I got saved when I was 16. Over the years, I fell in love with Jesus, theology, and worship music. However, the one thing I never quite felt attracted to was the fact that women were constantly told to dress modestly. In my teen years, it made me feel restricted. It made me feel stuck. I understood the value of modesty, but understanding it never motivated me enough to actually wear modest clothes.
If you grew up in any type of Christian environment, you have most likely heard the old saying “Modest is hottest!”, but... to who!?!?!?
As a young woman, it is hard to understand what modesty truly means. Many are raised to believe that this means covering themselves from anything “hanging out”, yet when raised in a conservative Christian church “hanging out” could literally mean showing your shoulder.
Though I always respected older woman talking about this in the church, I always subtly resented how much it was emphasized. My resentment for modesty grew my desire to want to wear the flirty looking clothes that all of my non-saved friends were wearing. I wanted to squeeze myself into little tiny shorts and walk around with my friends and feel cute. I did not want to be told what was or was not appropriate by people who barely knew me.
I was young, prideful, and wrong.
I shouldn't have rebelled for the sake of rebelling. Yet, as I continue to grow in my faith, I do have a strong desire now to be a good influence to the younger generation and show them that it's totally possible to be beautiful and to respect your body. But I'm not going to lie...it's still a bit of a struggle for me.
There are times when I think that the church takes modesty a little too far and I still, to this day, don't want to meet their impossible expectations. Many times, I don't feel conviction and I feel at total peace with God over wearing something. Like an appropriate bikini.
Here's an example...
Just a few months ago, I went to the beach with a big group from church. I wore high waisted bikini bottoms and a straight across bikini top (no cleavage was shown). After I left, I was talked to by some of the oldest women there telling me that I needed to tone it down, "You shouldn't have shown my stomach" they said. Meanwhile, a bunch of guys from the church were there in Chubbies bathing suites (very short shorts) and their chests out. We are told in this culture that men are the only visual ones but the truth is, women are just as susceptible to it as men. If I have to cover up, sweat a ton at the beach and watch my brothers in Christ wear nothing and enjoy themselves, then that's just unfair.
My intentions were pure. I just wanted to have a great time, yet I winded up being judged and ridiculed for it.
But then there are still times, once in a while, when I just ignore my convictions and appeal to this world like I used to do when I was a teenager.
I have chronic insecurities, but one thing I'm not insecure about is the shape and size of my body. I like it. It's fun to show off. I love fitting into tiny little dresses. It's a blast to feel pretty. But I know, for a fact, that to think that way is just plain sinful. My body is to be dedicated to the Lord and my husband, and that's it. If I ever want to show it off, I should be doing that just for the person that I'm married to... and no one else. Sure, the attention feels nice, but holiness will feel better in the long run.
Just recently, I decided that I would take steps to eliminate my temptations since this is really a struggle for me. I went into my walk-in closet, and threw out three huge bags of clothes. Some clothing items in the bags still had the tags on them! But I knew it had to be done. Wanna know what else I did? I went through my whole Instagram feed and deleted over 10 photos. They had the most likes than any of my other posts, but the Lord was leading me to do it. So I obeyed.
What I have realized recently, and what I have to continually realize, is that modesty does include the topic of our clothing and what we wear. We are to be saving our intimate areas for the man that we spend forever with, and they definitely are not to be broadcasted all over Instagram. However, modesty is much more than the things that we buy at the store.
It is the way that we act.
When I'm looking at a crop top at the mall and debating whether or not I should get it...this verse pops into mind.
I also want the women to dress modestly, with decency and propriety, adorning themselves, not with elaborate hairstyles or gold or pearls or expensive clothes, but with good deeds, appropriate for women who profess to worship God.
- 1 Timothy 2:9-10
We are to be holding ourselves to high regard when it comes to our clothing, but it is also much more than that. We are to be modest in our action, and pleasing to God in the way we live our lives. We are called to act and love as Christ did, and we are called to be humble and kindhearted. If we focus on Christ and living for Him, then secondary things, like what we wear and the words we say, will follow.
Modesty is being confident enough in yourself to understand that you don’t have to flaunt yourself, whether that is physical or behavioral. If you are being modest, you are just living in a manner that naturally draws people in… you don’t have to use the fancy extras to get people to notice you.
You know those types of people...right? The kind of people that are so kind, so thoughtful and so warm that you want to be around them always? The ones that just love Jesus so much that it radiates their presence? Yeah. I want to be like them.
Come to think of it... they are the people that leave the lasting impression on me the most. If I see a girl with a great body barely wearing anything, I don't think about her for years to come in a fond way. But when I meet someone who has a beautiful soul, that sticks with me forever.
Biblical modesty truly just comes down to living in the way that Jesus lived. Jesus was someone who was considerate, a good listener, and a servant to all… He was a man who was humble enough to literally be beaten and then crucified publicly for you and I. He was the most modest person who ever did or ever will walk this earth.
I can definitely take a lesson from Jesus when it comes to how to be modest. Maybe you can too.
While I believe that Jesus models modesty well, I think that the American church misplaces their priorities when it comes to this topic.
Instead of focusing on the heart issue at hand, they try to cover up our symptoms with a band-aid. I often have different standards of modesty. However, my standards still challenge me to my core and make me surrender on my knees in tears. Yet, my standards are also practical enough to let me be free in the summer, without compromising where the Holy Spirit is trying to lead me.
Where I still find myself struggling is somewhere in between all of that. Between knowing the church has too strict of standards for the wrong reasons and trying to figure out where my line of conviction is drawn. Sometimes that takes me messing up a few times and then checking my heart before the cross, and God correcting me. Which, I guess, is all a part of the process.
Our actions are all for the purpose of glorifying the Lord, they are not out of our own selfish ambitions, instead we are called to live our lives as a reflection of how Jesus modeled a Christian lifestyle here on this earth.
Modesty is not something that comes from following a rulebook, it comes from following Christ.
Progress, not perfection.