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