Should Christian Women Dress Modestly?

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I first found out about Girl Defined‘s ministry because a guy friend of mine shared a video that they made on Christian modesty. He wrote something along the lines of how as a man, he appreciated when his Christian sisters dressed modestly for their Christian brothers. At the time, I replied that it wasn’t a woman’s responsibility to dress modestly for men, that they made their own decisions and such a mentality leads to victim blaming and other unhealthy patterns of thinking.

We later spoke and clarified what we each meant, a lot of which was misunderstood, but the topic of modesty and whether Christian women should dress modestly has always left me feeling confused and became something I really struggled to understand. I now follow and value Girl Defined’s ministry but I initially found their video and view on modesty unsettling. Ultimately, modesty is an issue of the heart and we should be careful to make “black and white” rules regarding how women and/or men should dress. 

I’ve mentioned my conservative Christian upbringing before on this blog. I’m grateful for how I was raised but I believe one mistake of the church as a whole was stressing modesty without explaining why because the reason why we do something can be just as important as what we choose to do.

Modesty begins at the heart 

I remember going clothing shopping with my mother and just hoping she would be okay with a cute pencil skirt that went just above the knee. I knew that any tank top purchased would require a cardigan. I spent summers in sweltering heat in capris because shorts were seen as way too revealing.

But because I learned that certain things were not allowed without much rationale as for why, I went into college kinda reckless in terms of what I thought was appropriate attire. I use the word reckless loosely. Not only did I show a lot of skin at times, but I didn’t even dress for the weather. I wore spaghetti strap dresses in the winter if it was the fastest thing I could find before heading to class. I didn’t think or care much about what I wore and later on in life enjoyed receiving attention for stylish outfits. I reveled in the freedom of wearing whatever I wanted but wasn’t all too modest in the sense of not drawing attention to myself.

We are quick to recite 1 Timothy 2:9, “I also want the women to dress modestly, with decency and propriety, adorning themselves, not with elaborate hairstyles or gold or pearls or expensive clothes,”, forgetting the other plea to not draw attention to ourselves with “luxurious” items. The heart of modesty directs us in vs. 10 to instead, “but with good deeds, appropriate for women who profess to worship God.” Meaning, we shouldn’t be known but we do, not how we look. 

There are no hard and fast “rules” 

It can feel natural to make rules. Growing up, not wearing sleeves was considered scandalous. I always needed to cover my knees. But beyond that, it didn’t really matter what I wore. It took me a long time to realize that I could be completely covered but possibly revealing too much if my clothing was too tight and losing the entire point of “covering up”.

If you look at Genesis 2 & 3, you are shown the story of Adam and Eve. Genesis 2:25 reveals that, “Adam and his wife were both naked, and they felt no shame.” It was only after sinning that they desired to cover themselves in Genesis 3:7,  “Then the eyes of both of them were opened, and they realized they were naked; so they sewed fig leaves together and made coverings for themselves.”

Adam and Eve in their sinlessness, were naked. It can be tempting to assign certain rules for how to dress for ourselves and others- but ultimately we must individually weigh our decisions.
 
How we dress is just one part of who we are, an important for me as someone who enjoys dressing up and expressing myself through fashion. But how we dress can also be a way of showing our honor and respect to God while also drawing others to look at who we are rather than what we look like.

 

Should I go on Missions? (My Story-Urbana 2015)

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Urbana 2015 challenged participants to answer the question -what story wIll you tell? This is my story.

During one of the plenary sessions, David Platt illustrated the problem I was facing in my life without realizing it “There are students who are trying to manufacture a heart for missions but do not have a heart for Jesus”.

I was a student leader within my InterVarsity Christian Fellowship chapter and had served on the Leadership team for 2 years, at one point I got so caught up in the logistics, goals, deadlines and expectations artificially placed in front of me that that I forgot the one thing that mattered- did I love God? Not, did I fear God, did I acknowledge him, did I do my quiet time with him, did I serve him, but instead- did I love him?

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In the prayer room I prayed with a woman about my confusion and fear and she reminded me that confusion and fear are not from God, but from the enemy. I had received so many prophecies about doing missions work that I felt confused about how my current path of teaching intersected with missions- or if it did at all. .

The woman leading me in prayer asked me- “What do you hear God saying?”. I realized that my confusion stopped me from listening. In tears, I felt the condemnation of forgetting my first love but it was only in the prayer room that I felt God say my work had not been in vain- that he loved and forgave me. I was ready for my punishment but was met instead by my father God’s forgiveness.

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At the end of Urbana I signed up for short, mid and long-term missions. I’m not sure what that will look like in the near future but I know God is using my journey as a Special Education teacher to glorify him. At Urbana I was shocked to see the need for Special Education teachers overseas, I never imagined how perfectly God could use my gifts for his glory. I now realize God is going to use me, but before any of that begins I need to remember that everything is meaningless without my love for him.

Too often I expect to see my big story now. But I forget that we are all on a journey. Joseph saw a vision of his brothers bowing down and worshipping him as a king but his call from God didn’t come to fruition for years later and the years of toil and hardship were all in preparation for a greater calling. This was something  I learned after listening to a sermon from Pastor Felix Chivandire back when I first made the decision to be a teacher.

What I learned at Urbana doesn’t stop here, my work means nothing if it all ends here. This isn’t a mountain top experience- Urbana was my launching pad. As my friends, my readers, my family- hold me accountable. More than my plan for missions, I never want to forget my love for God.

Learning how to love yourself

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Is love something that we are born knowing how to do?  Is love really a choice?

I learned late in life that writing is a lot about learning how to edit, and this is exactly what I’m doing to do in this post.  It started as a post about learning how to love, period.  But now it is a post about learning how to love oneself because this is something I feel a lot of people fail to do.

I grew up most of my life believing love was something natural, something we were born conditioned to do.  And I believed even more strongly that the ability to love was not a choice.  I didn’t love my family because I choose to love, I loved them because I just couldn’t feel anything other than love for them.  Now that I’ve grown up, somewhat, I’ve come to some sort of conclusion.  Loving someone isn’t simply a choice or not a choice.  I know this because sometimes I force myself to show love to people, this is me making a choice.  But there have been times when I’ve been so hurt that all I’ve wanted to do is hate someone, but still I found myself loving them.

There are times when loving people feels so hard.  My mom will say or do something that upsets me and the idea of showing love in that situation seems impossible.  There are times when I find it really hard to love myself.  It doesn’t make sense but sometimes the most hurtful things are not said by strangers, they are thought by ourselves.  We fail to recognize the power and authority held in words, even when these words are said to ourselves.  The bible tests to this fact as well.

Proverbs 18:21 – Death and life [are] in the power of the tongue: and they that love it shall eat the fruit thereof.

In the above verse we are taught that life and death are in the power of our tongue!  This doesn’t just apply to what we say to people we love, this is found in the words that we tell ourselves.  The devil is a liar.  To anyone who has ever thought that they were meaningless, that their lives were meaningless or that they are alone- do not believe that lie.  Your body is the temple of God!

1 Corinthians 6:19-20

19 Do you not know that your bodies are temples of the Holy Spirit, who is in you, whom you have received from God? You are not your own; 20 you were bought at a price. Therefore honor God with your bodies.

This is how precious we are!  And we are never truly alone in this world, never at all.  The amazing thing about God is that even if everyone we ever love leaves us, we always have him.  This is something we can put our hope and trust in regardless of circumstance.

I mentioned this in passing earlier but love can also not feel like a choice.  I find myself unwilling to let go of some friendships because regardless of pain I may have felt, I still love that person.  With the same token, sometimes it make feel like we don’t have a choice in how we feel.  Although I believe this is somewhat true- we always have a choice. We may not be able to dictate the way we feel, but we can choose the way we act on these feelings.  This is even more true in regards to how we respect ourselves.  Please, love yourself enough to respect yourself.  If you are feeling hurt by someone or something, remove yourself from that situation.  And if you are hurting yourself, please learn the value held in your life.

The saddest thing for me to think about is the fact that so many people fail to see how amazing they are.  Those people who can be told time and time again that they are beautiful but fail to see it!  If you are someone like that, please just take a second look.  Give yourself a second chance.  Because you are valuable and you are loved.  I can guarantee it.

Julie

 

Her name is Julie, or that’s what she tells people anyway.  Julie is her American name.  Her real name is Yinjuan.  That’s her Chinese name.  I asked her if I could share her story because I thought it was incredible.  She told me she didn’t think it was interesting but to feel free to write about her.

“There is no such thing as genius; it is nothing by labor and diligence.”

The above quote is what fuels her drive.  That small sentence.  That.  It’s funny how powerful words can be.  How the smallest sentences can mean more than words resting on sentences sitting on paragraphs squeezing through the margins of your page.  The smallest sentences are sometimes the most powerful.  And the smallest words hold the most meaning.  It’s kind of like how you can tell someone over and over again that they’re beautiful.  But if just once you call them ugly- that’s all they’ll remember.  Words are eternally powerful.

English is Julie’s second language, her first being Chinese.  She has been struggling with learning English and communicating for the past 10 years.  She came from China leaving everything and everyone she ever knew back in high school.  She didn’t know America would be the way it is.  Apparently they didn’t really tell her how it would really be like.  She stepped into this country, not knowing a word of the language.

I’m a communications tutor and I was helping her with her personal speech.  She had everything written out and wanted to see if her structure and format was correct.  If her tone, rate and voice sounded good to me.  But as I listened to her give her speech, I could feel my eyes filling.  I was so happy but my eyes were filled because this girl had such a drive to succeed, even when circumstances seemed unlikely.

We take it for granted every single day but the ability to communicate is one of the most important things we can do as a human being.  And when that ability is taken away from us the results are debilitating.  Imagine being tossed into a completely new place without even being able to communicate the simplest of thoughts or desires.  That’s what Julie has to struggle with, but she knows that hard work pays off.

After our session was over, I asked Julie if she wanted to fill out a raffle for my club, InterVarsity Christian fellowship.  She then told me that she was Christian, in fact she converted a year ago, in America.  Someone took her to church and she became a Christian.  Someone did that for her in her life.  Someone was willing enough to do that.

She filled out the raffle and checked off every box requesting information for everything.  She told me she was busy with work but would try.

Julie understood how valuable her life was.  She realized how valuable it was and for this reason she wanted to keep fighting.  Please realize how incredibly valuable you are.  How precious and important you.  If not to anyone on this earth- to God.  And when God loves you, the opinion and faltering opinions of others are irrelevant.

I believe Julie will succeed in her quest to really know English.  I believe it because she believe it too.

 

Philippians 4:13

I can do all things through him who strengthens me

 

the Big Event: Sophomore year

For those of you who have never heard of “Big Event” its basically a yearly InterVarsity retreat in which college students have the opportunity to register for different tracks to learn about God with people from different colleges in small groups.  Small groups are normally…small groups of people, I know who would have thought that’s what it meant?  Please bear with me as I write this post, I realize that for those of you who have never heard of Big Event everything I’m saying will sound really odd to you.

Well this was my second year in InterVarsity and because I got involved from the get go, it was my second time at Big Event.  The previous year I had the opportunity to go to both Big Event and Basielia (InterVarsity’s second retreat which is longer and holds less schools).  Before going I remember everyone telling me I would love it so much that I would have so much fun and that it would change everything.  In all honesty leaving both Big Event and Basielia my freshman year I definitely did change a lot but those retreats felt bland for me.  I was watching everyone else doing all these amazing things and even though I did benefit, I wasn’t enjoying things on the same level as other people.  In fact there were times during Baseila that I just felt sad and confused because I wasn’t sure why I was feeling the way I felt.  I never shared this with anyone in my chapter because I didn’t want to be the person to bring other people down.  So I plastered a smile on my face and focused on everything that was actually good that was going in during the retreat.

My mentality was so off for those two retreats.  I literally walked into Big Event knowing everything everyone had said about it in the past and felt entitled to an amazing experience because I payed money.  I wasn’t excited and I expected other people to make me excited.  It was because I knew something was wrong that I refused to approach Big Event this year the same way I approached Big Event all other times in the past.

Before registering for Big Event I was asked along with some other people in my chapter to register for the leadership track.  That was something I really didn’t want to do, I wish I could explain just how much I didn’t want to do it.  In fact I guess I can explain it to you right now.  Registering for that track scared me and intimidated me because I didn’t feel as though I was good enough for it.  So I told my exec team I would register for it and purposely waited until the track was closed to beg my mom for permission to register for Big Event.  I had technically asked her back when leadership was open but because I didn’t want to go for that track I asked in a way that I knew she wouldn’t be happy or say yes.  It was only when I really needed to register that she said yes.  And by then I looked at the mess I made for myself and was actually kind of sad but at the same time incredibly happy.  Happy because I made a promise in my mind that I would get the most out of my track this year.  The track I registered for was Transformation or Foundations and mistakenly registering for it may have been the best decision I ever made for so many reasons.

Growing up in church I felt as though I knew God because I gave him my 3 hours once a week.  I had my idea in my head of what God was to me and I was satisfied putting him into a box.  For so long I felt as though I was trying to build a roof to this house while my foundations were crumbling beneath me.  I needed to be sure that I knew exactly who the God I was serving actually was.   Being honest with you again, I had it all so wrong.

During my retreat I realized that I wasn’t the only person who felt the same way about retreats in the past.  I wasn’t the only person who felt like I was really missing something important.  But somehow it took me going to Baseilia and feeling so sad to know that I couldn’t keep going on my walk with God the same way I had always done so.  I really needed to change the way I approached God in my life and I needed to learn to put him first.  I realized that if I had opened up earlier I would have saved so much heartache and even sympathized and grown with someone else who was going through what I was going through.  We eventually did get to sympathize with one another but only at this year’s Big Event!  Funny how things work out right?

I was also struggling with vulnerability.  Most of the time I feel like people are afraid to open up and that this is why they cannot grow.  My problem was that I felt as though I was being too vulnerable with too many people.  I grew up in a house where my mom would sit down with me everyday and ask me to open up to her about my feelings, that was the way I was raised to act.  And I felt like there was something wrong with me because it seemed like no one else felt the same way about opening up as me.  What I realized for myself this was past weekend was that I needed to be vulnerable.  I really needed to be open and honest about my feelings with the people in my life.  Because I’d rather have a bunch of people know this mangled, messed up and growing mess of a person that I am that is not perfect than to have a bunch of people know me on such a superficial level that they don’t actually know who I am.  But that’s just me.  Maybe I’ll change my mind about this 10 years from now but if I ever did I would need to stop blogging.  I would need to stop blogging because my soul is kind of sprawled out on all of these posts that literally anyone could pick up and read.  I’m okay with that though.  Because I know I am not the only person who feels the way that I feel.

Big Event this year was amazing.  It was absolutely amazing and so much more than I thought it would be.  But it also wasn’t easy.  I left Big Event feeling great but also knowing that the real work starts now with my relationship with God and even my relationships with people. I realized somehow that I didn’t understand what it meant to love people the way God loves us, or even how to love God the way he loves me.  I know that I am so flawed and I know that I have so much to learn but now I am ready to learn more about God than ever before.

 

What does it mean to have the mind of Christ?

Hello everyone!  I can’t believe its already September 26th, I swear I try to keep these blog posts weekly but time flies!    I can’t believe one week has already passed since the last time I made a post.  But, lets stay on topic:  The Mind of Christ.  This was my topic for High Teens Speech, I do these yearly competitions in which I am required to prepare a speech in 10 minutes and then deliver it within a 5-minute period.  Needless to say, it can be VERY stressful.  My age group is High Teens so I compete against everyone in my age group.

This year our topic was the mind of Christ and I was so happy because earlier in the day I messed up my essay on Stewardship, a topic I thought meant being a servant of God but actually meant using your resources fully.  Obviously I was kind of off.

Being honest if I had not wrote an entire essay about the nature of God being that of a servant, I would not have spoken about this during my speech.  When I first thought about the very nature of God I thought of purity.  I would think about the God was sees our sins and is disgusted.  I would have never once thought about Jesus who went and washed his disciples feet as we can see in John 13: 8:

“ ‘No’ said Peter, ‘you shall never wash my feet.’ Jesus answered, ‘Unless I wash you, you will have no part with me.’”

This is the God we serve, who took on the very nature of man and came to earth to serve others.  How humbling is this?

We had a bible study with a few people from my InterVarsity chapter (Christian fellowship on campus) and we looked into the story of Stephen which is told from Acts 6:8-8:2, or at least that was the portion we looked at together.  I couldn’t help but think of how humble Stephen was through everything- it was never about him.

I couldn’t get a bible verse out of mind so we spent some time trying to find it and it was actually John 3:30 which reads:

“He must increase, but I must decrease.”

THIS is the relationship that we have with God.  One in which we are made smaller and smaller because we want God to be glorified rather than ourselves.

When I look at my life and everything I do, it is because I want recognition, I want to be acknowledged.  But this wasn’t the way we were meant to be.  We are created to be servants before God, laying everything we have down before his feet.  Laying our needs, our desires, our wants, everything.

And it’s so scary to think that maybe what we want from our lives does not align with what God wants from us.  But this is something we must accept whole heartily.  I don’t want to be Stephen who was stoned to death; I don’t want that for myself or for my life.  But if God wants this from me I must accept this.  Accepting this is scary and hard, but we must also know how important it is to place everything into God’s hands.  He knows us, he knows us so well and he knows what we need and what is best for us.

Practicing what you preach

I’m a prayer group leader at my InterVarsity chapter and just now I have been handed a figurative smack in the face.  I had a really dull moment and realized that I wasn’t practicing what I was preaching.  Not just that, I wasn’t even close to where I was saying others should be in their walks with christ.  And I felt like such a hypocrite.  I think that when I took up this position I imagined I would have to be perfect, infallible, and be at this peak with my walk with God.  But I started writing this post right before my prayer group this past thursday.  I ended up sharing how I was feeling and realized I didn’t have to be perfect.  I was met by so much support from people who said they have all been where I felt like I was at the moment.

Earlier this week as a team (small group team) we looked at the passage in which Jesus calms the storm.  What I found so ironic was the fact that here I was stressing and worrying about my own problems and forgetting what I had just learned.  One of my team members pointed it out to another member but someone it just hit me so hard.  How could I miss out on such an amazing message?

In this passage the disciples almost accuse Jesus crying out “Teacher don’t you care if we drown” when they are met by this massive storm that almost overfills the boat.  The funny thing is Jesus was sleeping on a CUSHION right before.  And before they could say anything else Jesus pulls a Chuck Norris move and calms the sea just by speaking.

How many times have we felt like that before in our life?  Like the waters are overwhelming and we can’t stay afloat any longer?  But the thing is God was always in control from the start.  He has always been in control, will be in control and is in control right now.  We never have to worry.  For the opposite of love is not hate but fear because perfect love casts out al fear.  We create this divide between us and God when we allow ourselves to be afraid like this.  We are created to do so much more and be so much more in our lives.

I wrote this post feeling like a hypocrite but I realize now that I am just growing.  I am not at a “peak” with my relationship with God, you cannot reach a peak and you can always know more and grow closer.  I want to draw closer now and remember everything I learn.  Because Jesus calms the storm and he can calm your storm too.  Just give him full control.