Wednesday, December 19, 2012

Throwing away our tiaras: A new look on modesty

Somehow, between switching blog domains and posting on an iPad while in Ecuador, this post found itself in my Draft folder. I don't want to lose it, so I'm reposting it. The original post date was over a year ago on my Wordpress blog, but I still feel just the same about modesty and our outlook on appearance. For more, you can read my heart on outer beauty here.


With warmer weather (despite this week's harsh winter-like comeback) and warm-weather clothes reappearing, I've thought a lot about the way clothing really reflects the lifestyle of a female. The fashion industry (and our own sinful nature) has done damage to the pristine look of beauty that God initially intended for his daughters.

I'm not setting out to write a condemning blog post, but a call to action for girls & women who say they hold themselves to Christ's standard of modesty. All my life, talks of "modesty" has been shoved through my throat, ears, eyes, and probably even my nose in order to get to my heart. I didn't care in middle school, wanted to rebel in high school, and am learning to appreciate it in college. The only time "modest is hottest" is thrown around in conversation is usually just to poke fun at the people who (we think) take modesty wayyyy too seriously, and to moan about how much my youth group "forced" modesty upon us. Does this ring true in any other female's heart?

While reading through Isaiah this week, I was startled to find a passage that so closely identifies with our plight today and brings attention to the rotten sinfulness of the matter. I've included the section from chapter 3 that really struck a noisy chord with me:
"The Lord says, 'The women of Zion are haughty, walking along with outstretched necks, flirting with their eyes, tripping along with mincing steps, with ornaments jingling on their ankles. Therefore the Lord will bring sores on the heads of the women of Zion; the Lord will make their scalps bald.'

In that day the Lord will snatch away their finery: the bangles and headbands and crescent necklaces, the earrings and bracelets and veils, the headdresses and ankle chains and sashes, the perfume bottles and charms, the signet rings and nose rings, the fine robes and the capes and cloaks, the purses and mirrors, and the linen garments and tiaras and shawls.

Instead of fragrance there will be a stench; instead of a sash, a rope; instead of well-dressed hair, baldness; instead of fine clothing, sackcloth; instead of beauty, branding. Your men will fall by the sword, your warriors in battle. The gates of Zion will lament and mourn; destitute, she will sit on the ground." -Isaiah 3:16-26

I wouldn't say this is the happiest passage I have ever read from the Bible, in the least! However, we have much to learn from these haughty women of Zion. I've seen it on my long walks to class, sitting in the Colonnades, shopping at the mall, going to church: flirty eyes, flaunting their stuff, well put together, flashy, dressed in such a way to draw attention to all the right things. Unfortunately, I have even seen it in my own dress. To get a better idea of just how much we can relate to the women of Zion, read this version of the passage. (FYI: the "daughters of Zion" claimed to be a part of God's chosen people.) Replace attention-drawing ankle ornaments with short little dresses, or fine robes and tiaras with designer clothing, and you have a modern-day version of the haughty women of Zion. I don't know about you, but I would rather spare myself the fate of those destitute women.

It's interesting that this passage seems to define modesty in a way that we do not typically emphasize. From what I've always learned, modesty seemed to be about covering up whatcha got and making sure the clothes don't cling too tightly. While these are good and holy things to remember, the Lord stays true to form by emphasizing the heart of the matter: what is your attitude? Fine jewelry, jingling ornaments, and sparkling tiaras all draw attention to the wearer of these dignified adornments. I don't think anyone can argue that a low-cut shirt screams for attention- whether the wearer is conscious of it or not. But if it's all about the attitude, we should be looking at the heart. We justify our attention-seeking hearts by standing in front of the mirror, telling ourselves any number of things:

"It's just really really hot outside, and I'll blend in with everyone else if I just wear this, so no one will even notice that it's just a little too short."

"Everyone is wearing this new style, and I absolutely love it! I really need to get a new wardrobe. Mine is outdated, anyway."

"It's girls' night- why should I care if this dress may make a guy stumble? It's not like I'm hanging out with any guys. Besides, I look hot in it."

"I need this new pair of jeans- even though it's a little more expensive, I look really good in them."

Where is your heart?

I'm not saying we should walk around looking like nuns or wear the same thing every day. There is something to be said for a modest and flattering outfit. In fact, I have a $15 gift card to Target that I intend to use (very soon) on some new addition to my wardrobe! Instead, I think the Lord's point is that we focus all too much on drawing attention to outer looks, keeping our minds stayed on our physical presentation. We want more clothes and accessories so we will get more attention. We want to be respected for our great sense of fashion and for looking well put-together. We don't just want nice things, we need nice things. We feel beautiful based on how many compliments we receive for what we've put on our bodies. Sisters, this should not be!

The Lord places a clear life of judgment on women who put their trust in worldly beauty and attention- that much is clear from Isaiah 3. But what is of great worth in God's sight, and what are characteristics of His daughters?
"Your beauty should not come from outward adornment, such as braided hair and the wearing of gold jewelry and fine clothes. Instead, it should be that of your inner self, the unfading beauty of a gentle and quiet spirit, which is of great worth in God's sight. For this is the way of the holy women of the past who put their hope in God used to make themselves beautiful." (1 Peter 3:3-5)

Am I defined by the way I dress? Do my clothes and accessories hold a higher worth than they should? What is my attitude as I check my clothes in the mirror? What do I seek to draw attention to? Before I upload those pictures of me and my friends in bikinis to Facebook, or buy yet another "cute" accessory to add to the multitudes, or try to get away with a probably too-clingy shirt, I hope that I will think about Christ's standards. Women of God make themselves beautiful by seeking to draw attention to Jesus rather than themselves. Besides, the "unfading beauty" of a Christ-seeking woman rings a far more beautiful song in God's ears than the clanging of ankle ornaments.

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