When I was a little girl my Dad’s office was in the back room of Crossroads Bookstore, which was run by my Grandpa. My Grandpa was and is an avid evangelist, the bookstore was full of christian books, my Dad was a pastor, and I was generally surrounded on all sides by stories of faith and conversions. Back in those days there was also a series of books for kids that I think I read at home but also in the bookstore. They were illustrated in very pastel colors and always seemed a little sad somehow. If my memory serves me correctly, I think they heavily featured weeping willows and kids feeling lonely or angry or hurt somehow.
Well in one of these books I got to the last page and it was a conversion moment of sorts. I cannot remember the specifics, but I think it was something about Jesus being a true friend to me when I am lonely, so I will stay with him forever. I remember sitting there staring at it and thinking back to other books and testimonies I had heard. There was the one about some poor kid that was with the wise men and had no gift so he gave his heart. Then there were people I had heard who were afraid of death, who were sick of sin, who were sad, or whatever. I myself prayed officially because I was afraid of the dark – where does that fit in? Well I gathered myself up in what were probably my high-watered corduroy pants and went to find Dad. Just what does this all mean? What is the real way to become a Christian? Which one of these things is right?!
Of course what he explained to me is that they can all be true. The Holy Spirit meets people in all different places, and while the act of conversion is the same, what gets people there can all be different. It is one truth, but it is one truth that is so big that you can come at it from all kinds of sides. And this is the kind of variety that should delight believers. We should love to hear stories of God’s work in all different places, even when the experience that is being shared with us is quite different than our own. It shows us a little bit of our own smallness, and a little bit of His own greatness.
Now I bring all this up as a strange preface, but I really think it is relevant. It’s about yoga pants. And bikinis. And mini skirts. And whatever else. I confess fully that I have not read all the articles. I have only seen them blow by on Facebook and the inter webs. I have seen enough of this kind of thing to know how it goes. Modesty discussions seem to be second to none for cooking up a holy brew-ha-ha. I am not a stranger to that. Say something about tights as pants, bikinis as swimwear, how girls shouldn’t look in selfies, or really any other thing that pertains to modesty and you will almost certainly have a scene on your doorstep. Feelings will be hurt, heads will roll. People will call you a hypocrite and a ninny because you have a photo of your sons without shirts on. Many christian women are ready to throw out the whole topic because it is so divisive.
So this is what I want to talk about. When women share stories about modesty (such as why I stopped wearing yoga pants), I think there is a little confusion happening. What should be heard as strong testimony is instead picked apart as a weak argument. It is absolutely true that young women sometimes dress in a way that is calculated to stumble the young men. You know how I know this? I know those women! Women who grew older, and who were convicted of this sin by a loving Father who revealed it to them. Women who go on later to repeat what they learned to young women and get an eye roll and a lot of spite for it. “How dare she say that I am doing that? Who does she think she is?!”
I also know women who were convicted of their own immodesty when someone busted out the old “think of what you want your husband to see of other women….” See what I mean? That is a terrible argument. But it is a strong testimony. God revealed to this woman that her own behavior was foolish and inconsistent and unkind. And because she loved the Lord, she heard it. This is the kind of thing that should delight believers, even when the language used is cheesy, or maybe silly, or even embarrassing. God is a lot bigger than our categories.
I know women who were deeply convicted of their own lack of love for the brothers when they saw honestly their own heart in how they were dressing, and what they were looking for. Maybe they suddenly saw that they didn’t care if it was sinful or if it caused him to sin. Sin is interesting! And fun! And this kind of attention feels good! And God in his kindness let them see their behavior unfiltered. He let them see themselves as they were, and He led them out of that sin. And yet when they try to speak of it to others, the reception will not be one of grace. It will be defensive, and angry. How dare you imply that my sons aren’t responsible for their own thoughts?! How dare you act like you have anything at all to do with the thought life of the brothers?!
So since Spring is just around the corner, and we are probably just all getting warmed up for the next big warm weather modesty fight, I’d like to suggest that we listen to each other as though we are listening to testimony. Listen and be blessed by the fact that the Holy Spirit meets us all where we are. Be blessed that your sister in Christ is changing because of the work of the Spirit in her life. And when we lay down the defensive anger, we may find that He works in us through the stories of others. That His kindness to us is so great that we can learn from one another, and what convicted a sister in Christ may convict us too.
When people share their testimonies, you don’t have to agree with every point to be blessed by it. You can see that God is so much bigger than our preferred wording choices, or catch phrases. And so that is my hope for us as christian women talking about modesty. That we would listen to each other’s stories with the kind hearts of people listening to a strong testimony, and not with the attitude of an opponent listening to a weak argument. Because I do believe that most of these inflammatory articles are exactly that – a testimony. A testimony to the work of a living God in the life of one of His daughters. And who among us would ever want to belittle that? Praise the Lord that He is a lot bigger than all of us!
11 thoughts on “Strong Testimony, Weak Argument”
What a refreshing way to look at it. Thank you! Also can you share more about your no yoga pants? I Wear them to the gym but don’t feel like it’s the best. Still not sure what clothes are the best choice for the gym!
Excellent. As one who would rather just stick my head in the sand than listen to all the crazy debates surrounding this type of thing, this is so encouraging and absolutely reasonable. And filled with grace. And I love it. Thanks for sharing it!
Kim – I was actually referring to the article written by someone else about why she didn’t wear yoga pants. It was one of those well meaning posts that went viral, making this woman a mockery all over the place because she shared her conviction. I actually do wear yoga pants on occasion 🙂
I haven’t figured out the gym thing either. The first question is – is the gym OK? I think it is healthy to question the activities that are assumed to be acceptable in our culture. It is a way to check what we do from the ground up. If the gym attendance gets a moral “yes”, then do the pants…and tops? And instead of Christians grousing about the state of fashion, perhaps we should encourage the design-minded among us to fashion exercise apparel that is lovely yet practical, without Islamic overtones. Seems to be a wide-open field for reclaiming culture.
Hi, first off, I appreciate this article. Second, since I’ve seen two ladies asking about more modest gym wear and if there’s an alternative to just yoga pants, there is. Whenever I run running, go to the gym, or basically workout outside my home, I simply wear a running skirt over my leggings, or yoga pants. I wear ones that hit a little above the knee, so they preserve freedom of movement but still cover the rear end, etc. I run in lots of races and am seeing more ladies wearing these all the time. They’re cute, stylish, and offer extra coverage if you feel you need it. EBay is a great place to find adorable ones. God bless!
Thank you, Sarah!
Great article, Rachel. I think there’s a way to speak about modesty that leaves other people free to hear God for themselves while still being true to what God has shown us. Making rules never works–people will fight back at those who make the “rules.” But when God shows someone something personally, there’s no way to argue with that conviction. And there’s no shortcut really. God will deal with each one in His own time and way, and when a heart is open to Him, He will get to that area. We sometimes want to jump in and sort out that (obvious) area first, but He’s the only one who knows what needs to be dealt with under the surface!
Someone try this question on for size, if you wouldn’t mind:
Men will look. For our purposes, it doesn’t matter how or why, and it doesn’t matter what reaction looking engenders in them. The point is that Men Look.
When they look at you, what do you want them to see?
(If necessary, add the follow-up question “Does your current way of attiring yourself accomplish that?)
… end argument. Strong? Weak? Useful?
Beautifully said! I love the distinction between argument and testimony. Thank you for reminding me that God convicts us each of sin individually–the fact that he’s convicted me of something specific doesn’t necessarily mean that I need to reason my neighbor into the same conviction (though sharing my testimony may be a blessing to them).
And sometimes it does sound a little cheesy to share what God has done in our lives because the words we typically turn to–sin, Spirit, faith–have been so watered down by overuse (and ridicule). But sometimes, there really isn’t a better way to say what must be said 🙂
So, I, like others, was intrigued by the discussion of yoga pants. I don’t mind if others do, because they may not have been as graciously endowed in the back side as I am! But last summer I ran after church a few times with a friend. I would change my clothes and with back to the wall, make my escape out the door. So, I’m not comfortable wearing them in front of other people, but they are very practical to the purpose! Sweatpants are too hot and I just don’t know what else to wear. Any ideas?
I love this!