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Wednesday, January 9, 2019

Wearing your faith

As a conservative Christian who often wears skirts, I get asked a lot of these kinds of questions from strangers: "Are you Mennonite?"  "What church do you go to?"
In fact, one time an older man in Costco asked me this same sequence of questions and I had to tell him more than once that I am not Mennonite and that I attend a nondenominational community church.  He eventually turned away and mumbled something like "I still think you're Mennonite."

I left the situation laughing and thinking "I'm pretty sure I would know!"
Against popular opinion, skirts don't prevent adventure
Anyone wearing a skirt/dress of any length worth mentioning is bound to get asked these questions at some point, so I suggest letting it contribute comedy rather than offense.  (It really is a lot more fun that way!)

The world (let alone the Christian world) holds many different perspectives on modesty.  A lot of people assume that traditionally-known conservative dress is the same as "frumpy" and "unfashionable."  I don't know about you, but being classified under these labels does not really appeal to me.  My desire to dress modestly is equaled by a desire to appear professional and to prove that style and modesty can come together.
I absolutely do think that being mindful of style is appropriate and valuable.  As Christians, we've agreed to turn our bodies into God's temple.  The physical temple building in the Bible is never described as dingy, careless, or unattractive, and I don't think God wants us to be that way either.

What does it mean to dress modestly?  Does it matter?

I actually had no intention of ever blogging on this topic.  It's scary.  It's controversial.  It feels judgmental.  But I've noticed a trend among the modesty topic; this trend approaches modesty with the idea that (1) skirts are the answer to the modesty question and (2) here are all the Bible verses that should convince you.  While I think there is some validity and logic in both of those approaches, I don't think this always communicates well because it can come across as condemning.  Although I wear skirts most of the time, I am not the person who is going to suggest taking all your pants to Goodwill and replacing them with a closet full of skirts. (I wear pants on occasion and find them rather comfortable.)  In fact, I'm not even going to use Bible verses addressing modesty to prove how you should dress.  Hopefully thinking about this controversial topic from a different angle will help you practically view your motives and pursuits.

1. The way you dress provides you with an immediate reputation.  Yes, sometimes that reputation is of a Mennonite (or something with similar characteristics), but that's not the reputation I'm talking about.  I mean that the way I dress is an unspoken way of saying "I am a Christian and I take my faith seriously."  And people actually respect that!  They may not always understand it, but I've noticed that I often receive immediate respect simply by the way I dress - even from total strangers in stores.  I can't tell you how many times I have been stopped by a stranger and told, "thank you for dressing the way you do."  People appreciate and notice it more than you realize, and that's my opportunity to wear my faith out loud.  (I believe this can be done with pants as well as skirts.)  So how does your dress affect your reputation?  Does your dress speak of Christ?

2. What attention are you looking for by the way you dress?  Sometimes we don't even think about how our dress is tied to the attention we receive, but it is!  The way we dress can gather 3 types of attention:
  • The world's artificial stamp of "you belong" 
  • Apparel that comes across as careless, making the Gospel itself unattractive
  • A balance between the two that communicates that appearing well-dressed is just as important as that reputation that speaks of Christ.
It is very tempting to want the world's attention and approval.  We want to fit in and be "cool."  But God doesn't tell us, "Go blend in as much as possible!"  His calling is to be different--to not be driven by all the world's fads.  (Romans 12:2, 1 John 2:15-17)  So I encourage you to take a look at yourself and ask, "Who's attention is most important to me?"
Skirts are not the only answer to dressing modestly!

As you consider the attention that you want to receive from the clothes you choose to wear, remember also that you are accountable to a holy God.  Would you feel comfortable in His presence?  It may seem that God will have bigger things to think about when you meet Him face to face, but I think even this area of life is important to be aware of because it can be closely connected to what your heart motives are.  God's presence is holy, and His calling for us is to walk in His holiness. (1 Peter 1:15, 16)

So I challenge you to think intentionally about the clothes you wear and how they relate to glorifying a worthy God.  And if you already consider your apparel modest, don't have a judgmental attitude toward those with different standards than you.  Follow God's calling in your own life and trust that He will work in each of His children as He sees fit.

"Don't shine so that others see you....shine so that through you, others see HIM."

(For other sources, I highly recommend Growing Up Duggar, which has a lot of great insights about modesty, parenting, and more from a helpful, conservative perspective.)

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