Thursday, June 1, 2017

What is Modesty?

Recently, I took my daughter shopping for her 9th birthday.  She wanted clothes this year which made me sad all in itself because that alone screamed she’s not a little girl anymore!  I mean, it seems like yesterday that her birthday lists comprised of baby dolls, stuffed animals, and princess accessories so when she begged me to go shopping for maxi dresses, casual outfits, and jewelry, my heart sunk!  I officially have a tween!  Even typing that makes me shake my head!  It just doesn’t seem possible that my first born baby…that chunky bundle of joy I held in my arms for the first time as a mom…can already be a tween.  People told me to cherish every moment because they go by fast, but come on people…no amount of words could have prepared this momma’s heart for how quickly those moments and years really pass by!  Yet, here we are…raising a tween daughter.

As we entered the store on her birthday, there was so much excitement.  Anytime I get a chance to go shopping without impatient little ones, that’s something to get excited about…even if I’m not shopping for myself!  As we started looking through the racks, what I thought was going to be a fun moment for me and my daughter quickly turned into a sad life lesson.  We didn’t even make it past the first few racks before my daughter made a comment about some of the outfits not being very appropriate.  Sadly, she was right.  I quietly watched my daughter as she looked through the clothes.  I saw her spot an outfit on the racks and excitedly scurried over there only to watch her smile turn slanted as she held it up and realized the entire back of the blouse was backless.  Then again, I saw her face light up as she saw some bejeweled jean shorts only to be disappointed to unfold them and see they were so short that the pockets hung out the bottom of the shorts.  I listened as she asked me why people even make these kinds of clothes. 

Modesty is not a foreign topic in our home.  We talk about what is appropriate and inappropriate to wear.  We discuss often that we should honor God in what we wear and in all that we do and say.  In my effort to raise children who are modest, I have learned that modesty has far more to do with the heart more than what you wear.  Let me explain.

I grew up in a Christian home where modesty was taught and encouraged.  I can remember being mindful as a teenager to make sure my midriff was covered and cleavage concealed.  I don’t necessarily remember doing these things in an effort to please the Lord as much as dressing modestly out of respect for my parents and myself, as well as not giving the wrong impression to guys. 

As true as this is, I have since learned that modesty has far more to with a person’s heart than it does the clothing they wear. 

When I became a mother, there was a shift in my heart that took place when I truly understood the magnitude of my responsibility to raise this human being.  To hold that miracle baby nine years ago and realize that God chose me to be her Mom…I was in awe that He entrusted me to love her, care for her, and guide her to become the woman He created her to be.  When I realized what gift The Lord had given me, oh how I wanted to cherish that gift and do a job well done.  My heart opened up that day to God’s correction like never before.  I desired to please Him more than my own desires.  Things that used to not bother me, all of a sudden began to make me squirm and my view of modesty was one of those areas.  Things that I once ruled to be okay for me to wear, didn’t seem so appropriate when I imagined my daughter wearing the same thing.  I wanted better for her.  We do that as moms, don’t we?  How much more does our Heavenly Father want for us?  He is so good.  As my heart began to open up to the understanding of His goodness, there was something in me that desired to please Him more and more and that was and is what I continue to teach my children today.  We will never be worthy of all that God has done for us and all the blessings He has poured into our lives.  We can’t do anything to deserve His love…He gave it freely.  However, as we seek Him more and come to know Him better, there comes a point where our greatest desire is to please Him because He is good, not because we want to be good.  We no longer make decisions based on man's opinion of good or bad, religious expectations, or other people’s rules…after all, those standards all change with time.  Instead, it comes down to "What does your Word say?" and “Is this pleasing to You Lord?”  It was this process and shift in my heart that lead me to seek scripture about modesty as I desired to please God in the way I raised my daughter. 

1 Peter 3:3-4 says, “Do not let your adorning be external---the braiding of hair and the putting on of gold jewelry, 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 Timothy 2:9-10 says, “Women should adorn themselves in respectable apparel, with modesty and self-control, not with braided hair and gold or pearls or costly attire, but with what is proper for women who profess godliness---with good works.”

As I studied these and several other scriptures on modesty, I took away a few things…

1.     Modesty is dressing in a way that draws others to see our hearts before our bodies.
2.     Modesty is revealing the beauty of a gentle and quiet spirit instead of revealing the beauty of a body that we worked hard for at the gym.
3.     Modesty is respectable.

As I began to pray about these nuggets that I took away from scripture, the Lord began to expose some areas in my life where I very well desired the attention from others and I became painfully aware of why I had chosen to wear certain things.  It exposed a proud and haughty spirit, not the beauty of a gentle and quiet spirit that The Lord finds so precious.  I repented and asked God to forgive me and this is why I have chosen to raise my daughters (and son) to be modest.   I don’t want my children to grow up with a set of rules of what they can and can’t wear.  Instead, I want them to ask themselves, does this outfit please the Lord and does it draw attention to me or does it still allow others to see my gentle and quiet spirit?   

Modesty is much more than an outfit.  Our attitudes can be immodest just as much as our clothing!  I just had to teach my daughter this lesson not too long ago.  I had bought her some yoga pants with a cute top from Old Navy a few months ago and she loved it!  I didn’t realize it when I bought it, but when she tried it on, I noticed the back of the shirt had an opening up at the top that showed part of her back and then it was split about half-way down the shirt.  I probably wouldn’t have bought it had I seen that in the store, but after seeing it on her, her hair covered the opening on her back and the split just showed a sliver of her back because her pants covered everything else so I told her it was fine.  I didn’t think much about it, until I started noticing she was wearing that outfit almost every day.  On the days it was dirty, I’d find her digging through the hamper looking for it and asking me when I was going to do laundry.  She acted like it was the only outfit she owned!  I began noticing her looking in the mirror over her shoulder, holding her hair up so she could see her own back.  She was becoming very obsessed with how “cute” she looked in this particular outfit and fished for compliments every time she wore it asking, "What do you think, do I look cute (insert pose)?".  To anyone else, this outfit would have been deemed modest…it was pants and the top was a tunic style that covered her rear.  However, the Lord began to open my eyes to a change in my daughter’s heart that was directly related with this outfit.  This outfit made her feel older, sexier, prettier, and better than her other outfits did.  She wore it with a proud heart and her actions revealed that prideful spirit.  Let’s just say she was working it in the mirror and thought she was pretty hot stuff!  

When I brought it to her attention and told her what I had noticed, she began to cry.  She’s extremely sensitive to spiritual matters and she told me that she felt ashamed the first time she wore it because she knew it wasn’t respectful to God, yet she wore it anyway because I told her it was fine.  She explained to me that one of her friends wore an outfit like that a lot and she wanted to be “cool” like her friend.  It broke my heart to hear her words for a couple of reasons.  First of all, I pray daily that my children would be sensitive to the leading of the Holy Spirit and that the Holy Spirit would be their guide.  It broke my heart that I silenced that leading by telling my child something was okay even though I knew when I saw it that I wouldn’t have bought it had I known it looked like that in the back…I should have listened to that initial leading.  I made excuses as to why I thought it was okay even though I knew it wasn’t something I would have purchased had I seen it in the first place because it wouldn’t have passed the question of “Does this please and honor God?”.  Secondly, it broke my heart because we have to teach our girls that their value does not lie in the opinions of others, their physical beauty, or in their abilities.   Rather, their value and true worth comes in their identity as a child of God!  They need to know WHO they are IN CHRIST!  When they do, their quiet and gentle spirits will shine and they won’t need to adorn themselves with outfits to draw attention to themselves.  I am determined to teach my children their value because that’s where true modesty will be learned. 


Gibbymom said...

Thank God there are mothers like you out there. You're a gift! Thank you for speaking to a real problem in society today and for following the Holy Spirit in reminding all of us. I'll be sharing your post with my dtr-in-laws who both have girls.

Mary Nelson said...

Thank you so much @Gibbymom for your encouraging words and for sharing! I appreciate you helping me take what God shared with me to the world! <3