Piecing It Together
"Let's face it. Women are beautiful." My husband and I were hashing through the fairly recent Facebook bikini viral video. The 8 minute video discussion had some very interesting observations that I had not heard before. Stating that women are beautiful, my husband also went on to say that modesty and context must be considered together. Depending on where you are and who you are with - the very same piece of clothing could work…. and then not.
In her discussion, Jessica Rey talks of modesty, fashion, beauty, men's brains….and a faint hue of God as she closes. So how do the former all relate? How is a woman supposed to gel them all together as she communicates and presents herself to the world? What if you also call yourself a Christian in all of this?
Jesus and what He did and said are the foundation for Christianity; I often think of a famous, bedrock quote of His:
"Whoever wants to be my disciple must deny themselves and take up their cross and follow me." (Mathew 16:24)
Jesus draws some lines in the sand for those who want to follow Him - one of them being deny yourself. Lay yourself right down. All of you. All of your rights. All of your entitlements. All of your desires, hopes, dreams. ALL. Tell yourself no. Tell Him yes. Deny. Starve. Forget. And when you do that…..He has better in mind. Better and best…does He not claim His GOODNESS (intentions to bless and not curse) all over scripture?
But, whew. Not your average, easy, run-of-the-mill call to action. This is hard. Requires diligence. Thought. Perseverance. Many of which are not popular in our do whatever-you-feel-like-at-the-moment, Emotions-are-King society. Denying self is not normal nor easy.
Jesus' Grid and Modesty
Let's run the idea of modesty through Jesus' grid of Mathew 16:24 - and see where we may find ourselves.
In my world of Christianity over the past 15-20 years, modesty has often been reduced. Made small. Put into little laws and rules (2 inch straps only, please, no dancing or bikini's or…insert all KINDS of new No-Touches) and squeezed into a tidy box and handed to you. There. You don't have to think anymore. If you do this, you will be modest. And then please God. Off you go.
Modesty has been shoved and pushed and made to be small. But, dear reader, let us give modesty back her rightful place. She can stand tall on her own two beautiful, dignified legs quite well.
Modesty: the state or quality of being modest. Regard for decency of behavior, speech and dress. Lack of vanity. Lack of pretentiousness; simplicity. A mode of dress and deportment intended not to encourage sexual attraction in others; actual standards vary widely. Freedom from conceit.
Antonyms includes: pride, arrogance, egotism, boastfulness.
The definition of modesty connects what is above water to what is below. Like the beauty of a coral reef - the surface is beautiful, but the ecosystem below is stunning. As the life below is healthy, so shall the view above. Outside clothing and inside heart posture are married. And when we are called to deny oneself - pride, arrogance, egotism and boastfulness seem to be….unfitting. The idea of thinking before you act, before you speak, and before you dress would be very necessary.
So, what is the heart of the matter, when it comes to Christians and modesty?
Exactly. The heart.
Ladies who follow Christ, what is our motive and heart behind dressing how we dress? Men who follow Christ, what it the motive and heart behind looking?
Is there pride, arrogance, egotism and boastfulness at play? Is there dignity, standard and decency around? What is in your heart as you think through your outer self? I would propose Jesus cares way more about your heart than your bikini. Love God, and then wear whatever you want. See what you put on.
Men's Brains and Birds Nests
It seems training, time and practice would be involved to have the right heart…so that nests are not made on top of our heads.
The author of "Thoughts to Make Your Heart Sing" illustrates this point perfectly. She talks of a large bird that is perched comfortably in a big nest on top of a child's head. She asks children if it's their fault if a bad thought pops into their head….if they should feel bad about that thought. Nope. It just did…it just landed. Not your fault if a bird were to just land on your head. What would be our fault, of course, would be if we then let it build an entire home on top of our head and live there. Similarly, what we do with thoughts that are tethered to pride, arrogance, egotism and boastfulness are then our responsibility once they are brought to our attention.
I cannot control the thoughts and brains and realities of men. My little 6 year old boy is being raised by my husband and I; we will teach him to allow birds that are tethered to faith, hope and love to remain and build a nest. But that's all the domain I have over "men" in this world.
I do, however, have domain over my thoughts, choices, considerations. And once this particular bikini video came underneath the category of "things I now have seen," I had a responsibility that came with this knowledge. What do I think? How do I dress? Why? Sigh. Ignorance does seem blissful.
Let's Ask Questions
In this discussion, what if instead of laying down laws….we laid down questions and inquisitions? May I start with what many beautiful women have been feeding me for years?
Why does every workout video I have done (female-led) tell me I must be "bikini ready?" Really? That's my goal? What about being fit and heart healthy and good endorphins pumping and stress relief so I don't yell at my children and have long lasting life with my friends and family? Or living to see my great grandchildren toddle around this amazing earth? You want to reduce my workout - day after day - to a bikini? That's it? How small. Is this why I am so tired of trying to get bikini ready?
Other questions could include: What am I communicating with my clothing? With my swim suits? With myself?
If I want to follow behind Jesus….what rights do I have left? If none is the answer, does this include my dress? Is the goal to pull and pull at the leash to see how far I can stretch it? Or to, as a golden retriever would, not focus upon the leash, but enjoy the company of simply walking closely alongside her Master?
Is Godly Spirit-led shopping possible? Of course. You can shop and take girlfriends and even (this is crazy) pray before you get out of the car to choose our latest trends well. Clothing that fits you well, shows your beauty well, and radiates a heart that lays down self.
What actually is attractive? How is that I spotted a 50 year old woman wearing a bikini and looking like it worked quite well for her…found myself hoping I looked that great when I become her age……until I heard her open her mouth toward her son….only to hear disdain, harsh tones and rude words…..all thought of beauty escaped me….
Honey, the heart shows through those two pieces.
What do we do about research regarding mens brains? That when they see a bikini the part of the brain that stays open registers hammers, wrenches and tools? Objects? Knowledge and responsibility go hand in hand. Now what?
Is it really the Bikini?
In closing, it's not about the bikini. We can talk straps and dress lengths and shoes and head coverings and really anything under the sun that could "cause a man to stumble." What's the line, then? Who will tell me what to wear or not?
The Spirit of God is our line.
With anything that is a gray area (not spelled out as specific revelation but is general….God gave no laws for 2013 dress codes….) the Spirit is our Guide. God gave His Spirit that lives inside those who follow Jesus to teach us (and our hearts), shape us, lead us, refine us, strengthen us to lay down what we so badly desire to hold onto. To help our heart seek the good things above. So that we may know and love God more and better.
And so, with questions as our answers: Why would anyone want to actually lay down yourself at all?
Because I am laying it down for a good King….the BEST King to serve. Not an evil King. He has a good plan; one that includes hope, faith, loveliness, joy, beauty, love. He loved you so much he got Himself killed so that the keys to the locked Kingdom of Heaven are now opened to you. Not shut. Because giving of self proves to be better than grabbing for self. I want to serve the BEST. And God knows it's not me.