Wednesday, April 8, 2015

I Follow Jesus and Wear Short Shorts: A Christian's Response to Those Religious Posts About Modesty.

The fashionable "Burkini" popular with the religious of many faiths.

It's getting to be that time of year again:  When all the Christian bloggers begin posting articles about modesty.  Now I'm probably going to get in trouble for this, and for my "click-bait" title, but I would like to put out an argument as to why not everyone should be dressing identically in order to follow Jesus. 

Big sweater, big shirt, big hair.
This is my story.   I'm sharing because freedom in Christ is awesome and I'm not into religious condemnation, especially of those who have endured abuse of some kind.  Also, I thought it might be helpful to provide context for those who love Jesus but forget sometimes that He wasn't into Religion, even when it comes to clothing.  

My background was one that had crippled my self-confidence, identity and ability to walk with freedom in any way.  This background revealed itself in the way I dressed:  I dressed to hide.

My fave jacket:  XLarge camo.
I would often purchase clothing that was one or two sizes too big for me.  While still in college, I bought size 9 pants and had to cinch them with a belt for them to stay up on my size 4 to 6 frame.  I remember dressing for Easter and sighing as I looked at myself in the mirror, seeing only arms that were too skinny and awkward and a dress that sagged on every inch of me (of course it did-it was a size 8!).  I could not wear a two piece bathing suit because of my fear of my body being seen.   I could not see my body as beautiful in any way.  And rather than understanding that these issues were the by-product of enduring verbal and emotional abuse for many years, I thought I was simply following a Biblical principle of modesty

I grew up in the church and at the time, there was a prevalent attitude that young women must "dress appropriately so as not to cause their brothers in Christ to sin".   There were still cautionary tale-tellers sharing about how to dress so as to prevent getting raped or being seen as a "slut" with the clothing you wore.

These ideas are garbage:  they're not Biblical.  Let's just get that out in the open here at the get-go, okay?   My "brothers in Christ" are just as responsible for their actions as am I.  How I dress does not make them less responsible for what they choose to do, in their thoughts or with their actions.  We'll all stand before God alone.  We won't get to say, "So and so made me sin".  If it didn't work for Adam it won't work for others.  Actually, one of the best quotes I've heard correcting this line of thought came from Jesse Duplantis,  talking to a man who was complaining that the woman in front of him in service was wearing a sleeveless dress (shocker!).  In a burst of truly God-inspired humor, Jesse responded, "Brother, if an armpit turns you on, you need deliverance!"

A helpful scarf.
Bingo!  The calls for modesty in dress stem from a Religious Spirit that wishes to control and deny real spiritual freedom.  This spirit inserts Rules over Relationship every time.  So, rather than allowing people to engage Jesus in their wardrobe choices, this Religious Spirit says things like, "You must never wear a two-piece bathing suit" or "revealing cleavage in church is evil".  My husband would thoroughly object to the first rule, and about 8% of voluptuously endowed women would be forced to wear turtlenecks at every church service for the second...or a scarf.

And here's the thing with that Religious Spirit:  you can never cover up enough for that bad boy.  It wants to stick you in a cage and keep you there by any means possible: through shame about your body, through guilt about even being female.  This is why some extreme religions end up covering their poor women from head to toe.  That's no different than the calls for modesty in the Christian church.  You cannot say this "rule" becomes right just because it is clothed in Christian trappings.  If women are to become responsible for all of men's sexual darkness, I'm sorry, but you can never cover up enough to plug that pit.

In Jesus' day, it was the Pharisees who placed the emphasis on following the letter of the law (following every rule to each "jot and tittle").  The Pharisees were ultra-religious, causing their followers "to strain out a gnat in order to swallow a camel", in Jesus' own words.  Jesus' argument against their ways was for a new way to follow God:  focusing on the spirit of the law.  What is the intent behind the original law?  Why does Proverbs say "Discretion will preserve you"?  Rather than following the letter of the law, Jesus suggested we dig in and ask God about His intent, ask Him what He thinks is acceptable and good for us to wear, and involve Him in the decision making process of (even) our wardrobe.   Jesus wants to be involved in our heart's choices.  He doesn't want us to lean on laws for that.    

Back to my story.  The best thing I had going for me was that I loved Jesus, wanted to please Him first and wanted to be who He had made me to be.  A few years out of college, I was unmarried with a lot of time to spend focusing on my calling and spending time with Jesus.   Time with Him made me realize that I was unable to express my thoughts, my person-hood, even my creativity most of the time.  I was trapped within myself and unable to get out.  I needed His help to be truly free to be me.  I was always pushing my real thoughts, real passions, real opinions away out of sight, as unacceptable, uninteresting, unwanted.  I had been told they were not worthy.  I had believed this.  Now, I knew Jesus wanted to free me from that lie.  So, I began asking Him for my freedom.  Freedom to be who He had made me, and to be unashamed of that person.  I loved the verse, "It is for freedom that Christ has set us free."

When you ask God for things like that, which He actually wants for you, He'll do it.  And part of leaving Shame behind was a sudden appreciation for who and how He had made me.  And my body.  A change started happening in the way I saw myself.  And this translated into the clothing I wore.


"Hey, look at this!  My arms aren't skinny and awkward:  They're slender and graceful...and beautiful.  I think I need to start wearing sleeveless shirts because I actually like my arms!


"Well, who would have thought!  I might not be the most full-figured of gals, but I can look good in a two piece.  Fact is, a one piece bathing suit tends to flatten my bust, but a form-fitting two piece can accentuate my slim figure, rather than hide it!"


"All these years I could have fit into size 4 and size 6?  What was I thinking?  These capris are adorable!"

This new found freedom that Jesus was bringing out in me was showcasing in other ways, as well.  Not just clothing.  Clothing is just an external way we find to express who we are.  And, as is the case, when you begin to experience freedom, not everyone is thrilled with the changes that come along with that. 

I remember being in a praise and worship service.  I was deep in loving on God.  I was belting out the worship as my soul sang along with the songs.  My arms were raised.  My eyes were on Jesus.  Every ounce of me was involved.  And...all of a sudden there was a tap on my shoulder. 

"I think you should know, your bra strap is showing!"  the woman behind me whispered, when I turned around to see who had invaded me and Jesus.

I'll admit, my first thought was shame.  And then, I kicked that lie to the curb and thought, "You interrupted my worship of God to tell me my bra strap is showing?  Who the hell cares?"

Now, of course, she did.   She was offended by the fact that I was worshiping in a tank top in church.  But my bra strap was not offending Jesus, so I told her, "Really, it's okay," smiled at her and turned around to continue my worship.  There was no need to let that Religious Spirit stop me from worshiping God, which is what it wanted to do.    

Funny thing is, there's a story in the Old Testament that parallels this experience exactly:  when David was worshiping before the Ark of God and his (ex)wife, Michal was offended with how he was dressed as he worshiped.  The Bible says Michal met David with some very outspoken scorn regarding what he was wearing (He was wearing a "linen ephod" which basically means, he was dancing in his short shorts):  “How distinguished the king of Israel looked today, shamelessly exposing himself to the servant girls like any vulgar person might do!”

How religious she sounds.  And David throws her contempt right back at her:  “I was dancing before the Lord, who chose me above your father and all his family! He appointed me as the leader of Israel, the people of the Lord, so I celebrate before the Lord. Yes, and I am willing to look even more foolish than this, even to be humiliated in my own eyes! But those servant girls you mentioned will indeed think I am distinguished!”

If there was one thing King David got, while living in the era where everyone was supposed to follow the Law, it was this:  the heart is what matters--not the laws you supposedly follow.

And this is what it boils down to in our culture today.  Modesty, as all else, is not something that can be Biblically dictated to others.  In fact, thinking that you can dictate this through religious means and still suggest that Jesus is about freedom, is ludicrous.  Cultures change and what is considered modest by today's standards was shocking and abhorrent back in the Victorian era  (You dare to show off your ankles?  For shame!  You must be a scarlet woman!).

So this modesty idea goes back to the heart and following "the spirit of the law".  What is God okay with you wearing?  You, personally.  And, if you're married, then your spouse becomes a part of those decisions.  My husband saved his eyes, his heart, and his body for me.  In the words of Beyonce, (who I have never quoted on this blog before), he "put a ring on it".   Therefore, he has some right and say in what he'd like me to wear. 

Well, my God-fearing and Jesus adoring husband likes to see me in short shorts.   So, no apologies to the religious out there, but this means my husband gets to see me in short shorts, and I honor God by wearing them.  Yeah, I realize that one's a toughy for some folks.  But if God delights in my freedom (and He does), what right has anyone to attempt to put those chains of the old law back on me?   

But here's what I can do.  For those same religious folk, who find my freedom to be greatly offensive,  I am aware that this blog might be hard to stomach.  I believe in following Scripture which says in 1st Corinthians 8:9 -  "But you must be careful so that your freedom does not cause others with a weaker conscience to stumble.". 

For all of those with that weaker conscience mentioned above, I promise I will not wear my really short shorts to church.  That's me being loving for your sake.  Now, if the worship is really awesome and I am deeply involved with praising Jesus a lot, I may get a little crazy and show off a bra strap.  But I will not choose in advance to wear my short shorts to church.  Just for you.  I promise. 

Just don't follow me to the restaurant afterwards. 



Wednesday, April 1, 2015

Caedyn, Big and Little

"Mommy, sometimes I feel big and sometimes I feel little," said my thoughtful three year old, some time last spring.  I smiled, and yet, his sentence stuck with me, and little by little, the idea for a children's book was born. 

Anyone who has raised a toddler can tell you some of the fascinating things that will come out of their little mouths, but an introspective toddler is the most fun of all.  My husband and I have been chortling over the deep thoughts of our oldest since he turned two. 

"Mommy, sometimes I make big mistakes.  And sometimes I make little mistakes.  And sometimes, I eat steaks:  I pick them up with my hands and I eat them; like this!"

And hearing the perspective of our son on growing up (his excitement and his concerns), helped me write this children's book, "Caedyn, Big and Little", much of which came out of his own mouth, with his own quaint little phrases. 

We fleshed it out together, me asking for his thoughts on different things, and then writing down exactly what he told me.  It's his first co-authoring attempt, and may be one of the only chances I have to co-author with him.  Once he begins reading and writing independently (and he's getting closer to this all the time!), my guess is that he will want to own the whole thing from start to finish.  I have no idea where he gets that independent streak! Haha! 

We'll start out by offering our book on our Teacherspayteachers store, but eventually we may offer it through Amazon along with Tarnished.   I'm proud of my son's story and my illustrations for the book (colored by Caedyn himself) make me smile.

And the message of the story the same that my parents offered to my brother when he was just a little tyke and asked, "Daddy, can I live with you until I'm 40?" 

My Dad still tells his answer with a smile:  "And I told him, "Son, you can stay as long as you want!"

It never happened.  That independent streak was strong in my brother as well.  But it's important for a toddler to know that kind of security.