Almost a month ago I got my panties in a wad over all these modesty posts and sat down and cranked out my own thoughts, but never posted them. I knew that I would receive a lot of pushback and, at the time, there were so many other things going on in my life that I just wasn't up to the task. But the wheels have been turning.
Then, last night, my friend, Rebecca, posted her own thoughts, which sparked my thinking again. You can read it here. I really appreciate the idea of not thinking so much about yourself, period. And that is part of the problem with this Modesty Crusade. One of many problems.
Most modesty articles are pretty much the same. Shock and horror at the immodest dress of teenage girls and even more shock and horror at her parents for letting her out the door dressed in so very little. "Where are her parents?" these people rage. The assumption seems to be that either her parents are asleep at the wheel or complete tramps themselves. Well, I can guarantee that this is not always the case, because I am one of those parents.
Part of the modesty problem is that there is no set-in-stone rule out there for where modesty stops and too much skin starts. But when you start defining modesty by inches of skirt or exposure of shoulder, then you start down a road that can, at the very least, SEEM rather legalistic.
Then there is the practical aspect. My youngest daughter (Daughter #3) works with horses and in the summer she gets beastly hot. The less she has on her body, the better, in her mind. Imposing a specific standard of modesty might not only seem silly and legalistic to her, it can be downright uncomfortable.
Before people jump all over me about this, let me state that I know . . . I KNOW the arguments for modesty. And I am not in disagreement with them. I have also, in the past, added my own concerns, including the need for safety, to these reasons as I have talked to my daughters. But knowing this and even teaching this are very different from enforcing it. And one has to ask at what point and at what age should a parent even attempt to enforce it?
If you have never had teenage daughters or if you have had them but they were super compliant (Daughter #2, for a time) or totally disinterested in fashion and fitting in (Daughter #1), you may not understand just how hard this is for parents. But if you look around at the girls at church and huff and puff about their state of dress or, quite possibly, undress, then I challenge you to take a teenage girl shopping.
Go right ahead, waltz in to Target with a hormonally challenged, star crossed adolescent female who wants nothing more to fit in and try, just try, to find her a dress that fits that arbitrary definition of "modest." Better yet, I challenge you to do so without at least one of you bursting into tears and with your relationship still intact when you walk out the door. It is just plain hard. I know how young women dress is important. But even that does not define them.
Teenage girls, especially, are living through a hormonal hell while trying to find their own identity, outside of their parents. They long to belong. Life is very fragile. We parents know that. Some of us may opt to handle with care and pick our fights.
I am perfectly aware that there are some people that may look at the length of my daughter's dress and, from that, make a full-on judgment about my success as a parent. You know what? I don't care. There comes a point that I have to leave certain issues up to God. And the very last thing I want is an outward compliance without a change in the heart. The last thing I want is for my daughter to believe that she is only acceptable to God if she is wearing the right clothing.
When I was a kid the most awful thing I could hear from my mother was "I'm so ashamed" when it came to something I did or something I was. I refuse to be ashamed of my children. Any of them. For any decision they may make. I may not agree with it or condone it but I refuse to be ashamed. I refuse to be ashamed of my daughter for what she may wear. Sure, I have taught and explained and encouraged, but at some point she has to make the decision herself. Compliance to my standards just to keep me off her back isn't going to be sustainable in the long run. At some point, these convictions have to be between her and God.
People are more than clothing, be it how much or how little that they have on. Modest in other contexts usually means meeting needs without all the extras. When I sell a modest house to my clients, it is one that provides shelter and the comforts of home without all the glitz, without calling attention to itself, and without breaking the bank. If we translated that to clothing, I could say that there is plenty of clothing out there that covers plenty of skin, but is not modest at all. And vice versa.
So the next time you see a young woman whose short shorts are short on material and whose tank top has too much tank and not enough top, don't assume that, in some way, she is the enemy, a tramp to be scorned for her choices. Look beneath the little clothing she may have on and see what she is, a young woman created in the image of God. And don't assume that her parents are unaware. They may be like me, stepping back and letting her work it out with God for herself.