Open Letter on Modesty

I do my very best to use a nursing cover in public when feeding my son. Not because I’m ashamed of my body, fearful of judgment, or because it’s convenient, but because I’m well aware that what’s natural for me could be a stumbling block to someone, anyone.

Let me explain.

We live in a fallen world. One where men and women stumble frequently with lustful thoughts or are triggered to think those thoughts about others they see. Many who are plagued with a mind wrestling through this want nothing more than to be free from the bombardment of seeing anyone from a high school girl in her bathing suit to a man running without a shirt and, as a result,  fantasizing about them in their mind. Let’s not pretend for even a moment that I, or you, haven’t seen someone attractive and thought about how good they looked even after they’ve gone away.

You can’t help the first look. You can help the second.

Over the past 12 years I’ve struggled with modesty in my own life. I lived by the rules that dresses can’t be short enough, work out shorts need to be rolled over to decrease their length, and tops that highlight my bust are the only ones worth wearing. My mentality was purely based on getting attention from men-regardless of the fact that none of them wanted to go on a walk and grab a cup of coffee.

During our wedding vows my husband’s grandfather asked me to vow to be meek and modest-1 Timothy 2:9-10 “I also want the women to dress modestly, with decency and propriety, adorning themselves, not with elaborate hairstyles or gold or pearls or expensive clothes, but with good deeds, appropriate for women who profess to worship God.” I didn’t think a thing of it at the time but as Chris and I have been married for over five years I’m starting to understand his charge.

Romans 14 is a great chapter to read for clarity but let’s start with verse 13: “Therefore let us not pass judgment on one another any longer, but rather decide never to put a stumbling block or hindrance in the way of a brother.” In my mind I can view any tank top, shirt, or skirt that I wear as appropriate, cute, and flattering. I give my husband permission to speak truth from a mans perspective on my choices and help me make decisions on what’s going to help me feel confident in my clothes while not drawing attention or becoming a stumbling block to others.  I am not as visually drawn to others as most men are. I’ve never struggled with lust and struggling with watching porn has never been part of my testimony. I’m simply nieve to the world around me sometimes. Heck, 99% the time I wouldn’t consider my attire to be in anyway inappropriate. I’m thankful to have a husband who can lovingly remind me we live in a fallen world and that I should probably change my outfit.

Through the years my closet has been purged of tiny inseams and tight dresses. Clothes from high school and college party days have been replaced with more fabric and looser silhouettes. I’ve done this in order that another area of my life can be transformed by the power of Christ. I desperately want the way I talk and present myself to others to exemplify the radical life change that I’ve had through being an authentic follower of Christ.

It saddens me to see half naked men and women on billboards and in magazines to sell items. I get it. Sex sells. The fascination with sex, nudity, fantasy, and the like infuriates me. I’m livid with the family members who introduce Playboy to their cousins and siblings to taint their mindset of God’s intention for sex and intimacy. Sex and porn addiction are real. Very real. It destroys lives, it destroys families, it destroys minds. Having gone through a year long recovery ministry I’ve been made aware of so much hurt and pain a skewed view of sex and our bodies brings to others. Much deeper pain than I’ve ever encountered.

I am so sad to admit to being one of those girls who found her worth and identity in men and what they thought of me-often viewing physical relationship as being loved and rapidly learning I was simply an object. I choose to protect myself and my children by doing my best to dress in way that will help advance the Gospel and not make me a hypocrite. I assure you I’ll fail from time to time. I’ll throw something on, leave the house, and not think twice. It’s a work in progress for me, but one that’s eons ahead of the confused girl who walked the sidewalks of her Alma Mater.

My decision to use a nursing cover is not because I think I need one or because my husband has requested it. My decision to discreetly as possibly feed my child is one way I’ve found that works for me to help protect adolescents and parents from having more of my body to see. I’m not so vain as to think this is everyone’s thought, but I’m also educated enough to know the prevalence of hormones and a skewed view of sex is legitimate. I deeply wish I was in a world where everyone could feed their children openly and not think twice. A world where we could encourage mothers to feed their babies with bodies God created. A world where no one would judge a mother for providing nutrition to her child. Unfortunately that’s not our society.

Please don’t take my personal decision to cover up as a slam at your decision to feed your child openly. As women and mothers we have enough negative feedback around us to make us question what we do and why. I doubt any woman feeds her child publicly and has the agenda to draw men in. However, as a wife and mother I would hope my experience in walking the line of what’s appropriate to wear would at least put a rock in your shoe, so to speak, and cause you to be more aware that there are so many around you struggling-and wanting to be free from-being a captive to their own lustful thoughts. We’re not responsible for other’s thoughts or behaviors, but we can do our part to not make it more difficult. I acknowledge that we could all walk around in pants and turtlenecks year round and the countless pornographic images others have seen would still be so burned in their mind that you hairstyle or lipstick could trigger  a fantasy. The sheer amount of anger and sadness I have over this is indescribable. If we can build into our own minds that we are more than what our bodies can provide to another, and to our children that their bodies are sacred we’re already making giant gains.

As a matter of fact in Corinthians 6:19-20 it says “19 Do you not know that your bodies are temples of the Holy Spirit, who is in you, whom you have received from God? You are not your own; 20 you were bought at a price. Therefore honor God with your bodies.” I can’t very well honor the Creator of the universe with my thoughts and actions if the manner I present myself is contradictory. I struggle to hold on to the Truth in this verse so frequently-please encourage me when I stumble as I assure you I’m not the poster child for how to be prim and proper. However, what I hope to be, is someone who can explain to her children the reasons we don’t allow bikini’s on our daughter and the importance of respecting women to our son. May our parenting style be seasoned with God’s best for them and executed in a way that shows Chris and I living out the expectations we have of them.

So admonish me when you see me dressing or behaving in a way that is not how Christ has called. Tell me when I’ve offended you by the length of my inseam. Be in this race with me so I don’t struggle alone. And encourage me to be the daughter of the King-one more valuable than rubies and worth more than the clothes she wears.

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