Modesty & Back-to-School Shopping
Now, a loving reminder. Let me start with an interesting email that I got from a young single woman who expressed the crisis many of us face:
"I'm 23 and was raised in a Christian home where modesty was taught. It wasn't until my college years that I began to realize how attractive men found my 4'9", 98-pound body. Suddenly I had their attention. I work with the youth at my church, and my pastor's wife has mentioned to me on several occasions that my skirts are too short or my shirts cut too low. But I always retaliate by saying I'm not going to dress like my grandma, and if a guy can't look at me without thinking of sex, that's his problem."
Been there? Thought that? Me too. Many times the ways I've dressed as a single and as a married woman have flown in the face of a man's attempt to live in holiness before God ... and, if he's married, in faithfulness to his wife. How that grieves me as I've become more aware of how fragile men are in this area! Social science reveals a man's sexual response is initiated by his autonomic nervous system (ANS), which isn't controlled by the will, but by the environment. If a man sees a woman walk by wearing revealing clothing, his ANS can be activated. The brain then sends chemicals rushing through his body. He may notice the change in his pulse and his body temperature. While many men override these responses in a godly manner, they can't control their initial intoxicating reaction to an immodestly dressed woman. God intends for a man to enjoy this intoxicating power, but through only one woman—his wife.
Heart of Darkness?
First Corinthians 10:32 says, "Do not cause anyone to stumble." What an uncomfortable challenge when it comes to fashion! But the problem with immodesty isn't just about causing our Christian brothers to stumble; it's also about our craving for the emotional rush we receive when we know we're being noticed. As the root of a man's sexual sin often is linked with the visual, so ours is connected to the emotional.
I still struggle with the temptation to accept the world's standards for fashion, but now I carry with me an awareness of the responsibility I have as a woman created to be intoxicating to one man, Bob. I've not only had to rearrange my wardrobe, but also my heart. Change hasn't come easily for me; even years after I'd thrown away a mass of immodest clothes and was asked to write a book on modesty, I resisted. When I got down to the root of the feeling, I was afraid God might ask me to change my unclean heart. And He did.
While I don't conform to legalistic views about fashion, I do conform to the Holy Spirit's conviction. As I've embraced those promptings, I've discovered a few things that have helped me take the high road in this skin-is-in society. Maybe you can try these on as you head out to buy a back-to-school wardrobe!
- Discuss your wardrobe with your dad or an older brother. Since I travel nationwide to speak with teen girls about sexual purity, I own some travel-friendly, trendy outfits, including a sheer blouse I used to wear over a black tank top. My husband often challenged me about it, but I resisted him, saying it was "a style everyone else was wearing" and "it never looks sexual to me." But a year ago, I removed it from my wardrobe as an act of obedience to God. Recently I received an email in which a woman lovingly confronted me about that specific outfit she'd seen me previously wearing on national television. Ouch!
- Invite a friend over to clean out your closet. If you feel even a twinge of conviction as you read this, I'd encourage you to have a "fashion trashin' party." Invite a girlfriend over and trash anything from your closet that's questionable. Your friend's there for the things you're not sure about. Whatever she says is questionable goes.
- Reward yourself with a shopping spree. Once you've rid your closet of those questionable items, grab your girlfriend and go shopping to replace what you've discarded. If you're into trendy stuff, this could be tough (I searched for three months last summer for a trendy little sundress and never found one that wasn't way too "little"). But there are tricks that enable me to wear most of the trendy stuff without compromising. If you absolutely fall in love with a shirt that's too low-cut or too sheer, try a simple T-shirt under it. Buy these together with the promise they'll be worn that way.
- Spend time focusing positively on what your body truly is. If you've accepted Jesus Christ's forgiveness and made Him your Lord, God dwells within you: "Do you not know that your body is a temple of the Holy Spirit, who is in you, whom you have received from God? You are not your own; you were bought at a price. Therefore honor God with your body" (1 Corinthians 6:19-20). Each time you choose which clothes to wear you're decorating the temple of the living God. Memorize that verse, and pack it in your heart before you head out to spend cold hard cash this month!