Embracing the “M” Wor

by Whitney Schrock

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The big “M” word. It can falls upon us like the judge’s irrevocable gavel, leaving a bitter residue in the mouth. We give it crust, stigmatization, repulsion. We tread on glass in its presence. We avoid it, abuse it, misuse it, ignore it, disdain it until we’ve turned it into some mental monster. We don’t know what to do with it so we package it up as something left unknown, misunderstood, and even feared. We gingerly toss that packaged “M” word to the women, hoping that instinct will take over and they’ll be able to interpret and apply its mystery in an inoffensive way.

I’ve spent the majority of my life misunderstanding the beauty of modesty. It didn’t take long to understand that modesty is a touchy subject. I heard the word modesty and a mental image of a grey-haired, tight-lipped woman in a staunch 1800s style white collar, with dress covering everything from the wrists to toes would spring to my mind. Modesty became synonymous with ugly, frumpy, unattractive. My peer-influenced, insecure self couldn’t deal with the thought of looking “ugly.” The “M” word became slightly terrifying, this vague term to which I was supposed to ignorantly adhere.

And I began to pursue beauty.

I never knew one could get so lost in the pursuit, how much I would sacrifice the being Christ created in efforts to transform her into something “better”, or the depth of emptiness the pursuit carried. But what I did know was that I yearned to belong, to be accepted and desired.

“Vanity of vanities, saith the preacher; all is vanity.”

I can imagine our Maker looking down upon us, cringing at our abuse of “modesty,” and whispering, “Oh, if only they knew. If only they knew the freedom and beauty hidden in it’s depths.”

Crazy thing: the word modesty, as used in the NT, stems from the Greek kosmios (similar to kosmos). With my vast Greek knowledge, (Just kidding. Thanks internet and Bible dictionaries.) I found it to mean “orderly, decent, well-arranged, modest.” Kosmios stems from kosmos, which means “an apt and harmonious arrangement, order, government.”

Before I lose you in all this beautiful word history, let me show you how these words actually play into our lives.

Paul uses these terms in 1 Timothy 2:9 when describing the Christian woman’s apparel, “to dress modestly, with decency and propriety” (NIV). But it doesn’t end there. Paul uses the same word root in 1 Timothy 3:2, “of good behavior” (KJV) and “orderly” (RV) when giving qualifications for the bishops and elders of the church.

Do you understand what this means? Modesty is not a gender issue, as we have often have made it to be. If it were, Paul wouldn’t hold the bishops to living a modest lifestyle. But he did, and that changes everything we’ve ever assumed about modesty.

Several months ago, the thought of writing about modesty caused nerves to do little butterfly dances in my stomach. I sat at a coffee shop one evening, poring over the Word and Bible dictionaries, trying to dissect this concept while my butterflies flapped and my coffee steamed. Stress levels climaxed as I discovered that the word modesty can only be found twice in the Bible. I bowed my head. “Oh Father, help me. Show me. What is modesty?” Just as I finished breathing this prayer, I looked up to see three rough, large men strut into the coffee shop. Cut off T-shirts and ripped jeans, they looked as if they belonged at a bar rather than a coffee shop. My eyes caught on the back of one the guys’ ragged T- shirts, or rather the saying thereon.

A way of life…

“Oh Father, wow… a way of life. That’s it. Modesty is a way of life, an offset of who we are in Christ.”

Who are we in Christ? The answer to this question determines how far we can pursue modesty. Created in the image of Christ –we can have no greater source of value than what this fact offers. We cannot abundantly glorify the Father if we cannot acknowledge the worth given to us, worth that rests fully upon Him. How can we speak truth into surrounding lives when we ourselves are resistant and blind to it? When we realize where and in whom our worth lies, true freedom begins.

That’s the breaking point. In this mental transformation, life ebbs from a “sea of me” to “more of Him.” There’s death to self and resurrection in Him. The beautiful and terrifying thing is that you can’t remain passive and unchanged with this mentality. Your daily walk with the Father transfigures from mundane to radical. And it’s beyond beautiful.

I love the modesty description given by Meggie Cotonethal. In true modesty, one becomes “a wallflower that clings to the cornerstone of Christ.” What a breath-taking thought!

True modesty is becoming so Christ-saturated that all people see when looking your way is Christ pouring through you. True modesty is reflecting the Father in every aspect of our daily lives –speech, actions, thoughts, everything! True modesty is becoming a wallflower that clings to the cornerstone of Christ, so embedded in Him to the extent of His ways become our ways, His truth becoming our truth.

While you let that thought sink in, I’m going to be over here rubbing goose bumps. Oh! I have so horridly abused modesty, never before realizing its rich depth and beauty. On the opposite side of the other side, immodesty is anything that seeks to exalt and glorify self, or anything other than Christ. You could be clothed the most and yet be the most immodest person in the room by your craving for spotlight, constant desire to be noticed, dominance of the conversation, body language, or even the subtle things you do to unsuspectedly manipulate those around you.

However, we can’t disregard dress because “Hey! We’ve been set free in the Spirit.” Set free to what? Do as we want? How is that Spirit-led? Too often, people leap from one side of the ditch into the other, going from “‘all outward focus”’ to “‘it’s a heart thing. The outward doesn’t matter’.” Both are equally wrong.

When we are abiding in the Father, filled entirely with Him, our first desire will be to glorify and honor Him alone. We become a set-apart people. We will not love the world because the love of the Father consumes us. (1 John 2:15) We will long to keep His commandments because of our love for Him. “For this is the love of God, that we keep His commandments: and His commandments are not grievous.” (1 John 5:3)

There’s something chilling in the knowledge of a greater Presence flowing through our lives. Modesty is bigger than ourselves. Modesty can be found in radical living, and radical living leaves no room for the me-factor mentality.

Modesty is not cliché or frumpy or unattractive, its concepts unattainable or unknown. No, it’s beautiful. It’s death to self, an offset to humility, a glorifying of the Father. It’s an acknowledgment of our Christ-ordained worth in an effort to give Him honor. It’s a removal of the me-factor. It’s the wallflower clinging to the cornerstone of Christ, knowing that the essence of life lies in the reflection of The Father.

I don’t know about you, but now all I want is to be a wallflower.

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