I was talking to one of my friends about modesty this week and I started thinking again. I really don’t have time to think, but sometimes I do it anyways. And this is where it gets you. She had me listen to a sermon on modesty and it triggered my Something Is Wrong response. It was unsettling. And then I landed on what it was. It was the sadness, the shame, the reproach. Dudes just can’t give modesty sermons cheerfully. It somehow always devolves to us hurting their feelings by how good we look. I’m sorry, but they’re just sad and jealous because they can’t have more than one wife. And they want them all. Because women are hot stuff. Do you know why? Because that’s the way God made them. “I’m too hot, hot damn. Call the police and the fireman.”
And that’s the way we like it.
Modesty sermons should be given from the other direction. The “Holy Cow!” perspective. Women are the crown of creation, the glory of man, and we look good. The particular sermon I heard went past the usual cover-it-up injunctions, to the parka approach. “It shall not hug your breast, it shall not cling to your buttocks, it shall not shape to your thigh, nor shall it shall in any other way suggest that, underneath, you are a woman.” Okay, it kinda stops here. That’s it, really. You cannot go around insisting that it’s unbiblical to be female. It’s not a crime. Not all modesty sermons go so far, but it’s the same conclusion. We all know the male lust approach to modesty. The only problem is that road doesn’t have an end. Which is perhaps why the verses on modesty are not built around accommodating men, they never even mention them. We just added that in there because we’re considerate. Modesty is not for the benefit of men, it’s for our blessing. Why? Because God is good and desires good for us. Yet somehow, when pastors trot out the modesty shtick it’s with reproach, shame, and condemnation. As if they are somehow blaming us for the fact that they can’t think of anything else. I call it a design feature. If women didn’t “inspire” men the way they do, civilization wouldn’t exist. Thank you very much. Not to mention, your husband wouldn’t be working 9 to 5 at the office, after commuting an hour in his beige, fuel efficient Nissan Sentra, if it weren’t for the clever way in which God designed the world. It’s not all bad.
Modesty is about honoring God, which in turn beautifies and benefits us. Because that is what obedience always does. Modesty is pro-woman. It’s about self-control, about adorning ourselves, living according to the dignity we have been allotted, and not selling ourselves short. We are daughters of the King and the final touch of His creation. To quote Nancy Wilson, “Modesty is a good thing. It isn’t dorky or out of date. Modesty is a woman’s glory. It is concerned with propriety and moderation, which I take to mean good taste, not cheesy or cheap. Modesty is an attitude. It isn’t flamboyant or ridiculous. It is reverent, God-honoring. A modest woman has integrity and self-respect. She cares more for pleasing God than exposing herself to the grandstands. She has security in knowing who she is and Whom she serves.” It’s dignity, not shame. And above all, it’s beautiful, not ugly. Don’t miss the boat. Or at least have the sense to walk out of the airport, and in the general direction of the dock. Modesty is good, it is righteous, it’s lovely, it is powerful, it is honoring, and you like it. And if you don’t, you do now.
Because what can be compared to a woman? Nothing. Know who you are. Know your worth. I frequently notice how often the illustrations in the kids’ folklore books capture the strength, faithfulness, dignity, and virtue of women that is absent in our depictions of women today. I look at those pictures and ask myself, am I that?
Um, no. My sister was asking me about my apparent double standard. You know, me and my mini-skirts. Let’s say this, I am not a modesty legalist. I am more of a modesty hobbyist. I think of it this way, modesty is not a law. There are no watermarks on your legs. You have liberty. The question is what do you want to do with it? And are you up for a challenge? And some days I can only handle what is right in front of me. But I know where my heart is. What I want. And I want it because I like it, not because I have to. My vision of modesty has slowly evolved the more I thought about it. I think this growth was especially punctuated by actually seeing, beautiful, feminine, modest women in person. You notice them because you don’t see them very often. I read somewhere, that to pass the time in an airport, a woman was people watching, trying to find someone who captured the awe of femininity. Unfortunately, it turned out to be quite a few dull hours in the terminal. Until, finally, a lady in a sari went by. And there it was. Modesty. There is something about the extra layers that add the extra glory. Modesty and high calling go hand in hand.
Of course, since we have liberty, we can do what we like. And we can do it in short shorts if we have to. But for me, I want to go to where the glory is. Experience should teach us to chase obedience. And oddly enough, no one has really talked about the fun of modesty, no one mentions it. Maybe they are too busy crying about yoga pants and pointing fingers. And really, I can’t speak for everyone. Or frankly anyone. I just know that when I see a girl in a dress, I see more than a girl in a dress. I see a woman in the fullest sense of the word. I see virtue, fortitude, honor, beauty, grace, deference, femininity. Who God created us to be, visualized. I catch a glimpse of the value of our calling. I am inspired. And I think that is what women do, they inspire. They lift up. They embody virtue, chastity, modesty, respect. What men would objectify in women, God covers. God enthrones, He lifts up, He dignifies, He protects. What the world would cheapen, God would honor. And who are we to turn Him down?
I think as women we need to first acknowledge that modesty is good. That it is a gift from a good God. Start with that. However you choose to define modesty, embrace it with both arms. I think we’ve heard it so much so often the other way round, that we can only think of modesty defensively. Turn that all off. And then fall in love with modesty yourself. Make a board on Pinterest. Collect things that to you speak beauty, dignity, worth, decorum, femininity, glory – and then retrain your tastes. Maybe, over time, they will change you. Maybe you will like it. And maybe others will be inspired by you.
As for men, they should be crying their eyes out everywhere. They should see you walk by and do a double take. They should think, “Now there is a woman. I haven’t even seen one of those before. Where can I go to get one? Wait, who do I have to be to merit one…can I have more than one?” No, I’m just kidding. 🙂
Look lovely, be hot, be amazing, be one of a kind, and do it to the glory of God. Because that is the way He made you.