The other day, I was laid up in bed a lot of the day with a cold, and, as often happens when you have plenty of time on your hands, I began to think about and spend time meditating on the Lord. And for some reason, the thing that kept coming into my mind was the issue of modesty.
Before I really dig into this, I want to state that I think that among Christians there seems to be a huge division over this issue, and that when you really think about it, there seems to be a problem of Christians either not caring enough about modesty or caring too much. That's right - it is possible to care too much about modesty! Very few girls I know have managed to reach a place between themselves and the Lord where they simply ARE modest - not being peer pressured either to focus too much on modesty or not enough on it. And the few girls I know who have managed to steer clear of either extreme are the ones who actually seem to show the Lord to the world most clearly. So now, I'll try and address some common issues I've come across in my search to be "modest".
What is it actually?
To be honest, I don't really have any answers as to "what is modest and what isn't". I think it really is a lifelong search! As always, I think we have to look to scripture first and foremost and see where it is clear and not so clear. Some verses that have helped me in this area are as follows:
- “Do not let your adorning be external - the braiding of hair and the putting on of gold jewelery, or the clothing you wear, but let your adorning be the hidden person of the heart with the imperishable beauty of a gentle and quiet spirit, which in God's sight is very precious.” ~ 1 Peter 3:3,4
- “Charm is deceitful and beauty is vain, but a woman who fears the Lord is to be praised.” ~ Proverbs 31:30
At the end of the day, I think the reason why there is so much division here is that it is one of those "grey" areas in the Bible - there are some clear guidelines the Bible sets, but the reality is that the Lord's focus in the Bible is on our heart, with the way we behave in our external lifestyles flowing out and changing to be more conformed to His will once we are right with Him. We must bear in mind too that the way modesty will manifest itself will vary slightly with each generation and culture. So maybe the way to look at it is to see where the Bible places the emphasis and so to not focus so much on the external but rather on the internal. In other words, you need to ask yourself that if I really love the Lord, would I not at least be striving to serve my fellow brothers and sisters as well as demonstrating to the world that I serve Him by attempting to be modest? Is the way I present myself to unbelievers having a negative or positive influence on their view of the Lord I serve? Is maybe the way I present myself externally a reflection of my relationship with the Lord at the moment?
I remember beginning to struggle with the concept of "modesty" aged about 12 when I was heading into the "terrible teens" and so was becoming more self-concious about my appearance and the impact it had on others. However, for some reason I reacted in a very different way to most others my age: while many girls spend their teenage years trying to look attractive, I spent most of mine deciding that getting attention and looking pretty in clothes was somehow "sinful". So I dressed in a way that undoubtedly was well covered and modest but certianly not attractive. Not suprisingly, I got my way - no unwanted attention was directed my way! :) Except...I gradually came to realise that that wasn't actually what the Lord wanted either. He was at work on my stubborn heart, and helped me to slowly see that attractiveness, being feminine and pretty was actually what He had created me, as a girl and woman, to be. Yes, I still believed that I had a responsibility to be modest in what I was wearing but now I realised that I should still be embracing my feminity too. So I began to wear clothes (especially my new favourite - skirts!) that I found pretty and girly and even began to wear jeans for the first time in five or so years (up till then I mostly wore baggy black sweatpants). Yes, I do still struggle with getting a balance in being modest, fashionable and feminine but the Lord is helping me and my prayer is that He will help you too! :D
Not Caring Enough About Modesty
Caring Too Much
It may also come as a surprise to you that I believe that if my own life is anything to go by, it is possible to be modest outwardly and yet to be completely immodest at the same time. For instance, a dear sister in Christ I know wears clothes that I personally wouldn't wear (in part due to the fact that we are completely different sizes) but whose whole lifestyle shouts to the world who it is that she serves and her gracious, Godly manner demonstrates a modesty that inspires me so much to serve the Lord more. Surely this should be our focus! Conversely, I have at times struggled with outwardly dressing in a modest way but acting in a way that even a non-Christian would find hard to term "modest" - in other words, the way in which I speak often doesn't draw attention to my Maker but to myself, and when that is happening dressing modestly becomes a sham and simply an attempt to cover up the horrible reality that I am a sinner who would prefer to boast about myself rather than the one I serve. Lord, I pray that you would help me and any other sisters in Christ who struggle with this to boast not in ourselves, but in You!
Wow, what a long blog post! I feel that I have sort of gone on a rant about the topic as it is something that has been in my mind for such a long time, but I hope I have written what I feel is the truth with love. Dear sister in Christ, if you are anything like me you will feel like such a failure in this area, whether it be because of caring too little or too much about modesty. But remember that the God we serve is greater than us and has overcome our sins so we need to earnestly seek to serve Him but rest on His grace to help us in this area.
God bless you, dear sisters in Christ, as you serve Him!