Sunday, April 6, 2014

Concealing Beauty

It is hard to believe it is almost summer again! 70 degrees? Yeah, I can roll with that! But that also means I will have to deal with seeing all the super short shorts, skimpy shirts, and bikinis. 

Growing up in a Christian home, I have never struggled too much with staying modest. I have followed all the modesty rules promoted by church camps and youth groups. But, if I am allowed to be honest, my heart has not always been in the right place. Like most girls, I have days where modesty feels more like a burden God forces us to carry than a gift of grace.

 Sometimes I am jealous of the girls on the beach.

There are several reasons I wish I could be them. For one, they look pretty cute sometimes! Some bikinis have polka dots and are downright adorable. They also are probably a whole lot cooler with less material, and comfort is one of my main priorities.

But beyond fashion and beyond comfort, these girls are revealing their bodies and we are hiding ours.

 For a long time I was afraid to dress immodestly. It was not because I feared dishonoring God, but because my body was hazardous. It is in guy's nature to be attracted to women's bodies and sin can turn this into lust. Most girls know that the best way to help our brothers stay as pure as possible is to be modest in our clothing and conduct. Making the simple sacrifice to cover it up is one way we as girls can show love to guys. This is the right thing to do, but it can easily make us ashamed of our bodies because of the sin they can encourage. Soon our bodies and womanhood seem to be only instruments of sin, lust, and shame, so we had better hide them.

But this is not to deny selfish motives for modesty. The majority of women are body conscious, creating a whole new kind of hiding. I have spent a lot of time covering up my body because I hate it. I don't wear looser shirts, longer shorts, and high cut necklines because I think they are more decent  for everyone, but they are definitely right for me. If we wear bikinis, everyone will now we are chubby and the only thing worse than being self-conscious is for people to know you have a reason to be. In our minds our bodies are not only objects of stumbling, but they also produce a lot of emotional discomfort. When we cover the physical aspect of our being, we are able to avoid confrontation with our physical appearance, something most of us truly want.

Hide it. Cover it up.

The mindset of modesty being a kind of hiding welcomes jealousy of girls who didn't have to hide themselves. Instead of seeing them selling their bodies, we see them with freedom and confidence. Two things we desperately desire.

 Most girls don't answer to anyone else when they get dressed (with the exception of the fashion industry of course, but that is a different post entirely). They don't worry who will see them and how their clothes might be affecting others. The outcome of the kind of clothes filling their closets doesn't bother them. I wish I had that freedom with my wardrobe.

Then there is their confidence. Imagine being so exposed and ok with it! The girls on the beach are not concealing very much, but somehow they find a way to allow everyone to see that. No matter how confident I am with my body, I somehow feel less than these girls who can prove it. I want their confidence in vulnerability!

But instead of feeling independent and confident, I only feel ashamed and worthless.

Is this how God designed womanhood to feel? Did he create the uniqueness of the feminine body to be hidden at all costs? Are we meant to hide?

 We do live in a world of sin. A world were responsibilities exist and we are accountable for more than just ourselves. There is a line that needs to be drawn in how we clothe ourselves to be respectful and reflect glory back to God, but I believe everyone can set this modesty standard for themselves-- I want to deal with the heart issue.

Maybe modesty isn't hiding something scandalous, but tucking away something precious. Maybe if we look a little deeper into the eyes of girls who are utterly vulnerable in how they dress themselves we won't see confidence, but an even stronger desire to be good enough. These girls are hiding too, but if they flaunt their bodies, maybe no one will get past the physical to see who they really are. Because physical vulnerability is always less scary than emotional vulnerability.

So it seems we are all hiding either behind a lot of fabric or our distracting sexuality. Let's get rid of all of it. Let's be known.

God knit us together in our mothers' wombs (Psalm 139:13-14) and that doesn't just mean our personalities. Our bodies matter. God creates, sustains, and redeems them. Who are we to be ashamed of them? If it is true that God created our bodies and values them, we can be confident in this fact and treasure it. Modesty can be a blessing because God loves every layer of who we are: physical, emotional, and spiritual. Let us be vulnerable to Him, giving Him ownership of all these layers. Our joy in knowing who God is and that He made us with care is the only way we can come out of our hiding places to finally feel free and secure.