Thursday, December 4, 2008

Imperishable Beauty

"But whoever causes one of these little ones who believe in Me to stumble, it would be better for him to have a heavy millstone hung around his neck, and to be drowned in the depth of the sea. Woe to the world because of its stumbling blocks! For it is inevitable that stumbling blocks come, but woe to the one through whom the stumbling block comes!" Matt. 18:6-7

Well, this should be an interesting post. It is about modesty. And the heart. And about how the former tends to reveal the latter... and the latter should inform the former.

This year I am teaching at a homeschool enrichment program. Homeschooled children of all ages interact within a collegiate-style academic and arts setting two days a week. It is a wonderful program. It is filled with wonderful kids. They are all kids whose parents, at least, are professing Christians.

But, as with all gathered groups of young people, sometimes some behavioral concerns present themselves. The newest thing that we as faculty are encountering is a problem with a few of the young girls refusing to dress modestly.

Now understand, we're not trying to legislate peoples' behaviors outside of our academic setting. We have no desire to instill an attitude of legalism regarding clothing. We are not asking for conservative, plain Jane dressing... or only skirts... or neck-to-ankle coverage. We're just asking girls to keep all their parts that begin with "B" covered while they're in class. We're trying to maintain an appropriate learning environment without "boobs, butt, and belly" as distractions for other students.

[This, of course, is not part of any official stance by the organization! It is my own language, borrowed from a dear young woman who lived with us for a brief time before her baby was born. She was later working at a Christian summer camp, and that is what she told the young girls under her charge: "I don't want to see any of your parts that begin with B!" She spoke with a uniquely pointed perspective as a young Christian woman who had fallen into sexual sin in high school, and was now interested in influencing other young Christian women toward chastity and purity.]

But what she sometimes discovered then (and what we're discovering now) is the age-old truth... you can't legislate the heart. And so it is with a mix of sadness and hope that we seek rather to influence the heart, so that the behavior will change itself. (That, and a cover-up t-shirt in the meantime.)

In our own family, we have found a couple of very useful resources for those seeking to dress with appropriate, loving, considerate modesty. If you want to "check your heart" regarding this issue, we suggest reading The Modesty Heart Check. From within that article, you can link to a very helpful "checklist" about specific things to check - with regards to your clothing - before leaving the house each day. For a very helpful (and specific) indicator of what clothing tends to make young (and older!) men stumble, you can read The Modesty Survey.

Of course, all of these should be approached as resources, not as a list of rules. Our family has found them very helpful as we seek to faithfully pursue the imperishable beauty of a gentle and quiet spirit (1 Peter 3:4), to let our good works outshine our outward appearance (1 Timothy 2:10), and to dress for the glory of God (1 Corinthians 10:31).

After all, modesty is - first and foremost - a matter of the heart, not the wardrobe.*

* The language of the last two paragraphs is borrowed from The Modesty Survey.

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