Inside and Out

July 7, 2008 at 8:30 am (Articles, Godly Living, Modesty) (, , )

This morning I washed windows. The outside, of course. Proudly I surveyed my work, expecting an aura of beauty to emanate from the “clean” glass. Instead I noticed smudges, smears and spider webs—on the inside.

When it comes down to the topic of modesty, we grope for specifics, details, style revues, check-lists. “Wouldn’t it have been nice if the Bible came complete with Simplicity patterns?” one friend asked me. But a law can never express modesty, since every law can be circumvented by obedience to the letter, not the spirit.

I’ll never forget a Mennonite wedding I attended. During a quick pit-stop in the ladies restroom, one girl caught my eye. Dressed to the T as every Mennonite girl should be—long sleeved dress, buttoned up the front to her proper collar, belted tightly around the middle, her hair tucked up into a black skull cap—she primped in front of the mirror. She was tugging the front of her hair, puffing it up so that as much as possible showed around her pretty face. And her dress! I’d never seen anything like it. Sure, it was the exact same pattern every other girl was wearing. But it was leopard print! I’d never experienced leopard print and Mennonite in the same room before. When she finally finished and made her way out of the bathroom it was with a mincing, swinging gait and a gaze that scanned the full room as if measuring every other girl present.

The home school Forensics league I was a part of during high school had a dress code, too—for the sake of modesty and professionalism. One of my friends always wore a hot pink suit—on par with dress code, of course. Modest, by the letter of the law. When her name as “Hot Pink Suit Girl” became well established, she confided that she was thinking of switching to an electric blue suit. “Just to shock people,” she said. “The pink suit—well, everyone’s used to it now.” At one tournament she washed her almost-black hair a bleach blonde and delighted in the stir she caused. “I tried squirt-in blond highlights,” she told me another time, in disappointment. “But no one really noticed.”

Certainly there’s nothing wrong with leopard print. Or hot pink. Or blond hair. And yet, something is wrong with these pictures. Terribly wrong. These girls both conformed to all the rules of modest attire placed upon them. Their demeanor trumped their dress. Their goal was to stand out from the crowd. To be noticed. To make waves. To turn heads. Their attitude screamed, “I want attention!”

Both claimed to be advocates for modesty.

Have we boiled modesty down to a checklist for clothing?

When it comes to the nitty-gritty reality of godly living, having an imaginary line across my chest or wearing skirts past my knees is easy, but modesty is much fuller than the idea of “covering what needs to be covered.” At its root, modesty is moderation, humility, lack of pretension, not seeking to put itself forward or demand attention. Even dressing to conceal can become a point of self-righteousness, meant to point out how holy or devoted to God I am—because I dress modestly. As Lauren said, the motive of our dress should be the glory of God. To dress for the glory of God, we must first desire to see Him glorified—while we are diminished. We must pray that He would increase, while we decrease. We must be not only willing, but eager to be eclipsed by His beauty. Modest apparel flows naturally from a modest heart.

Jesus rained down a fiery sermon on the hypocrites of His day who sought to appear righteous on the outside, for the praise of men. “You blind Pharisees! First clean the inside of the cup and of the dish, so that the outside of it may become clean also.” (Matthew 23:26)

As you are reassessing your wardrobe, reassess your heart. As you are washing the outside of the windows, be sure to wash the inside first so that when you are finished the light may flow through unhindered by smears or cobwebs on the inside or the outside.

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4 Comments

  1. Amy said,

    Fabulous blog!!!! Keep up the good work ladies!

  2. princessesindisguise said,

    I enjoyed “meeting” you both. 🙂 Thank you so much for the encouraging words on inward and outward modesty. I look forward to reading more here!
    Blessings,
    ~K

  3. Sara Nicole said,

    What an absolutely amazing and wonderful post; filled with the truth that needs to be heard! Praise God for your willingness to share what’s on your heart and for bringing glory to our Saviour! Blessings always!

  4. jaybyrd said,

    Thank you so much for this article! It really blessed me to day.

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