loving assembly that urges me to align my perspective with God’s.  Not that we cannot make jokes!  We were made to laugh!  But laughter is crude that pokes fun at that which God has called serious.  Lightness in conversation leads to lightness in living. 

I’ve said enough for one post.  Read Team Pyro’s blog on cussing.  I tell you, it’s good.  And read my next post.  Comment, too.  I am interested in discussion.  Rules here are that comments may not contain any foul language. 

To God be all glory,

Lisa of Longbourn

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Long Skirts

I’ve heard girls talk about long skirts, and how they get tangled up in them. Some girls don’t like long skirts because they prohibit certain activities, or because they’re hot.

I’ve heard of men preferring women in short skirts or jeans.

I’ve heard a lot of Christian men saying they appreciate modest dress and long, flowing skirts.

I personally love the look of long skirts, the history of long skirts, the modesty of long skirts, the warmth of long skirts, and the way long skirts make me move.

So imagine my shock today when an almost 80 year old patient at work commented on my ankle-length skirt, “How can you wear that? Don’t you trip over it?” And the younger woman accompanying him as his caretaker explained, “He was in the Navy; he doesn’t like long skirts.”

I’m not sure how the Navy explains an aversion to long skirts. How can anyone not like long skirts? And he wasn’t wearing it. I’m not even an important person in his life. So even if you don’t like something someone is wearing, if it isn’t offensive, do you have to say anything? It isn’t as though I fell on my face getting out of my chair, knocking a drawer full of contacts into his lap. I got up gracefully and walked over to my position at what is called the autorefractor to get him pretested.

Reassure me here. Have you ever heard of anyone disliking long skirts?

To God be all glory.

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This is going to sound really weird. It is also a day late. Nevertheless, I have adopted Midsummer’s Day as my pre-anniversary celebration. In memory of my husband-to-be-announced-when-I-find-out-who-he-is, I hope (for the future) and resolve (to be faithful) and remember (what my goals are) and pray (for him).

Proverbs 31:12, “She will do him good and not evil all the days of her life.”

In honor of this occasion, I want to link to an article about beauty from Boundless. Thanks to Solofemininity.blogs.com for the introduction.

This paragraph was especially exciting:

Think about what that means. Jesus didn’t come to earth looking for a beautiful bride, going back to heaven disappointed because no one lived up to His standards. No, He worked actively creating beauty through His death on the cross and the power of the gospel. He gave His life so that whoever repents of their sin and puts their faith in His finished work on the cross might become part of His dazzlingly beautiful bride! It’s a promise He made and it’s a promise He will keep.

I almost didn’t want to read anymore, because I saw it. I’ve seen it before, but every time it is wonderful. Jesus made us beautiful for Himself, presenting us to Himself. He wants to share His glory. And that is what human marriage partly pictures. This is why submission doesn’t seem bad to me. It’s why it seemed like a good deal for women to Paul when he wrote Ephesians 5. “As Christ loved the church,” he emphasized.

Be challenged. Be delighted. Remember God’s incredible grace toward you.

To God be all glory.

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Neat Skirts!

Crystal linked to a modest online clothing store (mostly skirts) this week. I just visited the site, and I want almost every one of their skirts. There’s a beautiful denim one… Anyway, unlike many ‘modest’ clothing sites, these skirts don’t look only prairie or Amish. They’re stylish, graceful, and fun. Crystal calls them reasonably priced. I figure they look like the prices you’d pay for a non-sale item like it at Target. Thrift stores really mess up my sense of value!

Called New Creation Women’s Apparel, if you’re in that category, I recommend you at least go look at the pretty styles.

To God be all glory.

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Boundless has an article on the history of courtship and dating that I found historically and socially fascinating. This is the link to part 2. Part 1 is linked at the bottom of that page.

I read my parents the suggestiong that you date 25-50 different people before making a “final decision.” Neither of my parents got that high, and they somehow managed to find each other and stay married for over 25 years. Hm.

In my opinion, if you can’t figure out that you don’t want to spend a lot of time with a person before you take them out for a movie or ice cream, you are lacking discernment.

One point made is that people today have relational vertigo, and don’t know which way is up. They are confused. Why not? There is no goal, no example, no rules, no absolutes, no defined consequences.

What can we do? How can we give them absolutes and rules and examples?

I read an article on Townhall.com today on a similar topic (not for younger readers): the vicious, depressing cycle of idealistic women entering the single game post college and meeting unfulfilling, mediocre ends. The stories and images spark compassion for the lied-to, unprotected girls in the world giving up so much for dreams that are meaningless. What can we do?

To God be all glory.

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Perfect Jeans

It’s confession time. I own the perfect pair of jeans. The search was long, but about one and a half years ago, there they were. Off the Kohl’s rack I paid full sale price for a pair of jeans that is the right color. They fit at the natural waist. I don’t even need a belt. The jeans are so long that if I’m not wearing shoes – and, ok, sometimes when I am – I can step on them. There are pockets. The legs flare a bit. Made by Lee (instead of Levi, which had always been my idea of the perfect jean company), this is the pair for me.

So yes, I do wear jeans sometimes. I love skirts, and wear them almost all the time. They make a statement. They’re fun. They’re feminine. But here’s my take on the “issue.” The Old Testament laws about dress are fulfilled by Christ’s death and resurrection. The Bible doesn’t specify pants or skirts (most people in history wore very similar robes). So it’s a matter of what I feel like, how different from the world I want to be, and what statement I want to make. Today I’m making a statement for following dress code rules at the Awana program where I serve.

To God be all glory.

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