Thursday, July 25, 2013

Here's the thing: Modesty

This is a topic that I’ve been meaning to address in more detail, as it is one fraught with many-layered hurt on both sides.  But this morning, as I was sipping my coffee and scrolling through Twitter, I noticed Rachel Held Evan’s link to this article over at Her*mentutics, the feminine arm of Christianity Today:

I read the article, which is thoughtful and well-articulated, as well as the early comments.  And once again, I found myself disagreeing with Ms. Held Evans (no, I will not turn in my feminist card, thank-you-very-much). 
You see, I am a late comer to this faith party, the Mowgli of Christianity.  I was raised outside of the nuanced, Louis XIV world of Evangelical modesty. I spent the first few years struggling under the weight of trying to catch up to these gilded-cradle royals; tugging at my skirts, folding my arms over my chest, keeping my eyes on the floor, and flushing when older women in the church talked to me about dressing modestly because their sons and husbands shouldn’t have to be confronted with the female form while they’re trying to worship.  Their eyebrows were raised in judgment at my plunging neckline and snug fit of my shirt; when all I wanted was to be done wearing maternity clothes so I could feel pretty and to have easy access so I could nurse my baby and get back into service.   
But, reader, I am also the wife to a man who, many years ago, struggled with lust.  I am too familiar with that haunted darkness.  So hurt by this sin that I began to objectify my sisters for the opposite reason.  I became the haughty judge of short-lengths and necklines, the disgusted tisk-er at barely-there swimsuits, the bent and frowning, bitter woman who loathed women dressing intentionally provocatively.  Because it might draw men’s eyes; it might somehow diminish my beauty.  Sin heaping upon sin. 
Sin has a way of devastating everyone involved - and causing all effected to stumble.        
As we healed from this, and the many other sins I inflicted on our marriage, I recovered my knowledge of truth.  That women, being created in the image of God, are inherently beautiful, our beauty a gift to be delighted in and shared.  For when this beauty is objectified, bartered, or shamed, it is not because of us – the debt of that sin is heavy on the one who acts upon it.  So I read articles like that above with great trepidation.  I have heard many voices telling their stories of shame – because they weren’t allowed to lead worship, lest their figure cause male congregants to lust.  I can’t imagine how much that must hurt.  To be told you can’t exercise the gift you’ve been given because of who you are.  And I have watched as good men fell head-long into the ocean of lust, dragging their families to drowning with them.  As a feminist, and mother of a soon-to-be-teenaged daughter, I do not want my child to objectified, to be seen as a sum of her reproductive parts – to be made less in the eyes of males.  Nor do I want my son to reduce any female to that either.
And that’s the thing: I struggle with how to honor God, both sexes, the beauty He created in them, and how to guide my children away from the miry pits of inappropriate seduction and lust.      
I agree with both the author, Peter Chin, and Rachel Held Evans in that lust is a sin in the heart of the individual.
The responsibility for lust cannot be levied on its object.
 I also agree with Rachel in that women should be dressing to please the Lord and not humanity.  Dressing to please the Lord must have as its inception one’s love of God and, therefore, love of others, as Jesus noted that these are the greatest commandments [Matt 22:37-39].  Paul’s exhortation in Romans 14 is applicable to the modesty discussion because he notes that our willful actions [dressing to attract the attention of either sex] can cause other believers to stumble.  Knowingly causing a brother or sister to stumble is not loving them.  As Paul asserts, the love to which believers are called requires the voluntary abdication of personal freedom for the sake of another; it requires self-sacrifice.
Therefore, dressing to please the Lord carries with it the responsibility of considering others and how our actions might affect them, as much as glancing at an attractive person carries with it the individual’s responsibility to guard against lust.

What are your thoughts, reader?  How do you address modesty – with your children (male and female), with your spouse, with yourself? 

Sunday, July 21, 2013

Worship {An interlude}

I have spent these last few days in a posture of repentance, and of forgiveness. 

                It is no surprise that these two are so closely intertwined. 
I have written these sins in black ink upon linen paper.  These sins marked deep in the grooves of my heart.  And I have burned the vestiges of these wrongs – sending their ash to the heavens, to the Only One who can make each one right.  The One who Restores what has been lost.  The One who Redeems what has been Stolen.  The One who conquers the ground given to the enemy. 

These two, forgiveness and repentance, have to come before worship.  It is as Jesus said, “Therefore, if you are offering your gift at the altar, and there remember that your brother or sister has something against you, leave your gift there in front of the altar.  First go and be reconciled to them; then come and offer your gift.” [Matthew5:23-24] 
And it is worship to which my soul has longed to return.  That for which I, and you, dear one, have been created:

                Worship of the One, True God. 
And I have committed my heart to worship.  Not to singing and clapping and dancing as though joy were the only emotion I know.  But to worship – to be delighted and afraid of the God who gives birth to stars with merely a breath.  To be in awe and wonder of the God who numbers the days of my life, and those whom I love.  To love and revere the God who loves every person, though this love is rarely returned, and is never perfected while we toil on this barren rock. 

I have purposed my mind to knowing the God of all Creation.  That includes knowing of Him, knowing about Him, and seeking after Him as earnestly as I can.  For Theology is worship, as is music.  And Ontology can cause a heart to dance, as wondrously as a song.
I have set out to follow after the desire of my heart, no longer the confines of humanity.  I will not allow these bent children, though of Light themselves, to dictate what is and what is not worship.  That which draws me to my God, makes Him known to me, makes me humbled before Him, is what I will declare as my worship.  If my heart is not light, I will not clap my hands.  If my eyes will not weep, I will shout with joy that His love fills my soul. 

I will remember that God finds us where we stand.  He leaves the 99 to seek after the 1.  And I, and you, beloved, am the 1.  God meets us wherever we are.  And He loves us however we are – for while we were still sinners, God sent His Only Son to die for our sins, that we might be called the children of God. [Romans 5:8] 

Join me, children of God.  Join me in worshipping our God.  His is the Name above all names.  He is the King of kings and Lord of lords.  He is the alpha and the omega; the Author of our lives and the Creator of the universe.  And we were created to worship Him. 
Wherever you are, however you choose, worship the God you made you, the God who saves you, the God who, in spite of you, loves you. 

For the Glory of His Kingdom.



Thursday, July 18, 2013

Here's the Thing: Porch Madness

Let’s just state the obvious, shall we? 

          It’s been awhile. 
If you’re still there, reader: Thank You.  Truly, I’m humbled that you’ve come back, too.

I have opened this blog almost daily these past two months, and have stared at the blinking cursor, waiting for all that’s in me to come flooding out. 
But that’s the thing: there wasn’t much in me to pour out.  Not for any reason other than inside was – quiet. 

I was – I am still – passionate about how God loves His children, regardless of their gender, ethnicity, socio-economic status, sin-affinity, failings or achievements.  I will never acquiesce to even the idea that we can thoughtfully and logically say abortion is okay.  I love God’s church, Christ’s body and bride; but I still have such a hard time with how we treat one another, both inside and outside her walls.  I know that marriage was created by God, and as such, should reflect His perfect and loving relationship within the Trinity; and I believe (scripturally) that this is an equal and sacrificial love, that should neither dominate nor diminish either person.   I continue to delight in seeing God working in and through His children in spite of ourselves.    

I needed to delineate all of this because, for a while now, I feel like I’ve gotten a bit off track.  Like I took a turn down a winding path, that wasn’t necessarily wrong, but in a very Frost-ian way has made too great a difference in what these words have become.  It was only when I stopped, looked around and listened to where I was, that I realized this wasn’t where I’d set out to go.  Thus, I felt the need to articulate my path clearly, both for myself and for anyone still reading.    
I was listening to many different voices, some living, others gone to their eternity; and I found myself trying to appease each one.  To incorporate their influence, draw from their wisdom, and respond to their views.  Again, while this isn’t necessarily a bad thing; it took my focus away from where it should be.   

Years ago, maybe five or six, the Officer and I decided to add a paver stone porch to our yard.  We measured. hauled sand, pounded it down, and began the tedious task of placing each square; making certain every single one was aligned and sloped away from the house at just the right angle so that water wouldn’t pool and the porch would be perfectly smooth.  The task was daunting, taking days to complete.  And because I have hidden perfectionist tendencies, I spent more time with each individual square than I should have.  I got mired down in making every single one as perfect as I could.  It wasn’t long before I found insurmountable faults with each one.  The tiniest discrepancy became something that was going to throw the entire design to ruin.   And I lost sight of the project as a whole; my vision narrowed so completely that it encompassed on the brick before me. 
Eventually, the Officer coaxed my eyes to see the entirety of our project: how far we’d come, how pretty our results were to that point, and the potential that was even more evident in light of our progress.  I needed to take my eyes of the task just before me and see a greater scope.     

I mention this story, because it’s indicative of what’s happened over the past few months.  I narrowed my focus too much, saw too many troubles before me, and lost sight of what I had set out to do in the first place:
To share the truth I have learned with any who will listen.

So in the interim, I have been slowing down, watching rainstorms and marveling at their inherent beauty.  Studying the faces of my loved ones and soaking in the God-in-them I see there.  I’ve also been doing some repenting (a lot, actually).  I’ve been doing some listening (probably not as much as I should, honestly).  And I’ve been working on re-adjusting my thinking. 
And I’m to the point now that I’m going to do what I started out doing, not what I devolved into.  I’m going to focus on a theme for a few weeks at a time, sticking close to Scripture and worship.  And because I have a hard time focusing on one thing at a time, I’ll be peppering these articles with an occasional with a segment I’m calling “Here’s the Thing,” in which I’ll comment on a topic with my unabashed personal (though one hopes Scripturally-informed) opinion, or review a book (of theological bent) I’ve read.   As always, I invite questions of all kinds and comments, so long as they are respectful and thoughtful.  I maintain sole ownership of the content here, so anything I deem rude, hurtful, or slanderous will be removed.

I hope you’ll join me.