It was Spring Break, I was in college and several friends and I were in Florida getting dressed to go out dancing. I looked around at the outfits strewn across the room as we tried on one thing after another. Amazing how you can have so many options and yet nothing is working (know what that's like ladies?).
I looked at what some of my girlfriends were wearing; mid-driff shirts, real short skirts or shorts, bikini tops with skin tight jeans. Then I looked down to what I was wearing: jeans, sleeveless top (that didn't show any cleavage or underclothes). I felt embarrassed. They all looked so hot and attractive and I felt like I must have looked so out of style compared to them.
As the girls moved to the bathroom to put on make-up, I stood looking in the mirror for a moment, debating whether I should change. That real short skirt would look super cute with my heels. Showing a lot of leg couldn't be that big of a deal, right?
"What do you think Lord? Can I wear this instead?" I asked in a silent prayer. No words answered me, but then memories flashed back of things I had learned from growing up with 5 brothers: the power that our feminine form had over men. And how what we wore could many times correlate with the way we were treated.
I didn't change. As the girls and I drove to where we were going, we parked our car and had several blocks to walk before we would arrive. As we walked I prayed: "Lord, I want guys to notice me, I want them to think I'm attractive, but compared to what these girls are wearing that is drawing the attention of guys left and right, I might as well be invisible because why would I be noticed? I need you to show me that when I choose love by choosing to dress modestly, that it's attractive." (Yes, every once in a while I'm like a whiney 5 year old with the Father, "I need I need I need!")
As the night went on, the girls got plenty of attention from various guys, but not the kind of attention that a girl truly desires in her heart. To my utter surprise though, I too was singled out by men, but in respectful ways. One guy watched us ladies walk past, he caught my eye, and to my surprise he called out to me, "Hey! I really like your outfit!" Later, another guy handed me a flower and said: "Thanks for dressing in a way that makes it easier for me to treat you with the respect you deserve."
I was shocked. On the way back to college some days later, one of my girlfriends and I had a conversation. "Maria, I just wanted to say thank you for the way you dressed that night we went out. We were all wearing whatever, not caring what showed or didn't, and there you were dressed modestly, but you still had guys hitting on you in a really cool way. That was awesome. Thank you." Wow.
What I realized in a deeper way is that the issue with immodesty isn't that it shows too much. Rather, it shows too little. We are gifts, beautiful, lovely gifts created by the Father. We are more than our bodies. We have brains and hearts and souls and we can do amazing things. Heck, God created us for amazing things! We are made to love and be loved! We are made for heaven! And at our heart, we want to be loved for who we are, all of us. Not just the physical. It's a both-and.
Who we are, in our personhood is a gift. And like any gift entrusted to someone, it should always be used to build up, to bring out love and respect. We want people to want to get to know the who not just the what. If we only dress in a way that always draws attention to our bodies, then we could be missing out on giving people an opportunity to know the beauty of who we are.
Often we are told: "Don't wear this, or wear that so you don't cause men to sin..." The reality is we are each in charge of guarding our hearts, our minds, our actions. Regardless of what someone wears or doesn't wear. Regardless of what they do, or don't do. We always have a choice to sin or not and we can't put that responsibility on someone else.
That being said, as Christians, we are called to love, and with love comes responsibility. Modesty is a safeguard for love. If we can help someone in their struggle to be people of integrity, purity, and holiness, then out of love, we should. We should all be striving to become the best version of ourselves.
Something I personally have learned also is the way I dress can impact the way I am inclined to act. The respect I have for myself by the way I dress, and also the way I carry myself affects the way others respect and treat me. Modesty isn't just about what we wear; it's also a disposition of our hearts.
I don't have it all down perfectly. I agonize over what to wear for which thing and whether it's attractive but not distractive. But we are all works in progress and in it together.
"If we are who we are called to we will set the world ablaze!" -St. Catherine of Siena
So my fellow sisters, let's rise up. Recognize our beauty, our dignity and the incredible gift we have in being ladies! Let's be women of selfless love, service, faith and modesty, and remind those around us by the way we live our lives that God has called us all to greatness!
You are gifts.