Strike a Pose

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In a culture filled with twitter, Instagram, facebook, blogs, and other forms of social media, we are much more a visual culture then we were even 15 years ago.  People can take and immediately post pictures of everything: the food they eat, their babies playing or sleeping, and a group of friends at a push of a button on a phone.

In this world of visual demand, what does our body language say about our modesty and our hearts.  Modesty is more than what we wear, it is a posture of the heart.

Romans 6:13; Do not present your members (your body) to sin as instruments for unrighteousness, but present yourselves to God as those who have been brought from death to life, and your members to God as instruments for righteousness.

A few weeks ago a friend of mine asked the question about why all the girls now pose in pictures with their hands on their hips.  I had grown tiresome of these similar poses, but couldn’t quite put my finger on it.  There were several answers and more questions in her FB feed.  Earlier this week as my husband and I were flipping through channels late at night, the answer became immediately clear.  We stopped on the last 10 minutes of America’s Next Top Model, the wanna-be model reality show hosted by Tyra Banks.  I used to watch this show every week, but just don’t anymore.  When the final contestants were chosen, they all pose in the same way: hands on the hips, and tilted somewhat sideways (usually not straight on because it’s not a flattering pose for most women), and chests out but tilted back.  This is a very provocative pose no matter what shape you are (or how much you weigh, or how many clothes you have on).  It highlights the God-given curves of females.  God did make our bodies the way they are: with chests and hips.  But, how we use them need to be for God’s glory.

Usually when we talk about modesty, we are referring to the length of our skirts, or the shirts we wear.  This post is more about our posture.  I’m not questioning any of the motives of the girls I know who are taking pictures like this, but just want to highlight some of what the outward appearance appears to say.

1.   Men are visual creatures.  They are drawn to the sexual – many of them are at least.  When we wear modest clothes, but stand in such a way that draws attention to our hips and our chest, or our butt (stiletto heels do just that, but also our stances), it doesn’t serve our brothers in Christ at all.

2.  Postures can say much about our hearts.  I can stand in such a way that says I’m not approachable, I don’t want to be here (the folding of arms, scowl on my face, etc).  What does what I’m doing or how I’m sitting or standing say to those around me?

This past week I was in a breakout session at a Christian conference, mostly men there.  There was a lady a few rows ahead of me with an almost sleeveless shirt on, arms folded behind her head, chest out, leaned back, playing with her hair.  She may have just been hot or bored, but it was distracting to me (her stance) and I’m sure it was also distracting in a more dangerous way to the men sitting around and behind her.  Was she aware of this?  I don’t know.  Just saying what her stance communicates.

If we want to stand like the Top Model models, then we communicate: look at me, here’s my body, look at these clothes.  If we want to stand in a flattering but different way, then maybe we could communicate what we want to communicate: gentleness and meekness, quietness, adorning of a beautiful spirit not clothes and curves (1 Peter 3)

A great resource that compares these two (Woman of the Word vs Woman of the world) is Mary Kassian’s Girls Gone Wise in a World Gone Wild.

A great sermon to listen to on the Soul of Modesty is by CJ Mahaney – the best sermon I’ve ever heard on the subject.

Pollard on Defining Modesty

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Wow – this one was convicting.  Jeff Pollard is an Elder at a church in Pensacola, FL and did a great job in defining the term “modesty” beyond – what you wear or don’t wear on your body.

“Modesty, like humility, is the opposite of boldness or arrogance.  It does not seek to draw attention to itself or to show off in an unseemly way.  Webster apparently links chastity with modesty because chastity means moral purity in thought and conduct.  Moral purity, like humility, will not exhibit sensuality any more than ostentation.”

Modsty is not first an issue in clothing – it takes root much deeper – in the heart.  And that is the hardest part to attack.  It is easy to change your wardrobe, but it takes a work of the Spirit to change the heart.

Here is a fun thought/not so fun thought:

My wedding: I want to have fun crazy shoes for the dress instead of traditional white.  Why?  Because I want fun shoes.  I like shoes.  Why not?  Not many people will see them anyway.  Not so fun thought: I want people to notice me, I want to display my sense of shoe style.  Why?  Inner struggle.  God to help!

“Where ambition reigns within, there will be no modesty in the outward dress.”  I think of this mostly with two things: women who are trying to scale the corporate ladder by wearing tight pencil skirts and point high heeled shoes, or women who are doing the pursuing in a relationship.  I know those are two broad stereotypes, but they are somewhat accurate worldly portrayals.

Shamefacedness – not a word we use all the time – not is it really a word I want to use all the time.  This is how George Knight writes about it in his Pastoral Epistles commentary: “a moral feeling, reverence, awe, respect for the feeling or opinion of others or for one’s own conscience.”  So, I might dislike the word, but love what it means.  Do you live your life in wanting to honor Christ – and honor the other person.  Romans tells us to outdo one another in showing honor.  Ladies – this comes in the way we dress and carry ourselves.  I am hopefully honoring my fiance’ when I choose to dress modestly instead of wearing clothes I shouldn’t or acting in a way I shouldn’t – just to entice him to sin.  I want to help him, and other brothers in Christ – to seek Christ, pursue holiness – not cause them to stumble.

“Christian modesty is the inner self-government, rooted in a proper understanding of one’s self before God, which outwardly displays itself in humility and purity from a genuine love for Jesus Christ, rather than in self-glorification or self-advertisement.”  I loved this.  Also most convicting.  This goes way beyond what we wear: it goes to our motivation for always buying new clothes, wearing the latest styles, or being so out of style that you draw attention to yourself, or wearing dresses down to your ankles just to be “modest”.  It is all a matter of the heart.

So…how do you guard your heart: (by resting in Christ) – Phil 4, Prov 4,

How do you honor your brothers or husbands?

And – how do your stylish, pretty clothes say: purity, humility, and moderation?

Modesty – Abbey Cooler (Guest Post)

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Seminary was a grand time. I loved the relationships God allowed me to build during those 3.5 years. It is neat now to see how God is using so many of those friends around the country and in the world for His glory.

Abbey Cooler is one of them.  We had many classes together in the education ministries at Southeastern.  She is now a wife and mom and writer in Georgia.  one thing I love about Abbey is her strength in the Word to guide her daily tasks and how she looks at her world. 

A few weeks back, she posted this helpful bullet list (really to help you on your own study on modesty.  I thought it would be an encouragement to you – especially those who are parents or those who work with girls or women – since this struggle with the flesh will continue until we stand in front of Jesus.

Press on in godliness.

What the WORLD says about beauty and modesty:
You have to be a certain size
You have to wear a certain type of clothes

It is ok to wear tight, short or skimpy
Dress older when you are younger
Dress younger when you are older

What the Bible says about modesty:

Modesty: the need to cover our bodies. Characterized by reserve and freedom from excess

Modesty in the Old Testament
Adam and Eve (Genesis 3:21)
Noah (Genesis 9:21-25)
Isaiah (Isaiah 3:16)
Hosea (Hosea 2:5)

Modesty in the New Testament
Paul talks about modesty ( 1 Corinthians 12:23, 1 Timothy 2:9)
Proper dress of believers
Regulated by relationship with Christ

1 Corinthians
Body is Temple of God
Your responsibility
What you are internally is shown externally

How can I look “cool” and still be modest:
Wear your own size.

You are at the point in your life when you are growing or getting ready for a growth spurt

It is ok, if you have to go up a size. You look better if your clothes fit (KD note: What Not to Wear hosts say this all the time, so even fashion experts agree with Abbey)

Don’t compare yourself to others

Find your own style

Wear what makes you feel confident and comfortable

Remember you are God’s workmanship