BY TATIANA SU, CONTRIBUTING WRITER
Let’s face it–modest is not hottest. Google “hot” and all the images that pop up on your computer screen will immediately prompt you to look around and see if anyone is watching your cyber whereabouts. After all, pictures of slender women in lingerie are not something that an eighteen year old girl in pink socks and a messy bun is expected to peruse through at your run-of-the-mill local coffee shop. But despite the risk of inviting judgment upon myself, I had to see visible proof of my speculation–that googling the word “hot” would not yield pictures of a brightly glaring sun or arid desert, but of attractive women writhing in their underwear.
Based on my quick experiment, as well as a lifetime of accumulated knowledge and experience, I concluded that society’s definition of “hot” is not exactly synonymous with the Christian definition of “modest.” Essentially, you can only be one or the other– at least, in the eyes of the world. Now let me tell you a story.
Once upon a time, there was a girl who owned a closet so tiny and tight that she could fit the clothes in a matchbox. Okay, maybe not. The point is, she liked showing off her body. And why not? It was quite pleasing to the male eye, or so she was told. She took pride in how she looked in figure-hugging attire, and since crop tops were all the rage, she wore those too. You’d think that such a girl would be entirely confident about her body, but sadly that was not the case. Though she claimed to not care what people thought of her clothing choices, she did care what people thought of her figure. Every crop top was accompanied with subtle sucking-in of the stomach and constant concern for possible bloating or an appearance of the dreaded “belly pooch.” Every tight skirt came with a worry of whether or not her butt looked good. Essentially, by seeking gratification from what people thought of her body, she opened herself up to insecurities stemming from the same source.
If you haven’t figured out yet, that girl is me. Sad, right? But what’s even sadder is that my story isn’t unique–countless other girls live out their lives in this fashion without pausing to consider the implications of how they act and dress. Christians are supposed to be representatives of God’s kingdom on earth, yet I was strutting around in belly-baring shirts and pretending that the Bible’s call for modesty didn’t exist. To be honest, I made excuses. “There’s only an inch of my stomach showing” or “but my clothes are so cute” were some common ones. I mean, an inch isn’t so bad, right? Compared to girls wearing shirts that can best be described as glorified bandeaus, I was practically a nun. However, God calls us not to compare ourselves to the standards of this world, but to live by His standards. It doesn’t matter what anyone else is doing–take murder, for example. If one of my peers committed a murder, that doesn’t mean I am allowed to beat up someone just because it is relatively “less sinful.” I am not called to be “less sinful” than others; I am called to resist sin entirely. As a girl who has gone to church all her life, I knew this stuff. So why didn’t I listen? Looking back, I realize that I acted this way because I didn’t have enough self worth.
Take a moment and think about this. Luke 12:6-7 tells us, “Are not five sparrows sold for two pennies? And not one of them is forgotten before God. Why, even the hairs of your head are all numbered. Fear not; you are of more value than many sparrows.” Even a tiny and seemingly insignificant bird is valued by our Lord, who in turn values and loves us beyond our comprehension. He “knitted me together in my mother’s womb” and tells me that “I am fearfully and wonderfully made” (Psalm 139:13-15). From the moment of my conception, God was carefully crafting me into a masterpiece–an exquisite demonstration of His creativity. And top it all off, He sent His son to die for my transgressions so that I might be made new and faultless, free from the chains of sin and eternal death. As human beings, we’re pretty costly. We must be exceptionally precious to God for Him to pay such a high price for us and essentially live within us in the form of the Holy Spirit. Time and time again I am completely blown away by the idea that the Creator of the universe has chosen my heart as His home. In 1 Corinthians 6:18-20, the apostle Paul tells us, “Or do you not know that your body is a temple of the Holy Spirit who is in you, whom you have from God, and that you are not your own? For you have been bought with a price: therefore glorify God in your body.” Some may find offense in the thought of their bodies not being their own, but I can assure you that God values our bodies more than we do. In giving our bodies to God, we cease to sell ourselves short. Essentially, if I had valued myself the way God values me, I wouldn’t have acted and dressed in such a manner. Modest may not be hottest, but it’s best. Not only does dressing modestly bring attention to the beauty of my heart and personality, but it also allows me to respect myself more. I now know that I am God’s little princess, and that a guy doesn’t deserve the privilege of seeing certain parts of my body until he has fully committed himself to me in marriage. God doesn’t want his daughters to be the object of men’s lust and fantasies, and neither should we–do we really think so little of ourselves that we wouldn’t mind becoming the object of someone’s sinful desires? God has something better in store for us.
So what became of the girl in the story? Well, first off she decided that flaunting her body was ultimately insufficient in bringing her happiness. In fact, it had increased her sense of insecurity. Over time, this girl completely revamped her style and, in my humble opinion, is more stylish than ever. She was freed from the constant worries of whether or not her stomach looked flat, et cetera, and thus her sense of insecurity was significantly diminished. She also learned to value herself more and developed a new sense of self worth and dignity in knowing that she was loved and valued beyond her understanding. Instead of seeking the empty gratification found in dressing immodestly, she could experience the fullness and satisfaction of God’s love and acceptance.
So the story’s over, right? Not quite. I actually skipped over some pretty important events in my life that shaped me into someone who desired and pursued modesty. That being said, let’s talk about those events. Let’s talk about dating.
Remember that time when the girl in the story lacked self worth and dressed accordingly? During that time, she dated and “talked” to various guys from all types of backgrounds. I’m sure you can already sense the impending disasters in her life, but at the time she was pretty naive. In short, because she didn’t value herself, neither did those aforementioned guys. Her lack of self worth eventually caused her to endure unhealthy and even abusive relationships before cutting them out of her life, but by that time it was too late. Her sense of dignity and self worth had all but disappeared.
I once read an article about dating in which the author was told, “Don’t act like a woman with no options.” It’s pretty solid advice, I’d say, because God is always an option. Why settle for inadequacy when you can experience the completeness of God’s love? And that’s not to say that we are not allowed to find romantic love here on earth. I’m just saying that we need to find someone who will embody God’s love and show a Christ-centered type of love to us. Christ-centered relationships are essentially the only way to go because a love that imitates God’s love is the best love we can have next to His divine love. However, dating a Christian doesn’t automatically guarantee us a healthy relationship. In fact, the unhealthy and abusive relationships I mentioned before were with whom I thought were relatively solid Christian guys. The thing is, we have to make sure that the people we date are mature in faith and willing to set boundaries and rules to honor God in the relationship. I cannot emphasize how important it is to remain sexually pure–and even if I know that my significant other desires to have sexual relations, I have to remember that this person is a precious child of God. It is equally crucial that my significant other feels the same way about me. I may have desires of the flesh, but I know that I am a masterpiece created by a God greater than my desires, and that must be understood by anyone I date. There is actually a biological reason why sexual relations are meant for marriage only. During any kind of sexual activity, the hormone oxytocin is released. Oxytocin creates a bond, or sense of emotional attachment, between two people. This happens every time sexual relations occur, so that the more sex you have with someone, the greater your bond is. (This is also why sex during marriage is biologically supposed to get better over time.) However, if two people break up and thus break their bond, the breakage inhibits their ability to form strong bonds with new people. If someone creates and destroys this oxytocin bond over and over, the potential of this person to have a strong and lasting bond with someone special will be diminished. This is especially important for women because women produce far more oxytocin than men do and become conditioned to produce oxytocin even at the sight of their significant other. The chemical attachment can make it extremely difficult for a female to break things off with someone who is abusive or generally not good for her–even if she knows she should. This situation can occur in abusive yet sexually consensual relationships, as well as sexually abusive relationships. In the latter, the victim is essentially forming oxytocin bonds without consent. A study by Northwestern University showed that while oxytocin is commonly known as the “love hormone,” it can also cause emotional pain. Because oxytocin strengthens social memory in the brain, it therefore strengthens bad memories and can increase fear and anxiety. When oxytocin production is associated with the trauma of sexual abuse, victims find themselves trapped by the so-called “love hormone” that they did not desire to produce.
In my case, I realized these things too late. As a result, I was made to feel fearful, ashamed, damaged, and worthless. However, these feelings are not from God; they’re from the enemy. God tells me that I need not fear, and that He has taken away my shame. He tells me that He can make me whole, and He tells me that I am infinitely valuable to Him. From time to time, I have to remind myself that the value of a creation is determined by the Creator. Whenever I accuse myself of not being valuable, I am actually insulting God’s beloved artwork. No matter how damaged and broken I am, I am endlessly and unfathomably loved by a God who heals and brings peace to shattered spirits. At times I believe the lies that the enemy tells me, but then I am reminded of a scene from “The Lion King” in which Simba speaks with the spirit of his father, who appears as an apparition in the sky. Mufasa’s thunderous voice echoes across the plains as he scolds, “Simba, you have forgotten me. You have forgotten who you are and so forgotten me.” If your story is anything like mine, think of Mufasa’s last words to his son before he disappears: “Remember who you are.”
Tatiana Su is a first year intended English major, compulsive thrifter, and Disney enthusiast.