For the last few months, the Lord has been talking to me about dressing modestly. Lately, it’s been pretty easy to dress modestly, considering the last couple of years I have been battling a 40-pound weight gain thanks to a thyroid issue. I praise God for the recent 20-pound weight loss, but as the scale drops, my eyes are turning to the clothes that are hanging in my closet, calling my name. Yet there is another voice emerging from my closet. This one is a quieter voice amid the cacophony. It asks me to really look at those clothes demanding my attention, with an eye toward modesty.
Last night, (or should I say this morning, given it was well after midnight?), the remaining friends from Connections started talking about modesty. It isn’t the first time this conversation has come up. I really believe God wants us to hear what he has to say about modesty – not only in the way we dress, but also in the way we speak and behave. It isn’t a personal matter, but something vitally important for the sake of others.
I shared what I saw in the two different congregations in Israel, and what I observed with the Orthodox Jews and their dress. It is not hard to identify who is Orthodox and who is not. Immediately the conversation veered in a different direction, speaking about kippah, tallit, and tzitzit. However, that was not the point I was trying to make.
Last summer, I took my grandchildren to an indoor playground. There were several Jewish (likely Orthodox) families there. How do I know this? Was it because I saw tzitzit and kippah? No. I saw moms with their hair covered wearing long-sleeved shirts and leggings under their below-the-knee skirts. Their daughters were in similar garb. It was only after I noticed these women and their daughters that I saw one little boy with them donning his kippah and tzitzit.
This was the day that the Lord started speaking to me about modest appearance; about how we show that we are set apart from the world. Not by the crosses we wear, not by the bibles we carry, but by dressing in a way that is different from societal norm. Our appearance gives honor to our God and King. It says we are different. We dress differently (not strangely, but modestly), we speak differently (not in Christianese, but without vulgarity, without negativity, without gossip), and we behave differently (with love and concern for our fellow believers and non-believers).
When I was in junior high school – many, many moons ago – I conducted a personal experiment. I have no clue what made me do this, but I did. I was president of the drama club and on the staff of the newspaper (such as it was.) One day, I decided I wanted to start dressing better. The style at the time was torn jeans. So I started wearing skirts with blouses to school. Within a month, more and more girls were doing the same, and the boys started wearing slacks and polos or button ups.
When this happened, I decided to conduct an experiment. No one knew but me. I went back to wearing my bell-bottom jeans, some with holes in them, and of course the frayed bottoms. Again, within a month or so, the overall dress of the students reverted to jeans and t-shirts. I waited a bit, and then started dressing up again. The school year ended with a large number of students dressing better than they did when the year began. It was then I realized how much influence one person has, and it’s not limited to their circle of friends. The ripple effect in an entire school blew my mind!
If you’ve been following my blog, then you know my recent trip to Israel was glorious. Yes, there were some challenges, but they paled in comparison to everything we experienced. If I had to pin point on thing that nagged at me the entire time I was there, it was the heat. Living in tropical south Florida, you would think I was used to it. Well, I am and I’m not.
At home, I don’t spend too much time out in the heat. I go from home to car to stores to friends’ houses and back again. All (or most) of these are air-conditioned. When I am outdoors, it’s at the beach or pool, so heat is quickly alleviated. Not so in Israel. Oh, there’s plenty of a/c. But we did a lot of walking…a lot a lot. In one of the hostels, we shared the room with four other women who were not so keen on using the a/c. So if I had to pick one thing that got under my skin in Israel, it was that I was tired of sweating.
I had camisoles with me, to wear under some of the shirts that were a little see through, and leggings to wear with the wrap around skirt I brought. Can I tell you that one day I was so tempted to forget the long-sleeved shirt and just go with the cami and leggings? It certainly would have been a lot cooler.
But God reminded me of who I was. I was a grandmother and an older woman in the faith surrounded by younger women in the faith. If it’s okay for me to dress that way, it’s okay for them, right?
Wrong. I am called to be an example to younger women – whether I am married or single, overweight or not. Dressing modestly for the sake of being an example takes precedence over my own comfort. It also takes precedence over my personal style in clothing, so I’ll be saying bye-bye to all those clothes screaming my name.
Another thing to consider is the men who might see me. Oh, don’t get me wrong, I am nothing special to look at. But we women do not understand what men go through during the course of the day, and how visual they are. Those who think women are the same are just naïve, and God will one day show them that it is not the same thing. Yes, we are tempted to thoughts we shouldn’t have by a good-looking man showing off his body, but it is not the same barrage of thoughts men experience.
I did have someone say to me that men’s reactions to what women wear it is between them and God. But that is simply not true. Paul tells us not to be a stumbling block. Yes, a man who is not actively practicing self-control will have issues no matter what a woman wears, but we should not make it harder for them to get their thoughts under control.
The bottom line here is that followers of the Master should dress in a way that brings honor to him as our King; we should stand out from the crowd in a way that positively affects society; we should be examples to those younger than ourselves; and we should avoid being a stumbling block. These standards are not just for women, but men as well. Dressing modestly is all about putting the needs of others before our own.