“Oh no. Another article about sex, modesty and pornography. Let me keep scrolling.”
Honestly, that’s how I feel about 99% of the “purity/modesty” articles that blitz my newsfeed every year when swimsuit season approaches. The 1-piece vs. 2-piece argument is becoming overplayed to the point that it is in danger of fading into the white noise that social media creates. The result is an ambivalence towards the subject matter at hand. So why in the world am I writing an article about purity?
For beginners, I have a vested interest in the topics of purity and modesty. I have four daughters, one of which is a teenager, another is a “tween” and the other two are following their examples. The Apostle Peter asked that the women of his day be modest, and I don’t think that command has ceased to apply. I want my daughters to strive for the Biblical ideal of womanhood, which is one of strength, dignity, purity and modesty. But I want them to strive for that ideal for the right reasons, which is the other reason I am writing.
So many of the articles I have read focus on purity, for the sake of purity or modesty for the sake of modesty. Some even appeal to the Bible as the foundation of their argument. In other words, if you want to be a “good Christian girl” then you will be chaste and not dress like a hooker. Why? Because the Bible says so, that’s why. On the surface, the reasoning sounds good. But the problem is, it’s incomplete and therefore it is ultimately ineffective.
Teaching Our Girls (and boys!) to Desire what is Desirable
If there is one thing I have observed, women pay just as much attention to what other women wear as men do, and they often make the same mistake that men do. Not every girl who dresses immodestly is necessarily a sexual deviant, and to make that assumption is to objectify them in much the same manner that we men are oft accused of doing. There may be multiple motives behind an immodest wardrobe. It may be a desire to attract a boyfriend/husband. It may be a desire for pleasure. It may be a desire to feel loved. It may be a desire to try to live up to some societal standard of beauty. It may simply be a desire to be noticed. But the truth is, the core of sex, sexuality, modesty and purity is desire. If we want our daughters (and our sons also) to be pure and modest, the goal is not to cut off their desire; it’s to teach them to desire the proper things. It is in this vein that I strive to teach my daughters to desire the following, and in doing so they hopefully will make wise choices about what they wear and how they will interact with the opposite sex.
- Desire Jesus. Let’s destroy the myth that anybody other than Jesus can save us. As much as I love my wife, she cannot save me, she cannot complete me, and she cannot be there for me 100% of the time. Only Jesus can do that. I want my daughters to love God and His Son so much that they don’t have to date/find a man/get married. But if God chooses to provide them with a spouse, then I want them to…
- Desire a Mate that Loves Jesus More than He loves Her. That’s right. I want my girls to settle for being number two in their husband’s life, if and only if Jesus is number one in his life. A man that loves Jesus well will love my daughter well.
- Desire Bringing Delight to God. I want my daughters to please God, not because “the Bible says so” but because they love Him so much they want to please Him. My girls love to make home-made cards for me. If there is a special occasion or if they simply notice I am having one of those days, they get out the crayons, glue, and construction paper and begin to craft me a unique, one-of-a-kind card that Hallmark can only hope to create. Why do they do this? To bring a smile to my face and express love for me. I want them to have that same affection and same desire to make God happy. His commands concerning sex and modesty are much easier to keep when we find delight in them because they make Him happy.
- Desire a Realistic Self-Image, not One Created by Hollywood. I want my girls’ self-image rooted not in what pop-culture says is “pretty”, but in the fact that they are made in the image of God, and that, by itself, makes them both valuable and beautiful. I want them to realize that what makes them beautiful in God’s eyes is their heart, not their body, and therefore a godly man should be attracted to their heart first, and their body second.
- Desire an Urge to Care for her body, not for the sake of Beauty, but for the sake of Stewardship. Our nation is in the midst of a health revival. In many ways this is a good thing, but it has also produced in our young girls the idea that if they are “pudgy” or “curvy” that they are somehow less attractive or less desirable. I want my girls to understand the difference between “skinny” and “healthy”. I want them to treat their bodies as a gift from God to be cared for, not as an instrument for adornment to attract a mate.
- Desire to Glorify God in all things. In other words, a desire to worship. This includes attitude, speech, conduct and, yes, how they dress. I want my girls to understand that their bodies can be a distraction to the young men around them. I want them to understand that most men are visual creatures, so they lust with their eyes, as opposed to their minds or emotions and when a young lady is scantily clad she is attracting attention to herself and away from God. Not all men are wired this way, but a good majority of them are (at the same time, our young men need to learn the difference between admiring beauty [good] and lusting after that which is not theirs [bad]). But our girls need to learn not to dangle the all appealing carrot in front of their eyes as well. Please understand that I am not saying it is wrong for a woman to want to look her best. Nor am I saying that a woman should neglect her looks. Let’s admit it, God designed men to find women attractive and desirable. When we look at a sunset, and the beauty of it, or the majesty of the mountains, or the power of a thunderstorm, we give credit to God. The same can be said of a beautiful woman. What I am saying is that I want my daughters to know the line between a beauty that honors God and an immodesty that glorifies self and physical attraction over spiritual attraction.
The bottom line is simply this: if we want our children to be pure of mind and of action then we must (a) teach them that it is okay to desire and (b) make sure what they desire is something God also finds desirable. This is my desire as a parent: to produce children who desire God.