Friday, March 30, 2012

How Shall We Be Clothed

(Written by Sister Tsipporah about 2-3 years ago for the Gospel’s sake)

First I want to give you some back ground of who I am. I am a woman who took pleasure in shopping for various styles of clothing & delighted to shock people with all manner of revealing & decorative styles. I would often dress according to my mood; with little concern for the effect it had on others. In high school (early 90’s) a classmate was shocked & offended that I chose to wear a purple bra under a white slightly transparent blouse. Many of my choices of attire were uncommon in my time/place. It was uncommon to see girls wearing low-cut jeans & short shirts revealing their bellies (this is a common sight today). Now we are all acquainted with the sight. Only now it is not just bellies (that are a common sight) but, (I will be crass with my word choice to make a point)
butts & boobs!

I was raised with three brothers and I loved trying to impress & allure their friends with my revealing attire. [But one thing I noticed over time was the men I tried to impress the most seemed to take offense, or a lack of interest in my so called “sexy” choice of clothes]. I knew a man that seemed to take pleasure in looking at magazines of nude & semi-nude women. One day I thought my new skimpy bikini would really impress him. To my surprise as I sat in the sand by him he turned to me (in the company of others) & in a disapproving way said (something like) “You look like you are in your underwear.” Of course I had to hide the wounding of my ego to bear that blow.

Other unpleasant experiences arose when men that I did not want to attract would look at me & say, “Hey Baby!” comments & other rude gestures. So on days that it was “convenient” & I did not want to attract those types, I dressed like a boy. Which again, was an uncommon sight to see a girl trying to appear as a boy. Yet, another problem arose when my neighbors husband was allured by my manner of dress. This was not the desired intent; it made me feel uncomfortable, but what could I do? The sport of putting on apparel was exciting to me!

I basically considered the guys I did
not want to attract as perverts for looking at me; as if the fault was in them. But was it? So, why do we as women take joy in being attractive to others in body? How many of us choose our attire for the day, solely on practicality for the days events? It’s not strange to desire to be beautiful. My first plea can begin here…let us not be in denial that beauty of body is short lived; due to the reality of gravity & other elements of nature. Not only do we have natural aging warring against us, but the reality of unexpected misfortune. Ask yourself: would life’s joy be forever lost in my heart if (for example: ) You got caught in a fire that disfigured you? Or if you lived in a place of war where women are unexpectedly hit by shrapnel? Or if you were in an unexpected automobile accident that left you…(this may all sound extreme, but the point is physical beauty is vain; temporary for us all). A writer of old put it well saying, “Esteem not thyself for the height of thy stature, nor the beauty of thy person, which may be disfigured & destroyed by a little sickness.” Our joy in this life should not be dependent on our outward beauty when it can be taken from us in a moment. If it is approval of others that affects our choice of dress, seeking acceptance, or a plain old need for being loved; then let’s make sure we’re being chosen/accepted/loved for what is in our hearts & minds & not what’s nice to look upon today. Surely it is not true acceptance, or true love if the choice is being made because of our looks.

So, being a seeker of
TRUE LOVE, I finally found that which I was looking for. And it was not where I wanted it to be. Before I reveal my discovery let me tell you a bit about my present life…For the last 15 years I have chosen to live a simple life of self-denial & service to others. I say this not to put myself above any; but to help you know where I am coming from. I could not have chosen this manner of life on my own--it is True Love itself that has constrained me to desire a life of purity, modest dress, & self-denial.

What exactly is modest dress? (There are various opinions in this subject). This has been a major question asked in recent generations by women who have learned that modest dress helps create a more pleasant and peaceful environment. So how did I go from a wild & careless dresser to a woman concerned about modesty? I hope not to lose your interest by my following words…

My search for TRUE LOVE surprisingly coincided with my search for Truth & purpose in life. Perhaps you have read or heard other people’s search for this, & the conclusion was Jesus? Well, my story may sound similar; but as the current dreaded label is, “closed minded” let us not be so. In seeking Truth I was very opened-minded. I was actually ready to be done with this Jesus character that was imposed on me in my youth. I was ready to know the Creator of Heaven & Earth, whoever & whatever they/it are/is.

One thing I didn’t understand about Jesus was that people who called themselves Christians didn’t seem to find His manner of life totally applicable to them. They just seemed to take parts of it; creating a feud of divisions with the name Christ. If Christ is God then why are not people truly following Him? Or are they? Where are His true followers?

(I truly desire to stick to my original purpose in making a plea to women. A
plea in the sense of a call for aid, support, mercy, an earnest request. I just need your patience as I try to explain the perspective I have. I will cut out some details to try to make the following long story short).

So, one day I woke up & went to take pleasure again in choosing my attire for the day, but this time my heart felt different. I no longer had the desire to put the time & energy into it. (From my youth I had many influences ingraining it in my mind to dress in an attractive way. This is what I believed people expected of me. And perhaps it is what provoked me to add a rebellious twist to “attractive”) I naturally selected something alluring that morning. When I got to the Trade School I was attending, a classmate looked upon me in wonder & asked me what the “Good News” was. I did not have any idea what she was talking about. (She was persuaded that something wonderful had happened to me, and continued to try to urge it out of me.) Meanwhile, another classmate came walking down the hall toward us with a smile & look of joy. They both agreed that I was “absolutely glowing!”. Well, I couldn’t help but want to see for myself so I pushed the bathroom door open & looked in the mirror. They were right. There was an intense glow about me!

After class I went to a farmer’s market, where I saw a table that had a “Free Bibles” sign on it. I really did not want to have to get into words with “Christian” people, but I was interested in reading the Bible for myself. I thought since they were “free’ I should be able to just take one & go. But, to my initial disappointment the woman at the table asked me if the Lord was dealing with me in my life. From my former experience with “Christians” I had preconceived thoughts about her. But she did not fulfill those thoughts. She had a really humble & peaceful manner about her that drew my interest. As I looked upon her to try discern what manner of woman she was I realized I was not able to judge that. I could not discern how old she was, she could have been anywhere from 20-40 years old. And her manner of dress did not give me any strong impressions either. But one thing that I did recognize was she was glowing with that same illumination I saw upon myself!

It did not work out to speak much with her at that point, but I took a New Testament & some literature. When I got home I took a great interest in reading the literature. One of the papers was titled (something like)
The Christian Woman’s Manner of Dress. When I read it I was so affected by it that I felt as if shackles fell off my arms & legs, & I took my first breath. Why did it have this affect on me you may wonder? Because it brought light into my darkness & caused me to realize, I had been a captive to lust & vanity. But not only did it point out my bondage, it set me free at the same time by giving me the understanding that I no longer had to be a captive. I did not have to try to allure men with my body. As a matter of fact, it was this very act that was causing unnecessary pain in my life & in the lives of others. I never considered myself to be a “bimbo” or a whorish woman; perhaps because I was not wearing fluffy stuff, or pink, or a bunch of make-up? And I did not think it was right to have sex with just anyone. So I esteemed myself smarter/better than the “bimbo’s”, but really I was not. It did not make a difference that I was not wearing the typical bimbo outfit. I was still wearing things that could stir up a desire in the hearts of others. A desire that can be avoided in some cases.

I am not seeking to change the world with this
plea, but I am seeking to get you as an individual to consider these things. As individuals we can make a big difference, even if we do not get the world to agree with us. We can at least bring greater respect into our lives & the lives of those whose paths we cross. I realize that the damage of sexual allurement has already been done to this world which has bred many a pervert. But that does not justify us as women to keep taking pleasure in the latest styles. If those styles are causing just men, as well as perverts to be allured, then we are partaking of an injustice. People do not seem to realize the gravity, the weighty effect, that simply putting on clothes can have on our world. People have become so accepting to the daily sight of: a woman’s cleavage, of a woman’s backside squeezed into jeans, of a woman’s thighs in her short shorts, of a woman’s hips & navel in her low-cut pants & short top.
It was not that long ago that these body parts were only (mainly) seen of men that had wives. Not by your neighbor’s husband, not by your son, not by your father, or uncle, & certainly not by the general public. Some of you may think, what’s the BIG DEAL? Well, the BIG DEAL is, that whether someone’s a pervert or not, those body parts are known to stimulate the mind toward a desire. And it is not just affecting the hearts of the men. In my own experience, I seemed to have provoked another woman just passing me on the sidewalk to sensual excitement due to my appearance. It was an unusual experience; but none the less I affected this person in a way I was not intending to. The other effects it has on women is that of envy & competition. Which can lead into other undesirable affects such as: jealousy, strife, anorexia, bulimia, despair, etc. Again these are the effects as well as others which our manner of dress can cause.

A friend of mine who has worked for the rape crisis center has told me that in the cases she has dealt with the women were wearing typical jeans & a T-shirts that were attacked. Which some may not consider provoking because it is currently the “norm”. They’re not the “bimbo’s” style. Yet a woman’s figure is very well displayed in the typical t-shirt & jeans. Although what she’s wearing at this point probably has nothing to do with what is about to happen to her. I believe what happens (in some rape cases) is, that men see continual sights of women displaying the parts of their bodies that provoke the natural desire of a man for a woman. They get to a point of feeling so stimulated that they can not contain any longer, & impulse takes over reason. You can be simply crossing paths with one of these men when the urge overcomes him & suddenly you are the victim & perhaps he is too. Not that I would justify a man for raping a woman; more so, when women all over the world are provoking the lust of men what good can we expect to come from this?

Do we really think that we
have a right to show off the beauty we have been given as women? Should we hold to this as “a right” beyond reason?

Dressing modestly is not a manly oppression being forced upon women, or “a right” being taken away from women. Dressing modestly is loving your neighbor as yourself. It does not matter what faith you subscribe to, or if you have any at all. In choosing to dress modestly you will bring greater respect to yourself & those around you. You’ll be more likely to discern who really loves you, & who is just using your body for pleasure, or esteem. In choosing to dress modestly you may be sparing many a man from having perverse & twisted thoughts about you & other women as well. By dressing modestly you may be sparing your best friends “boyfriend” from desiring you over her. By dressing modestly, you may be preventing a married man from committing adultery (as the New Testament teaches, that even for a man to look upon a woman to lust upon her in his heart he is committing adultery).

With men & women working so closely on the job these days it would be wise for women not to force men to have to see their cleavage, or thighs or navel, etc. all day. Some of these men have a wife they spend less time with than you, because they are at work all day with you! Some of these men are lonely & wish they had a woman in their life. They may go home with the images of yourself that you have impressed in their minds all day, through your choice of clothes. Or they may become persistent in wanting to date you. We do not have to win men by these means.

In Christ’s time there was a lunatic, a man out of his mind, possessed by spirits. He was known to be naked. But Christ cast out the demons & it was recorded after this that he was found in his
right mind & clothed. Not only do I see “average” women in public showing what once was considered a “private part” but men also! Are we in our right minds when we make bare our flesh in public? These people I see are not considered crazy it is just the fashion of our time! Am I really expected to accept the fact that an “average” man sitting on a park bench with his bare bottom busting out of his shorts is okay? Or walking down the street with his pants below his “privates” & his backside in his underwear showing? Are we any better than the men who are choosing this style of clothing when we show our bodies? I personally do not want to see a man’s backside when I am walking down the street whether he is attractive or not! Just as well, not all men want to see cleavage, etc. when they are walking down the street.

Believe me or not, you are making yourself an oppressor when you choose to dress immodestly. People are human, the nature of humans is to desire beauty. Not that it is wrong to be beautiful, but when we wear things that emphasize this, or expose those more private beautiful parts we are provoking a desire in others that can have negative consequences. Once again, I am not expecting to change the world. I understand that negative consequences will continue whether or not you choose to start dressing modestly. But I hope you would not use this as an excuse to carelessly dress yourself.

The longer this plea gets I realize I could write a book J. Seeing the damage that is done by people’s choices of clothes, stirs a great passion in me to do what I can to help change the perspectives of others. Since I started dressing modestly I have experienced: less hoots & hollers, men respecting me & sharing appreciation for my choice to cover myself, a greater sense of peace within myself, my skin has become softer due to less sun exposure (protection is a major purpose for clothes) and then the affects that I may never realize I’m having in the hearts of those who see my modest appearance (rather than provoking appearance). One time it did work out for me to find out that I was affecting a total stranger without knowing. A woman had been waiting to cross an intersection and beheld our humble attire (as we also waited to cross) & started to think about how vain her “boyfriend” was about his clothes. She saw that being vain about clothes was not a positive thing. For truly there are more important things in this life than putting our time & energy into our outward appearance.

If I may add here a witness to my point…I was on my bike waiting for a red light to turn green when I discerned that a man was standing at the corner of the street beholding me. The light turned green & I rode a short distance to my destination. Possibly five minutes had passed & suddenly that same man was standing in front of me. He said (something like), “I would have kicked myself if I did not tell you this…” (I had no idea what he’d say!)
“…you are a vision of loveliness”. He then hasted away! I could hardly finish saying, Praise God! That may have been one of the most beautiful things a man had ever said to me. All the efforts of my past, when I had been seeking my own glory, no man had ever been so kind to speak such encouraging words while expecting nothing in return!

This reminds me of the wisdom brought forth in the New Testament when Peter speaks of women:

“Whose adorning let it not be that outward appearance of plaiting (braiding) the hair, & of wearing of gold, or of putting on of apparel; But let it be the hidden man of the heart, in that which is not corruptible, even the ornament of a meek & quiet spirit, which is not corruptible, which in the sight of God is of a great price.” (1 Peter 3:3-4)

So I
plead with you as a woman, to see the wisdom & peace (prosperity) in this message. It is the purifying of the heart that will do us & those around us more good than wearing whatever we feel like. This world could use more examples of purity, gentleness, sweetness, humility, in women. The present examples are provoking young girls to choose the attire of harlots (which I have actually seen dress less provocatively than business women.) It is no less grieving to see an adult woman exposing her body then to see a child follow the example. It is a grief of mind, a cause of sorrow, in those of us who can honestly see the consequences.

My discovery is that Christ is God in the flesh, & He created me to love & be loved by Him. Learning the depths of this reality has brought great peace & satisfaction in my life. I was seeking love in all the wrong places, by wrong means. I was liberated by this knowledge from the bondage of deceitful lusts & vanities. And I take great comfort in His words when He says:

“Which of you by taking thought can add one cubit unto his stature? And why take ye thought for raiment (clothing)? Consider the lilies of the field, how they grow; they toil not, neither do they spin: And yet I say unto you, that even Solomon in all his glory was not arrayed like one of these. Wherefore, if God so clothed the field, which today is, & tomorrow is cast into the oven, shall he not clothe you, O ye of little faith? Therefore, take no thought, saying, What shall we eat? Or What shall we drink? Or Wherewithal shall we be clothed? (For after all these things do the Gentiles seek) for your heavenly Father knoweth that ye have need of all these things. But seek ye first the kingdom of God, & his righteousness, & all these things shall be added unto you.”

So my
plea is: Clothe yourself in righteousness, for your own good, & the good of those whose paths you cross. This is an earnest call to women, for aid, support & mercy.

What we do, say & wear affects others ........ set the example.

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“Reason dictates that persons who are truly noble and who love wisdom will honor and love only what is true. They will refuse to follow traditional viewpoints if those viewpoints are worthless...Instead, a person who genuinely loves truth must choose to do and speak what is true, even if he is threatened with death...I have not come to flatter you by this written petition, nor to impress you by my words. I have come to simply beg that you do not pass judgment until you have made an accurate and thorough investigation. Your investigation must be free of prejudice, hearsay, and any desire to please the superstitious crowds. As for us, we are convinced that you can inflict no lasting evil on us. We can only do it to ourselves by proving to be wicked people. You can kill us—but you cannot harm us.” From Justin Martyr's first apology 150 A.D. Martyred A.D. 160