Shaking off the blog dust…
Yesterday I was reminded of something I’ve wanted to blog (think) about. As our children get older, we’ve been getting more and more opportunities to teach them about modesty. It’s a fun topic for me, and one that I’m realizing is almost completely different when it comes to teaching it to my own children. I’m learning as I go.
I’m fascinated in the growth of a sense of style. They avoid certain colors. They aren’t afraid to offer opinions when we’re shopping for new clothes. They also tend to develop favorites, at times leaving perfectly wearable clothes unworn while the preferred clothes grow holes from use. Confession: I don’t choose their clothes on a daily basis. I make suggestions, and I do reserve veto power. For example, if they want to wear the jeans with holes to a nice company picnic, I do make them wear a different pair, unless I’m behind in laundry and then I go to Plan B!
In general, for play clothes, I let them wear the same outfit two days in a row (provided last night’s spaghetti isn’t splattered on the front). And their choices are limited by my discipline to launder the clothes regularly. If I haven’t done laundry, then they end up wearing the really cute outfit I got on sale that somehow stays in the back of the bottom drawer, under long underwear and behind mismatched pajamas. Falling behind in the laundry has its advantages.
For church clothes, it’s a different story. I want them to look respectable. I’m not a little distressed when I realize I didn’t notice that there’s a spot on that clean shirt, that a daughter’s dress is too short suddenly, or that someone is wearing pants that obviously sat in a pile of laundry for a week and are hopelessly wrinkled. Out of this desire for respectability has come a dress rule: You can’t wear the same dress two weeks in a row. I have this rule because my daughters would wear the same dress every week if they could, and I have a vague sense that they shouldn’t do this. So they dutifully put aside the favored dress for something that satisfies my arbitrary rule.
However, on introspective days, I wonder about my arbitrary rule. What am I trying to accomplish by requiring a rotation of clothes? Am I simply aware that people might notice that my child wears the same dress every week and think I’m a bad (or strange) mother? What’s so bad about having one church dress? Is it my shallow American thinking that to be proper, one’s daughters must have multiple dresses for church? I want them to recognize how their clothing choices affect others, and I want them to care about their appearances, but I don’t want clothing to be an idol.
In I Timothy, we overlook the fact that the modesty issue Paul was addressing was one of excessive attention to beauty and dress, the competitive approach to church appearances that alienates instead of draws people in. What should that look like in America? And how far do we accommodate even our church culture? Would wearing a single dress each week distract? Or would it actually be consistent with the biblical principle behind this passage?
I’m coming to a conclusion on this one. I certainly don’t think that having a variety of dresses is sinful or excessive; however, it is not inappropriate to allow my children to limit their own clothing choices at this time.
I desire therefore that the men pray everywhere, lifting up holy hands, without wrath and doubting; 9 in like manner also, that the women adorn themselves in modest apparel, with propriety and moderation, not with braided hair or gold or pearls or costly clothing, 10 but, which is proper for women professing godliness, with good works. I Timothy 2:8-9
So how do you feel about not wearing dresses at all to church? I’ve been kind of a stickler about this, but many girls my daughter’s age wear jeans, or leggings to church and she’s quick to point this out when I insist on a dress. I’ve often wondered what am I teaching when I insist on a dress. Do I want her to think that those other children are not being respectful when they don’t wear a dress? No. We had a row one Sunday because she wanted to wear the hot pink tule covered dress that is usually for dress up. Thinking I need to think about the whys and whatfors regarding this and have a chat about it when it isn’t Sunday morning 15 minutes before it’s time to leave. 🙂
The principle I use is that dressing up helps us to take church seriously. Church is something special– different than going shopping or playing around the house. We’ve acknowledged that we don’t have to dress up to take church seriously: we have friends who are serious about church and dress far more casually than we do. But dressing up helps us, so it’s a family rule. I’ve made allowances for a more casual church culture (David doesn’t typically wear ties to church, for example), but I am still somewhat counter-cultural even within our church culture.
I don’t think there’s anything magical about a dress, though. I’d be willing to consider nice slacks if it were an issue and if it were appropriate within my church culture. And I do realize that right now my children are far more externally controlled than they will be in a few years. I’ve had some opportunities to think a great deal about modesty lately (in part because of some shocking disparity between my views and my children’s views). Expect more blogging on this!
Looking forward to more discussion on modesty. I’ve tried to instill modesty in the kids, but have found that when they see immodesty (just about everywhere, but some times at church or their friends/friends parents in the neighborhood or school) they tend to judge it. That person must be bad because their shirt is too low. Then they have a disconnect in their minds. That person goes to church and says they love Jesus, but they wear shirts that show cleavage. They have done the same with tatoos. Trying to help them understand no everyone sees things the same and we are only responsible for ourselves, but to judge someone else is tricky business. This will get even more conplex as they enter the Jr. Hi age and encounter more of their peers who are immodest. It’s right around the corner for us. We’ve already had to say a certain pair of jeans were too tight. Frankly as they get older it gets harder to even purchase clothes that qualify as modest. Glad you’re going to talk more about this.
I am also looking forward to this discussion. It is just now becoming an issue to think on with my now five-year-old who is having more and more opinions about what she wears.