Should Christian Women Dress Modestly?

09520fbda2ea0a2582c0dfb564ca797a.jpg

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.

 

Do we give up too easily? | Being a Woman in the Indian Church

46e16d5b45c80c678f4e1e935b1c49c9

I was watching a video of Aimee Mullens’ Ted Talk, for maybe the eighth time. I had already watched her talk several times before deciding to teach my students about about her speech or more so the power of her passion and how that elevated her speaking. She was poised, put together, passionate and was standing on prosthetic legs. She challenged society’s notion of what a “disabled” person should be and I looked at her and thought that if I were her, I wouldn’t have dared to stand on that stage. I wouldn’t have become a runner like her. But she, with her disability, was doing things I could only dream of accomplishing. 

Watching Aimee Mullens made me think- she trusts her legs. She trusts her prosthetics, probably more than I trust my flesh and bones. If she doesn’t give up, why do I? There are many times in life when we may face seemingly insurmountable challenges. Some of these hurdles have presented themselves in my experiences as a woman in the Indian church. In the moment we believe that things cannot and will not get better, that we are limited in some way. But looking at Mullens I am reminded that our definitions and perceptions of situations can be challenged and that maybe- we give up too easily. 

There are two ways people can respond to set backs. There are the Cains of the world and the Davids.

Cain_Abel-281x300.jpg

Characteristics of Cains 

  • Jealous
  • Cynical

Cain and Abel are the children of Adam and Eve. Cain grew jealous of Abel’s sacrifice to God and this ultimately led to his demise:

…Cain brought an offering of the fruit of the ground to the Lord. Abel also brought of the firstborn of his flock and of their fat. And the Lord respected Abel and his offering, but He did not respect Cain and his offering. Genesis 4:3-5

Cain’s jealousy of what his brother had and what he lacked led him to ultimately killing his brother. Instead of trying to offer something better to God, to be something more- he turned to sin. How many times do we feel like we just cannot do or be more? I believe we all know that feeling all too well. We fail in some way or form and instead of trying again, we give up. A friend of mine told me that before getting the job he now has at a big financial company, he applied to 99 jobs at the same firm. He now worked in hiring and can see all applications that come in for the company and noted how most people apply maybe once or twice. While hearing his story, most of my friends admitted that we would do the same. If a company rejected us after a couple of applications, that was it for us. But my friend didn’t give up on the company he wanted to work at until he finally got a position.

220px-Osmar_Schindler_David_und_Goliath.jpg

Characteristics of Davids 

  • Resourceful
  • Hopeful

David was the youngest of his brothers and naturally passed by for opportunities. But David didn’t let his background hold him back. In fact, David leveraged the very qualities that would make others think he was weak. In the classic bible story of David and Goliath, David used the unusual tool of a slingshot to defeat a giant.

 49 Reaching into his bag and taking out a stone, he slung it and struck the Philistine on the forehead. The stone sank into his forehead, and he fell facedown on the ground.

50 So David triumphed over the Philistine with a sling and a stone; without a sword in his hand he struck down the Philistine and killed him.(1 Samuel 17:49-50)

In a situation in which others would have given up, David remained hopeful. He trusted in everything that God had provided and in the end was triumph. Growing up as a female in the Indian church, it was hard to have an older brother in some ways.

Being a Woman in the Indian Church

I frequently spoke at church and was very open about how I loved public speaking but no speech I ever gave seemed to measure up to the sermons my brother spoke. He rarely spoke publicly and didn’t care for it, but the few times he spoke were admittedly spectacular. There were many times I wanted to give up on my love of speaking. Why try to have a voice in a society that would rather hear from a man, especially when others could speak better? There were many times when I felt as though the opportunities given to me in the Indian church would be so much grander if I were a man. How could I not think that way when even in one of our most prominent organization, Pentecostal Youth Fellowship of America (PYFA), I have only once seen a female leader in an organization founded in 1981.

My parents and grandparents would pray every night for my brother to be a minister of God, but I never once heard them pray for me to minister God’s word. My grandfather was a prominent pastor and my brother was the only grandson born with the last name “Thomas”, the default heir. My mom recounted that a prophesying preacher once spoke to my parents and told them that they had prayed and hoped for ministry to come from their family from their son, but it would come from their daughter. My mom shared what was said to me but reminded me that she still hoped for my brother to one day minister.

If Aimee Mullens doesn’t give up even when she was prosthetic legs, why would I give up because I’m a woman? Everyday we choose whether we give up or keep going. Giving up can happen in small ways. We stop working towards that goal we really had set in our heart. Or maybe we stop moving forward in acquiring a new skill we long to have. It could even mean underestimating ourselves because of whatever our “disability” may be. There are days that can feel so dark and times in which all hope is lost but I pray that if you cling to hope, you too can do the seemingly impossible.

 

 

 

 

Learning how to love yourself

63936_10151364555392613_2081333318_n

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.

Everyone feels sad sometimes

85a83a086058c40b67a29263e02511e2

It feels odd to write down, but it’s so true.  Everyone feels sad sometimes.  I don’t know why I imagine that I am the only person who feels the way I do when I go through rough patches in life.  Sometimes that sadness can seem engulfing and the scariest thing in the world to do is to address what I’m feeling.  The bible says that there is a time for weeping and a time for rejoicing.  But all I want to do is rejoice!

I’m sure that there are lots of people who feel the same way that I do.  I don’t want whatever situation I’m going through to burden others.  I don’t want other people to know that I’m experiencing pain.  And I imagine that everyone really is exactly the way they appear to be on the surface.  But nothing could be farther from the truth.

Absolutely everyone we meet in life is facing his or her own battle.  And this is all the more reason to love and to love like never before.

My mother was the first person to make me realize this.  She told me to be kindest to the people who seemed the meanest.  Because when you stopped and took time to get to know them, it’s like peeling an onion!  There are layers and layers underneath and everyone has a reason for being the way that they are.

In particular she told me there was a woman who she saw daily who seemed to hate her.  It’s so hard to love those who hate us.  The bible can vouch for this fact.  But she told me that when she learned of the pain this woman experienced in her life, she suddenly understood the bitterness.  She understood it instantly.  And her love for this woman was not in vain, now they’re actually really great friends!

The perfect biblical model for this kind of compassion is embodied in the life of Jesus.  He looked at the defects and the outcasts of the world and somehow he chose to love them.  I guess he saw us in a way that we cannot even see ourselves.  It’s funny because sometimes it’s not even people who are putting these labels and ideas on us.  We do it to ourselves.

If there is anyone like me, who is reading this, please know that you’re not alone.  Sometimes I feel so sad tears feel like tiny needles shooting from my eyeballs.  Or so angry that my veins will burst!  Or even so happy and loved that I imagine my happiness is contagious.  We are not our emotions or our temporary feelings.  Feelings change.  And we are never ever really alone, never at all.

Hope

People are born inherently selfish.  At the end of the day, all that matters is me, myself and I.  It’s a sad but necessary truth to come to terms with.  I see it in my everyday life; I see this in myself.  As much as I want to believe otherwise the truth is so clear.  Think about it.

In our friendships we care about how we feel.  Would we really continue a friendship with someone who really needed us if being friends with them made us feel bad?  I sincerely doubt it.  I don’t even blame myself for feeling this way.  There have been so many times when I’ve known a friend has needed me, but I have thought about myself instead.  I think about how I feel and whether or not I am being benefitted.  I think about whether or not I will be hurt.  It takes every ounce of love in me not to be this person who I so desperately want to be.

This has been my life’s story.   I feel like so much of my life has been spent struggling with understanding the person I want to be and the person that God wants me to be.  I never wanted to be the Christian girl.  It was a stigma I had avoided as early as possible.  But that is what I am and I am now proud of it.  So much of my time is spent struggling with anger, jealously and pettiness.  This is the person that I want to be in the moment.  This person who feels her blood boil in rage because of whatever reason.  The type of person who only cares about myself at the end of the day, as sad as that may be.  The type of person who I want to be, in the moment.  The person I desperately try not to be.

I sometimes don’t want to be around people.  I do not want to love.  Love is a choice.  I know it because sometimes I choose to love.  But despite everything that I have said, God still sees me and he loves me.  He knows that I am imperfect, petty, angry and sometimes just mean.  God knows this but somehow he loves me so much.

God is selfless.  So selfless that he gave his very own son to die on the cross for our sins.  He chooses to love us knowing our every downfall.

That is why I have hope.  I hope in a world filled with misery and shame.  So much pain and violence and hurt- yet I still have hope.  I have hurt so many people and I have felt so hurt but the only thing I know I can cling to, is my hope.

I remember hearing a song once that said just this.  “My hope is built on nothing less, than Jesus blood and righteous”

Where is your hope built?