On Modesty and Freedom


I am not an expert on modesty.  In fact, I just got my first one-piece bathing suit this year (because they're so darn cute now!).  It's not that I've been overtly immodest, but more that I hadn't really thought about it much.  And if I did think about it, it was in the context of -- I'm in my 30's, I have three children, I don't have a super model body -- sooo I guess I can't wear that adorable crop top.  

Lately though, modesty has been coming up in my thoughts and in my prayer time, especially in relation to my continual quest for viewing food and my body the way the Lord views it.  I asked Him, how did your Mother view her body?

Although I’m not sure that I got a clear answer, I did hear something that made me realize that I was thinking about this all wrong.

Rather than focus on how lean is lean enough or how short can my shorts be before they’re immodest, I need to be first living with a deep knowledge that I am a loved daughter of God. This may seem too simple and possibly even cliché.  I wish there was a better way to share just how impactful this realization was for me.  

Confession: deep down, sometimes, I want to be lean to prove that I’m not my chubby high school self.  Deep down, sometimes, I want to wear a tight fitting dress because not only does my husband compliment me, but he tells me others were looking too. It’s painful to write that. I didn’t even realize that about myself until very recently through much prayer.  It’s as if I am trying to prove that I am lovable.  And that is hard, exhausting work.   

This quote from Henri Nouwen explains more about how living as one who is loved, changes us:

“The change of which I speak is the change from living life as a painful test to prove that you deserve to be loved, to living it as an unceasing yes to the truth of that belovedness. Put simply, life is a God-given opportunity to become who we are, to affirm our own true spiritual nature, claim our truth, appropriate and integrate the reality of our being, but most of all, to say yes to the one who calls us the beloved."

As an extension, freedom from food and body image issues comes from understanding our identity as loved daughters of God and ceasing to try to prove that we are lovable. I don’t have to worry so much about what my body looks like if I’m not worrying about fitting into a bikini this weekend.  I don’t have to desire to show off my body because I don’t need to show off my hard work in the gym -- because I don’t need to prove that I can have a fit body -- because I am already loved and approved by God. It’s freedom!

And if we think about it, it’s never enough, anyways.  The attention is never enough. The leanness is never enough. It’s challenging to think about because we do want to keep improving ourselves.  We don’t want to be complacent or settle, but in the end, it’s all lacking. How do we push ourselves with working out and eating healthy, but, at the same time, not desire to show off to others how much better we look in our tight clothes? (It’s ok to feel happy about fitting into clothes better and it’s good to feel beautiful – the issue I’m talking about is the showing off that comes from a desire to prove that we are lovable). Maybe it’s just me, y’all!

Ok, back to modesty.  When my clothes are more modest, then I am no longer trying to show off my body. At that point, eating and working out are no longer about proving myself, but, rather, can be about a whole host of other wonderful reasons.  With less of a focus on our body parts, we are free to put working out and eating healthy in their proper place, perhaps as one item on the to-do list rather than the full focus and concern of every day.