Immodesty: An Ancient Problem In Modern Skin

We're living in a culture where our hearts are experiencing newfound freedom to expose their sinful and corrupt desires without shame or social condemnation. It's clear demonstration of Philippians 3 where Paul heartbreakingly writes of those who live as enemies of the Cross by glorying in their shame.

"For, as I have often told you before and now tell you again even with tears, many live as enemies of the cross of Christ...their glory is in their shame. Their mind is set on earthly things." Phil 3:18-19 

While codes of moral conduct are crucial for external restraint, they've never carried power to temper the lustful desires that reside internally. What we're witnessing is merely an unveiling of the sinful corruption that has always been present in the heart of man. Though increased exposure is affording a more reliable oxygen source, sin has never required legal sanctioning or justification to sustain life. 

It's not surprising that this unveiling is being played out on the stage of culture in the form of a skin show. It's an unveiling that is by nature immodest. It's an unveiling that is by nature indecent. And, it's an unveiling that is by nature shame-full even though it presents itself as shame-less. But it's not shameless. It's a hoax. It's a devious trick from an imposter appearing as an angel of light with bribes of freedom that pay with slavery. It's a sophisticated stratagem, one that makes seducers out of the very ones it has seduced.

If we don't understand our own proclivity to be deceived, we won't find the need to pursue Christ with courage and conviction. Offering anemic attention to the nourishment of our souls, we'll engage the world and foolishly believe we can remain intact. But we won't. Instead, our conformed and unrenewed minds will increasingly find us glorying in our shame as the immodesty of our heart exposes itself. It will be an immodesty that dismisses the sin struggles of our brothers and sisters. It will be an immodesty that dishonors our authorities and and relational commitments. It will be an immodesty that disregards the commands from our Savior to love with humble sincerity and kind affection. 

Modesty for both men and women is far too significant to narrowly reduce it to superficial discussions about swimsuits, yoga pants, or any other hot topic of the hour. It makes the profound appear silly, and treats what's weighty as if it were light. We aren't mindless Stepford children who have to all dress alike. People, just like their passions, are far too diverse to make modesty claims of specificity with any reasonable expectation of edification. It's what makes our well-intentioned attempts to offer an objective standard incite ridicule more than provoke careful thought. We end up decrying bikinis in the same breath that we promote tankinis, believing we're somehow crusading for modesty even as we reduce its value to a six-inch piece of spandex. Instead of conversations about leggings and swimsuits, what we need are candid and honest discussions about what it means for men and women to be Spirit-controlled, Christ-honoring lovers of God who humbly esteem others as more important than ourselves.

God has beautifully designed appropriate relationship structures where the specifics of modesty can be wisely and lovingly addressed within a framework of knowledge. This is especially true within a marriage. I am exceedingly grateful for a husband who cares enough for my soul to guide me in matters of modesty. He operates from a grace-honed heart that makes my honoring God with my clothing, conduct and communication his priority and his pleasure. He has the patience of Job. Other than rolling his eyeballs out of their sockets, his hope-giving encouragement is a sweet constant in my life.  

A man is revealing his own immodesty of heart when he finds enjoyment in the sexual desire his wife stirs in others by either her dress or her behavior. He's revealing his own immodesty of heart when he finds enjoyment in her self-glorification or her prideful bids for attention that include him in the limelight. And he's revealing his own immodesty of heart when her immodesty neither garners his concern nor gains his attention. The modesty of a loving husband is a priceless gift. When it translates into the modesty of a loving father, it's value is exponentially multiplied. We are relinquishing too much eternal influence with our myopic and anemic discussions that don't dive any deeper than a woman's wardrobe. It's time to come out of the closet. So to speak. 

Most of us are good at giving verbal consent that modesty is battled within the heart. But we reveal our weak conviction about this fact when we exhaust our limited supply of energy trying to regulate it externally, trusting our arm of flesh and our handbook of rules more than we trust the Spirit's conviction. Unwilling to speak in generalities (no cleavage), we get specific about the specifics (necklines no lower than four narrow horizontal human fingers from the collar bone of an average-sized adult woman), and it takes an entire village of clothing sheriffs to maintain our law and order. And that's because we think our own adherence to our objective standard is what is making us modest. The more we understand the immodesty that resides internally with us, the less we'll feel compelled to control it externally with others. Modesty is an issue with significance as monumental as the Grand Canyon, but we treat it like it's no larger than a pothole. (If you live in Detroit, just use your imagination to catch the distinction.) And that's a problem, because no matter how many times a pothole is patched up to avoid vehicular trauma, the little boogers are a royal pain in the b*tt (literally) that eventually shed their covering. 

I spent many years patching potholes. I was Queen Pothole Patcher. I got awards for it. I'm done with that, and I don't want to waste another minute with it. I now know that the most effective way to grow in grace with this issue is to rely on the Spirit to shine light on the immodesty that lies within us by asking ourselves the really difficult questions that require really difficult answers. I now know that the most reliable path of modesty involves allowing God to search our hearts with the honesty of His Word, trusting He will faithfully expose our need in His time and in His way. I can assure you that the immodesty you see will have you begging for grace. It will have you crying out for a Savior. And at the same time, it will have you shouting hallelujah that you have one! 

Why am I wearing this? Am I seeking to reflect the beauty of my Savior in a way that highlights His character, or is this about drawing attention to myself and my body? Am I wanting to be desired by someone other than my husband? Why am I posting this photo on Facebook? What is this about? Is this communication about a thankful heart that wants to glorify God for what He has given me? Is this post about highlighting the grace that I'm finding in the midst of pain? Is what I'm writing in this note about garnering praise for my own benefit? Is this conversation about honoring others or about securing personal praise? Be honest, Holly. What is this about? 

I have found immense freedom in asking these kinds of questions. Not because my answers are pure and righteous, because they're NOT pure and righteous. But I've found freedom because my honesty with myself has exposed my need for a Savior in a way that I wasn't able to see when layers of self-righteousness had me believing in the existence of my own assumed modesty. I am free to be honest because I serve a Savior who isn't trying to deceive me. He is loving and kind and good. He isn't an imposter who is tricking me into shedding my shame along with my discretion, my decency, and my dignity. No. My Savior doesn't just take my shame; He gives me discretion, decency, and dignity. 

Lord, please help me to make modest choices with my clothing, conduct and conversation that reflect the glorious fact that I have been covered with Christ's robe of righteousness. A robe of beauty that's full of grace and truth. A robe of purity that's free from sinful lust and selfish exaltation. Thank you for taking away my shame!