Thursday, November 1, 2007

Modesty and Separation

When I was growing up, I remember going shopping with my mom and grandmother for clothes. They would encourage me to pick out my own clothes, which was really fun! From time to time I would find and shirt, dress, etc and tell them that I liked it. Momma would look it over and tell me, "It looks too grown-up." Now, at six or seven years old I could not comprehend that! After all, I thought I was quite grown-up!

When I was coming up, as I stated in my salvation testimony, I didn't grow up around the Bible. I am eternally grateful though, that I grew up with morals and boundaries. Breaking the rules was punished and good behavior was rewarded. My dad and mom, I believe, did the best to raise me to raise me to be a "good" kid. (I say "good," of course because no one is truly good)

When I got saved, I was green. And I mean green! I really knew nothing about God or the Bible. My Bible knowledge consisted of God made everything and He had a Son who died. No other details. I remember when my pastor would preach, he would refer to someone's life from the Bible. As pastors say oftentimes, "you know the story." For example, if he referred to Peter walking on the water, or David and Goliath, or the three Hebrew children, to save time he would often say "you know the story." I never, ever knew the story! It could get so frustrating. But I would jot down a fact to two that pastor would briefly mention about said story and go back in my Bible to find out what he was talking about. Sometimes it would take me hours. But I was really hungry to find out what God had for me in this new life as a Christian. There can be no better place to learn about God than His Word! I found that the more time I spent with God in His Word, the more He seemed to talk to me.

I've heard many times, "She dresses thusly because her church teaches that." Or, "That's just what the pastor preaches." The church I was attending at the time was by no stretch liberal. I really love that church, the pastor, and the people who go there. First off, I want that part to be clear. My convictions on dress do not coincide with theirs. Never did I try to argue with my pastor or supersede his God-given authority. As far as modesty (not separation) goes, I don't remember it being taught or preached. I'm not saying that it wasn't because I don't have a perfect memory. Through my sermon and Sunday school notes, I couldn't recall or find a message dedicated to the subject. As a few months passed, some of my close friends would mention in love that maybe I should try to cover myself more. I certainly didn't like being told such things and I wrote it off as them being rude, pushy, whatever. In my personal Bible study I came across this verse:

In like manner also, that women adorn themselves in modest apparel, with shamefacedness and sobriety; not with broided hair, or gold, or pearls, or costly array; --1Timothy 2:9

So there is "women" and "modest" right there together. I was slightly irritated, maybe even mad, with God that he would put such requirements on women. Why did He want to pick on the women anyway? But soon enough the irritation left, I repented of my bad attitude, and I tried to do what I thought was modest. At this point I didn't truly ask God to teach me what was modest and what wasn't. I used my own judgment. Now, as I grew in the Lord, I learned that God's standards are always far above man's. I also learned that we can get all of our beliefs, even specific ones, from the Bible. This isn't just in modesty, but in everything.

I'm estimating that 6 months after I got saved I first encountered Deuteronomy 22:5 - The woman shall not wear that which pertaineth unto a man, neither shall a man put on a woman’s garment: for all that do so are abomination unto the LORD thy God. This seemed pretty straight forward at the time and I jotted "crossdressing, transgender" out beside the verse. I pictured in my head a man wearing a dress, made a yucky face and went on.

All these times are approximate, but I'd say that 8 months after I got saved I had quit wearing midriff shirts and shorts with 1-inch inseams. But what was modest exactly? I'd say that my shorts had grown to an 8 inch or so inseam. As I continued to grow in the Lord, the Holy Spirit would convict me and I would toss out item after item of my wardrobe.

I know there are other verses pertaining to ladies' dress, but the Lord used Deuteronomy 22:5 to speak to my heart. So, that is where my emphasis is. Near my first spiritual birthday, I revisited Deuteronomy 22:5. Again, as I reflected on the verse I thought again about the transgender issue. You know when the Lord speaks to you and it's like every fiber of your being tingles and it feels like He's staring you in the face talking to you? Well, I had one of those moments. It was like the Lord said to me, "Think this through a bit. If it's so wrong for a man to wear a dress, then why can the women wear pants?" I thought a bit. All I could come up with was "because I always have" and "because every lady wears pants." I drew no conclusions that night, but I prayed and thanked the Lord for a good Bible study and went off to bed. Over the next few weeks the Lord continually brought those verses back to my memory. I slowly began to wear my jeans and pants less. I did not at this point get rid of them. Mind you, I was still a teenager. My parents had purchased those clothes for me and I couldn't just throw them away with out my parents having a heart attack!

I want to stop a minute and point out something here. There is a difference between modesty and separation. Some would argue that pants can be modest and are better for modest girls whose can turn spontaneous cartwheels. I cannot agree, but can almost see the train of thought. If something is loose, then one would think it is modest. But pants, even the loosest sort still cling. The idea with pants modesty, but it is more so separation. Separation is a basic Bible principle. Not just in the case of gender, but throughout Scripture separation is a fundamental truth. There are many, many places in the Bible where God says that He wants men and ladies to be just that...completely different. Men and women are made with different needs and tenancies. We are each given drastically different roles in the home and in the family unit. Our hair should be noticeably different. We have different roles are parents. We have very different roles in the church. When God teaches separation in anything, there is no room for gray. There is black and there is white. Why is dress seen as a gray issue?

I'd say that for a whole month I went without wearing my jeans. It was really hard considering that I only had 2 casual skirts. As a teenager, I didn't have the means to just go out and buy a new wardrobe. I looked over the sales racks after work and found things here and there. The Lord quickly provided what I needed. Soon, I met my first temptation. At the time I was 19 and working as a teller for a bank. We were having a casual day: jeans and t-shirts. I dreaded that day. Yes, by this time the Lord had provided a jean skirt. But the dress code plainly stated "jeans." The teller station that I worked at was a drive-thru building all by itself. No one ever saw me from the below the waist. Instead of asking my boss if it would be appropriate for me to wear the jean skirt, I just wore my pants. I felt like I was trying to hide from everyone. When another teller came in to relieve me for lunch, I nearly jumped up and tried to cover my bottom! I felt so naked. As I was out to my lunch break, I prayed and told the Lord that this was just no way to live. I knew the Lord had spoken to me through His Word about wearing pants and I deliberately disobeyed. I promised the Lord that I wouldn't do it again. I felt so much better after I had gotten things right, but a still small voice remained saying, "no one else may have seen you, but I've seen you all day."

When I got home I got together my jeans and pants, folded them and put them in a box in the back of my closet. No, I did not get rid of them. The only reason that I didn't was because I felt that since my parents had bought them, I had no right to get rid of them. They were mine, but they weren't mine. I hope that makes since. I don't know whatever happened to that box. I will add, though, that if you are praying about going dresses/skirts-only, that you do get rid of them. If you are a teen, then you should definitely talk to your parents first. They worked had to clothe you, and you owe them that much. If you are an adult and are praying about tossing your jeans/pants, then I would say certainly get them out of the house. Talk to your husband first though, and let him know what the Lord's been speaking to you about.

Since that day, I have had a few temptations to go back to jeans. I was told I was being a "legalist" for following the Bible and the Holy Spirit. To be honest, I didn't really care. I knew beyond all shadow of doubt what the Lord had done for me. I could be called a legalist for hating contemporary Christian music, or for believing that the King James Bible is the Word of God, or for whatever other reason you can make up. Why just the pants issue? Other temptations can rear its ugly head too. When it gets cold, it can be very tempting to go buy the sweatpants, but I've learned there are other ways to stay warm: thick trouser socks or thermal underwear under a no-split skirt do quite nicely. You wear a long no-split skirt and no one can tell. I've been out in sub-freezing temperatures many times in a skirt and felt more fine while pants-donning counterparts are shivering!

Getting back to the beginning of my testimony, I didn't quit wearing pants because the church taught it. I did it because my foundation was based in the Word of God. All I did was ask God of a true and sincere heart what He wanted me to do, seeking His will. I am nothing because of that; it is all by His grace. I didn't get these convictions from man or church. It came straight from the Bible.

Other verses the Lord has shown me:
And thou shalt make them linen breeches to cover their nakedness; from the loins even unto the thighs they shall reach. --Exodus 28:42
Don't miss the little point for the big point. Yes, this is the priests garment, but look at the reason for the length...to cover their nakedness.

And the eyes of them both were opened, and they knew that they were naked; and they sewed fig leaves together, and made themselves aprons. And they heard the voice of the LORD God walking in the garden in the cool of the day: and Adam and his wife hid themselves from the presence of the LORD God amongst the trees of the garden. And the LORD God called unto Adam, and said unto him, Where art thou? And he said, I heard thy voice in the garden, and I was afraid, because I was naked; and I hid myself. --Genesis 3:7-10
They covered themselves. I don't believe this was as it is in pictures, with one little leaf covering the secret parts because the leaves (plural) were sewn. Adam confesses that even though he was wearing a sort of garment he was still naked.

Gird up now thy loins like a man; for I will demand of thee, and answer thou me. --Job 38:3
notice, like a man. His legs were bound up, compassed about, like a man. Gender separation!

To me, one of the loudest witnesses after God's Word is history. Even the world knows that it has not always been as it is now. You'd have to be crazy to think that the world, in general, is more holy now than 100 years ago. Read this excerpt from Wikipedia:
During the late 1800's, women started wearing pants for industrial work. During World War II, women wore their husband's pants while they took on jobs, and in the 1970's pants became especially fashionable for women.
So we see here that once women left traditional, Biblical roles they began wearing pants. Another example of gender confusion. We also see that pants solely for fashion started in the 70's. What else came from the 70's? Feminism, social progressive teaching, hostility toward government, birth control pills, the rise of rock music, the hippie movement and much else that stands in defiance of God's teaching.

My aim is never, ever to hurt anyone. I also don't want to lift up myself. God knows I am nothing outside of Him. My goal here is to simply explain what I personally believe, why I believe it, and to give my testimony of how it came to be. My only wish is that someone be blessed by reading.

3 edifying expressions:

Sarah said...

What an encouraging post Elizabeth! It has been almost a year since I was saved, and during my personal Bible study I too, felt as though Proverbs 22:5 gripped me as I read and changed my heart towards the way I dressed. Thank you for sharing your testimony on this matter.

Kelsey said...

This is such a wonderful post! I'm only 18 and was saved a few years ago. Like you a grew up in a house that taught me great morals and how to be a "good person" and we even went to a liberal church that well.. didnt really believe in Salvation. Anyway this post is such an encouragement to me, I have felt the Lords conviction in this area for so long and my mother has made it clear it is not her wish until I leave the house (this fall) and in honor and respect for my parents I am following their rules. Thanks so much for this post!

Mrs. Mobunny said...

WOW. Loved your testimony! I came from a jean wearing era........and the Lord changed my mind. Happily I must add! And......just putting on a dress is not enough. Modestly ONLY, not dresses only.