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I wasn’t raised to be modest. Growing up, I regularly wore short-shorts, tube tops and revealing swimsuits. So did the other girls that I went to church with. Those were modern times and old-fashioned rules just didn’t apply. Or so I was told.

I grew up, married and had children. I dressed my little girl in shorts and halter tops and swimsuits, nothing as revealing as my clothing had been but still more-so than I now believe is appropriate. As she approached her teen years I grew uncomfortable with the idea of her dressing as I had once dressed. And, by that time, I had two other young girls, impressionable and with ever-lasting souls and the way they would be dressed as they grew up was also weighing on my mind. I started researching this modesty issue.

No matter what we’re talking about (music, clothes, habits), there’s a danger of swinging too far to the right thinking that if we do more than is required, we’ll be even more pleasing to the Lord and that’s what I did when I became more aware of the need to be more modest. But God tells us in His Word that we are to be temperate, showing moderation in all that we do. In other words, neither going too far this way nor that. Growing up, my home tended towards being legalistic. Immodesty was allowed but many other things weren’t. They weren’t disallowed because God said it but simply because the church thought it. In other words, they were Pharisees, adding rules in order to keep rules. This was the tendency in my family as well as the church that I grew up in (considering the times, that is). As I studied what the Bible said rather than church doctrine, my beliefs changed. I changed. So how we dressed changed.

We have an obligation to the Lord to do all that we do for Him. He is God, we aren’t, and it is He that we are to obey. It’s oh-so easy to add rules upon God’s Word in order to make extra-sure that we are pleasing Him. On the other side of the coin, it’s so easy to excuse our behavior by saying “Everyone’s doing it” or “Times are different” or “That’s old-fashioned”. Neither is right. Neither pleases Him.

We must examine our heart. Why do we desire to dress (or do anything) as we do? What motivates us? Is it fear of man? Long-standing rules? The desire to abolish long-standing rules? Pride in our own spirituality? Or is it what Scripture refers to as “fear of the Lord”?

Proverbs 1: 7 says that fear of the Lord is the beginning of wisdom. If we’re ever going to be pleasing to the Lord, we must start here. He is God and we are not. He has all power and, in the end, we have none–none to save ourselves, none to change the future, honestly none at all. God is Sovereign and we can’t always even open a bag of cereal without ripping the bag and spilling it. Wrapping our mind around Who God is goes a long way towards developing the right kind of fear of Him. That’s when we start developing wisdom. The wisdom that guides us as we delve into an understanding of modesty–or anything else.

So after running the gamut for a couple of years, going too far this way or that, I grew in my understanding of what it really means to be modest and was able to teach my daughters better than I had been taught. My oldest daughter is now grown and gone. My two younger daughters and I have long settled into an understanding of what it means for us to dress with modesty–and why. We still have rules but they are based in a desire to honor the Lord rather than in Pharisaical rules or modernism. My daughters are allowed to make many of their own choices as long as they are seeking to please the Lord. One daughter loves jeans. Another is pure vintage. Both love the Lord and His truth. Both are feminine. Both are modest. And both are pleasing the Lord with their desire to please Him because both of them know Him and fear Him. And that’s where a desire to be modest must begin.