A Facebook friend recently asked me if I would write a blog about modesty to use with the girls in her Bible study. I’m super passionate about this topic, though it’s not a fun one to address seeing as it’s so counter cultural. I probably should have broken this blog up into sections, but I’m already afraid of leaving things left unsaid. It’s long, but bare with me. I wish someone would have shared some of these things with me when I was younger…
Reading words on a computer screen can feel so stale and impersonal, but I beg you to hear my heart. Girls, I wish we could sit on comfy couches in my living room, hot chocolate in hand, and just chat. Know that even if I don’t know you, you are loved deeply and I’m praying for you as a write.
Growing up I was pretty much the stereotype “goody-goody”. I was a compliant rule follower and wanted desperately to please anyone and everyone. Because of my bent, I never really questioned the concept of modesty. I knew I was supposed to dress (or not dress) a certain way and I complied…not necessarily because I understood the importance of it, but rather because of my desire to be “good” girl. Looking back, I know I pushed some boundaries. If it wasn’t a black and white, written out in front of me rule, I wasn’t super concerned about it since I didn’t totally understand the heart behind it. I had many tendencies of a Pharisee…following rules and looking good on the outside, but not letting Truth transform my heart.
I worked as a camp counselor at a Christian camp every summer through college. I’ll never forget one particular conversation I had with an elementary school camper one day at the water park we visited weekly. While waiting in line to ride the same slide for the billionth time (or so it seemed), she innocently asked…
“Why do we have to wear 1 piece bathing suits?”
“Uh, because that’s a rule for camp.”
Oh dear, how do I explain this to an 8 year old?
I don’t remember exactly what I told her, but I’m sure I fumbled over finding words. I realized that if I couldn’t completely explain it to her, maybe I didn’t really know myself. And I wanted that to change.
Isn’t this all a bit legalistic? Is God all about giving us a list of rules to make our lives miserable?
Isn’t it really the guys’ fault? Why put the blame on me?
Does the Bible really talk about what I wear?
Does modesty mean I have to resort to a life of frumpiness?
Do I get any benefit from being modest? It definitely doesn’t feel like it right now.
Is it really that big of a deal?
Over the years, I’ve decided that it IS a big deal and this is why…
Because God is the very definition of good, He knows what is good for me. In fact some of the things that we simply see as “rules” are actually put there to make life BETTER for us. Sort of like a parent putting up a fence around a pool to protect a toddler from drowning, God lovingly puts perimeters around us because He’s wiser and knows, beyond we do, how life can truly be fulfilling and blessed.
Years ago, Dannah Gresh, the author of Secret Keeper: The Delicate Power of Modesty, opened my eyes to a passage in Proverbs that I hadn’t thought much about before…
“Let your fountain be blessed,
and rejoice in the wife of your youth,
a lovely deer, a graceful doe.
Let her breasts fill you at all times with delight;
be intoxicated always in her love.”
Proverbs 5:18-19 (ESV)
Yes, ladies. The Bible does talk about your breasts (that’s your “boobs” in case you haven’t had anatomy class yet). Here’s a few more fun facts…
1. God intended for guys to be delighted by your body. He CREATED them that way!
He’s made your body to be alluring, mysterious, and beautiful. It is valuable, special, and unique. Regardless of your size, shape, etc. your body has great worth. That said, He’s also made their bodies to be attracted to yours. To want it. To desire it.
2. Your body is intoxicating.
What do you think of when you hear that word? I picture someone that’s drunk, totally under the influence of alcohol. They can’t think straight, speak straight, or walk straight. They’re totally taken captive by something. And THAT’S how God wired a man to react to the beauty of your body.
Time for a little biology lesson. If you google the Autonomic Nervous System (or ANS), you may get a definition like this…
“The ANS is part of the peripheral nervous system and it controls many organs and muscles within the body. In most situations, we are unaware of the workings of the ANS because it functions in an involuntary, reflexive manner.”
This is the same part of your body that creates responses like the “fight or flight” response or the way your heart beats fast when you’re about to get on a roller coaster. You don’t control it. Your body naturally responds. THIS is the also what happens when you’re sexually attracted to something.
God created our bodies, right? A guy’s ANS is stimulated (involuntarily) when he looks upon a woman’s beauty. God created guys to work this way! It’s a good thing…but let’s get back to the verse…
3. The woman being talked about in the verse is a wife. Therefore, this blessing, gift, and intoxication is meant to happen between one man and one woman. In marriage.
The verses before and after these urge the man to “drink water from your own cistern” (meaning that this sexual desire and fulfillment should come only from his wife), “let them be for yourself alone” (meaning that she’s not for every guy), and questions why he should “be intoxicated with a forbidden woman” (meaning that it’s wrong to be sexually aroused by someone that he’s not married to).
Yes, your body was made to be alluringly powerful and absolutely drive a guy crazy. One guy. Your husband. Period. Not every guy ranging from age 8 to 80 (yes, your skimpy outfit not only attracts the hot captain of the football team, but also the creepy old guy at the mall) who can get a cheap thrill from seeing more than you were meant to give away.
I’m sure by this point you’re asking (if you haven’t already)…
Guys need to learn to control themselves. Is it really my fault if a guy sins by lusting after my body?
I can’t say necessarily that it’s your fault. He has to make the decision to continue to stare or let his mind and body go places that it only should in the context of marriage. I CAN say, however, that you can help him or hurt him in this process. You DO have a responsibility over guarding the secrets of your body. If you truly care about him, you won’t selfishly desire his attention at the cost of hurting his relationship with God.
As I began to understand more and more of this delicate power my body had and how easy I could make it for a guy to fall into sin, I worked hard to guard my future husband’s eyes, but hadn’t thought much about how I would dress AFTER I was married. The summer before our wedding, Adam and I were on a beach vacation with our families. While playing in the water, a young attractive couple came walking down the beach. The girl was beautiful and had a great body, which she flaunted in a little bikini. Every guy on the beach gawked at her…and I’m sure she liked the attention. Adam, my fiancé at the time, turned to me and said…
“I don’t want you to wear a bikini on our honeymoon, even though I’ll be allowed to see you like that then. I don’t want guys to look at you like they’re looking at her.”
I realized that Adam had had to wait 26 years to see the beauty of my body. He had to develop a relationship with me, cherish me, lead me, and earn my love. He had to commit his life to me. It would be (and still would be) extremely hurtful to him for me then show the gift that God gave to him alone to every one else. He understood the wisdom behind Proverbs 5.
And let me tell you, girls. Saving the alluring mystery of your body for one man is hard, but DEFINITELY worth it. But we shouldn’t be surprised, right?
God’s version of good is always better than ours.
So does this mean I have to resort to a life of frumpiness and not be attractive?
This is the good news…no! I think there’s a big (and somewhat delicate) balance between dressing attractively and dressing to attract. There are plenty of ways that you can still be attractive and in style without giving into the lies that you have to “flaunt what you got”.
In 1 Timothy 2:9-10, Paul urges that the women’s dress be “kosmio”, which means appropriate or filling, consistent to their character as children of God.
At risk of being legalistic, I don’t want to give you an “absolute” list of rules for what to wear and what not to wear (though I could give you some suggestions or quick modesty “tests”, if you’re interested). You’re not stupid. You know what parts of your body are more likely to get a guy going. Guys have told me shirts, pants or shorts that are too tight, too low, or too short make it extra hard for them, as well as little sneak peeks of your underwear or bra. Glimpses of your secret beauty can cause a guy’s mind to “finish the picture”. It may be hard for us to understand since we’re not wired quite that way, but God did make guys that way. Save those things for your hubby. You can have plenty of fun dressing (or undressing) for his eyes someday. Doesn’t need to be for everyone else.
Besides, giving a list won’t cover everything anyway. You could dress like an Amish woman from head to toe and STILL struggle with being immodest. Modesty has as much to do with how you carry yourself, what you say, and how you interact with guys as it does with what you wear. Remember, it’s really a heart issue! Again, you can do your absolute best to present yourself in an appropriate way, and guys STILL may choose to sin…but at least you’ve done your part.
Why are guys such pigs? Where’s my Prince Charming?
I often hear girls complain about how guys talk about girls or how they treat them. There’s not much that makes my heart more sad than seeing the reality of how disrespectful men can be toward women. Still, I wonder if teenage guys would act or talk more like Prince Charming if we acted a little more like princesses. If don’t understand this power of modesty, guys can get a cheap thrill from seeing your body without any commitment to you. They don’t have to win your hearts (which is OUR main sexual organ) if you’re giving away your body without it. Of course, I’m not saying that a guy’s only motive in winning your heart should be getting your body, but God HAS made sex a really cool part of marriage for us to enjoy.
A final plea from a married woman…
Please guard my husband’s eyes. Just because he’s married, doesn’t mean that he’s blind, that his brain shuts down, or that the enemy no longer uses the allure of women’s bodies to tempt him into sin. I see how hard he fights it and how pure he’s determined to keep his heart and mind. But he’s still a guy.
Not too long ago, I had a friend call me in tears. Her husband had been victorious over a pornography addiction for years…but now even things like Facebook were making it difficult for him. He loved Jesus, was committed to his wife and loved her deeply, but didn’t have to look any further than his Facebook newsfeed or friend’s walls to be led into an unnecessary struggle. Of course, my friend was hurt…but she was even more angry. Angry that girls, even girls from her church that should “know better”, were so thoughtless in the photos they chose to flaunt on the internet. These Christian girls, girls that were her friends, were carelessly (and ignorantly) affecting her marriage. Maybe they didn’t know any better. Maybe they didn’t understand what they were doing. But maybe they did…and simply chose what felt good and right to them at the moment rather than what would please their Heavenly Father.
“In sexual sin we violate the sacredness of our own bodies, these bodies that were made for God-given and God-modeled love, for “becoming one” with another. Or didn’t you realize that your body is a sacred place, the place of the Holy Spirit? Don’t you see that you can’t live however you please, squandering what God paid such a high price for? The physical part of you is not some piece of property belonging to the spiritual part of you. God owns the whole works. So let people see God in and through your body.”
1 Corinthians 6:17-20 (The Message)
YOU are beautiful and extremely valuable.
YOU are deeply and passionately loved.
YOU have been given this delicate power of modesty.
YOU must choose how to use it.