Posted By Mrs. Eva H. on April 20, 2010
You should not judge a book by its cover. That is true. And if you have time in the library to browse and read the back flap or half a chapter, you will often come home with an amazing book even though the cover didn’t really promise much. But how often do you have time for all that? Between children, household, work, family, hobbies… quite often we run in and out of the library in fifteen minutes and we have to content ourselves with first impressions. After a while you even become very good at this. You know what styles of illustrations probably promise a great read, or what kind of font is often used just to draw attention to a cheap sensationalist piece of non fiction. Now and again we have pleasant or unpleasant surprises, but, in general, we know what we get. After all, a scientific work will not often have a full-colour shot of playing children against the background of a wheat field on it, a family novel will rarely have a shiny black dust jacket with blood drops over the title.
In the same way, people who do not have the time to truly get to know us and be surprised by our personality must judge us by what they see–the woman we pass in the grocery store, the librarian, the people we meet on the street. While it is true that beauty starts on the inside, the way we present ourselves shows that we care about the feelings of others who meet us. We should not explicitly dress to get attention to ourselves, but it is a thoughtful gesture to present ourselves with the beauty with which the Lord has endowed us undimmed by sloppiness or carelessness.
Modesty is very important to me. And yet few people would look at me on the street and immediately have it pop into their mind “Oh my, she dresses modestly.” If we make a feature of our modesty that attracts attention, can we call it modesty? Or does it become a way to show the world how “holy” we are?
Many people cringe when they hear the word modesty, because it is often associated with unattractiveness. And as daughters of the King, we are certainly not called to unattractiveness. He created us as women and wants us to celebrate that beauty and to adorn our temples–just not in a way that they incite lust in others. There often is confusion about the word “attractiveness” Should we dress attractively? My answer is a resounding “yes.”
In Corinthians, it is said that our body is a temple, belonging to God.
1 Corinthians 6:18-20 (New International Version)
Flee from sexual immorality. All other sins a man commits are outside his body, but he who sins sexually sins against his own body. Do you not know that your body is a temple of the Holy Spirit, who is in you, whom you have received from God? You are not your own; you were bought at a price. Therefore honor God with your body.
And in 1 Kings 6, we find a description of how the temple looked. It is clear that it’s not a matter of putting up whatever as long as the structure is sound. The temple is lined with carved cedar wood; the door to the sanctuary is carved and overlaid with gold; even the courtyard is made with dressed stone and trimmed cedar wood. Everything is done to make the temple of the Lord a work that delights the senses.
We, too, are to be a delight to behold, which means that “Well, it’s modest” is no reason for a potato sack of a dress or an oversized sweatshirt. That does not mean that we should frivolously spend hours and hours before the mirror or that we have to spend money that we do not have on designer clothes. Those are rarely modest anyhow. It means that in our appearance as well as in our demeanour, we need to represent the King.
Combining modesty and attractiveness requires some thought and effort. And many of us lead busy lives. We are also not perfect, which means we may fail now and again, or will need to reassess our wardrobes or our routines. The last few months I have realised that a lot of the garments that I wore that were both attractive and modest earlier, are not anymore. How did that happen? Well, pregnancy and breastfeeding changed my body type. Some places are now filled more and others less. This affects both hemlines and cleavage. Some dresses need a little top underneath them now to be modest. Some dresses are a bit too tight and therefore unflattering. And some things have been washed so often that they have become a bit more see-through than they were when I bought them, making them both less modest and less attractive.
But it is not just a matter of clothes. I need to tone up a little bit, to make my body–my temple–strong and healthy. I need to find new routines for my hair and skin care. And, underneath it all, as the foundation, I need to make sure that my spirit is aimed at God, my soul is longing for Him, and my mind is set on Him.
Does it sound overwhelming? It can be. Which is why routines and plans and actions need the occasional adjustment, and attitude often needs some fine-tuning.
Body, mind and soul need to be a unit. It is not a matter of “either/or.” A Father wants the best for his daughter. A King expect a lot of his princesses, or even his ladies in waiting.
Mary, mother of Jesus said of herself: “Behold, the handmaiden of the Lord…” Think about it, each day we serve in His presence. Should we not dress the part? If today we were standing before the heavenly throne, would we feel awkward and sloppy?
I am by no means saying that there are not certain times in which practicality needs to have more sway than beauty. Sometimes we need to dig in the yard. Sometimes we need to be on our hands and knees to scrub a floor. Sometimes we need to take care of a whole household of sick people and we spend our days between buckets and toilets and dishes.
But the other busy days in which we need to take care of children, we should not be wearing an outfit that proclaims to the world that we just don’t care. Frumpy blouses, sweatpants, oversized T shirts, and overwashed, ill-fitting jeans have given more than one mom the appearance of having given up. And when our lives ought to be a living sign of the Hope that is our Lord, giving up is simply not an option.