Wednesday, May 21, 2008

Modesty Boundaries

I've been thinking off-and-on about modesty, and the many implications of it. My thoughts have centered around the seeming paradox of being modest 'for the public,' while striving to be attractive and sensual for my husband.

This is further complicated by having children at home for whom I'm trying to be a godly example. Please don't misunderstand; affection and attraction for Hubby is a godly example to them, but obviously there are aspects of that which are private. :)

I've run across an excellent post at Pursuing Titus 2 that uses the analogy of the "walled garden" in Song of Solomon to illustrate the point. Stonmasonry (modesty) and gardening (private immodesty) are both important aspects, and we miss it if we are only stonemasons (very modest, but nothing enticing even in private) or only gardeners (always immodest, alluring to any/everyone). The post also offers an idea for managing it with the 'children in the home' aspect. I am glad to read of this (and if anyone has any other ideas, I'd love to hear them) because I have several clothing items that Hubby doesn't want me to be rid of, but that I'm not (any longer) wearing in view of the general public or even our girls.

The comments were interesting as well, one in particular. A woman mentioned that her husband enjoys it when she dresses immodestly when they are out together, that he likes it when "other men are interested in what he has." The author's response was very considerate, but pointed out that it sounded like the husband might be enjoying other men's breaking of the tenth commandment. She also suggested a way to gently broach the idea to her husband, since the commenter wasn't sure how she felt about this.

I don't want to get into what might be the issue with the husband here, but focus more on what we, as wives, are doing. Are we (and by "we," I mean "I") keeping our husbands completely satisfied in intimacy (including dressing in a way that pleases his eyes privately)? Does his heart "safely trust" in us? Are we doing our part to ensure his confidence? Can he look around a room of men and know he is honored and respected as much or more than anyone present? I think that would go far in building security and trust that doesn't need to be boosted by any other man's covetousness.

What do you think?


home handymum said...

This is an issue that is so very cultural. The core tenets of being modest in dress, but attractive for your husband are, of course, universal, but how that is worked out is so very subjective.

For instance, the wearing of the Burka over sequinned bikinis in Iran... Or horrible pastel ankle dresses. Or trousers and a sweater that are bright and beautiful, but not sexy.

I think it is honouring to God to strive for beauty - and that beauty in public need not mean sexual beauty. God did not shrink from clothing the fields and forests with splendour, and we are His creation also.

With prayer, and through the influence of the Holy Spirit I think we can work our what is the right response for us each, individually. But I would hate to set up a gold standard of dress or behaviour, because that crosses the line into legalism I think.

Like in every other aspect of our following after Christ, we are given the general value from scripture, and the presence of the Spirit. Each day we need to assess where we stand on an issue.

I think the danger of saying "wear this, don't wear that", is two-fold. Firstly, when we attain the standard, it can foster pride and judgementalism in ourselves. Secondly, it can make us complacent - it stops us striving even higher because we have kept the rule.

I think, that continually asking ourselves if Christ is smiling at our conduct (dress being, I think, a small part of modesty), then - assuming we are keeping close relationship with Him and are being grounded in the scriptures - He will lead us on the right path.

Sorry, no pat answer here :)

Also important to remember that God deals with other people in His own time and with His own priorities. What we see as glaring issues may be, to God, something to deal with later, while He works on issues that are, to us, invisible in someone else.

Kristin said...

Great food for thought! There certainly is a fine line there.

MamaJ said...

Very good post. When the whole modesty issue came up in our family, my husband told me he didn't want me throwing out my jeans altogether. He did ask me to not wear certain shirts anymore, which I quickly honored. Even certain maternity clothes are becoming waayyy to revealing, so I make sure not to buy any of those. He also asked that I wear dresses to church, so out went the "business suit" outfits and stretchy pants. One day, I might wear skirts/dresses all the time, but for now, this what he feels God would have us do.

annie said...

I think I agree with what home handymum is saying. My brain is a little frazzled but I'm pretty sure I understood what you said and what she said and I think she is saying what I am thinking.

I pretty much just wear what my husband finds attractive and modest. The things he finds sexy but modest I wear at home or where he feels it's appropriate (for example: on a date to the movies where no one will be seeing me anyway). The stuff that's immodest...stays in the bedroom. :)

My husband does not find pants or long shorts or shirts that are fitted immodest. When he sees them on other women he isn't attracted to them or find them sexually appealing. He likes when I wear things that are feminine, yet practical, like jeans and a tshirt or button-up shirt or a mid-length dress that has a fitted bodice. I try to dress like that for him, to respect him and please him. He does not like overly modest clothing (long skirts and jumpers that show very little shape) because he feels they attract attention and actually leave as much (or more!) room for the imagination to go haywire as overly immodest clothing does. I thought that was interesting.

EllaJac said...

Thank you for all your thoughts on this. I agree, it's a very cultural issue - some places women showing more than their hands is inappropriate. I think the point is we need to be sensitive to make it easy for men to "treat us as sisters, in all purity" and similar things. AND, to simultaneously be sensitive to stay desirable for our husbands. The wall (however that looks) and the garden.
Annie, I found your husband's thought interesting too.. Years ago, before I was married (or maybe early on), I was at the Farmer's Market and saw another family from church, who had a couple teen sons. I forget the conversation, but the comment was regarding the mennonite girls, who dress in pastel-patterned homesewn dresses, usually with a belt or gathered waist, low-calf length, and their little headcovering... He said something along the lines that their 'different' style made you 'want to look even more.' I don't know exactly how he meant this, whether it was a struggle to keep pure thoughts, or the girls' very 'pure' appearance was the attraction (he was a good, honorable kid). Interesting though.

home handymum said...

My husband reckons that teenaged boys can be aroused by walking past an attractive lamp-post, or by sitting on the bus looking at nothing in particular. Dressing for modesty, with the libido of a teenaged boy in mind, seems like an exercise in futility. :)

Truly, we can only do so much. The very fact that we are female will cause some men difficulty.

This is not an excuse to wash our hands of the issue of course, but something to keep in mind.