Tomorrow over at Scripture Dig, I'm writing about the amazing Preservation of God's Word. It's been a week of "Preserving!" Yesterday - a recipe for Quick Pickled Peaches, preserved with apple cider vinegar. Monday we talked about the "Guaranteed Gift" of modesty in and around marriage = a benefit to the wife, her husband, and her friends. It helps "preserve" the unspoiled and exclusive union in marriage. Great comments and questions were shared that I hope to address today and tomorrow as we talk about modesty from the steamiest book of the Bible, the Song of Solomon.
When someone goes to the trouble to preserve what would otherwise spoil, you know it is something of value .... the Bible, a peach, a marriage! ;)
I read Song of Solomon to see how "Zones of Intimacy" change in a relationship. There is a lot of debate about how to interpret this book, but several things are clear. First, the Shulammite woman encouraged others "not to arouse or awaken love" until it's time = in marriage (SoS 2:7, 3:5, 8:4). Until the time her marriage was consummated, she and her betrothed talk about one "zone" of the body: the neck, cheek, eyes, hair, lips. After they were given to each other and allowed to "arouse" love fully, there was a new"zone" of intimacy: legs/thighs, naval, waist, breasts. Isn't that interesting? After she waited to invite him to the greater zone of intimacy, she was in his eyes as "one bringing contentment" (SoS 8:10). She was worth preserving for his eyes and pleasure only. Marriage brings an invitation to enjoy a wider zone of intimacy. Parts of the body are meant to be enjoyed visually and physically by those who have pledged their lives to each other, and that means they aren't for the pleasure of everyone else.
Imagine if we carried our lingerie around in our purse for a few weeks before our wedding night, so we could show friends or family, maybe let them try it on, or see what kind of reaction it gets from the guys at work ..... and then we put it on for our husband. It would seem used, less than precious, and spoiled. He would feel so unimportant. We would have failed to preserve the special nature of our intimacy, and that would say something about our respect for ourself and our spouse. Certain things remain most precious when we keep them in exclusive zones ... the Shulammite knew this, and it earned her romance a place in the timeless book of God's Word!
We can't ignore the power of visual images, and most men agree their eyes are powerful gates of thought leading to temptation. The lover of the Shulammite woman in the Song says at one point, "Turn away your eyes from me, for they overwhelm me ..." A simple gaze can melt a man's spirit (which can be FUN, girls, yes?), but couple that with exposure to the one flesh zone of intimacy, and you have an "invitation" being announced that really belongs to the gal's husband. After all, in God's design, the wife's body belongs to her husband, and his body to her. (1 Cor. 7:4-5) In a sense, we are dressing "his" body, and he is dressing "ours". Even the way He made us testifies of His design for two that fit well as one.
Our appearance always sends a signal, but what signal does it send, & who does it invite?
I'm still not going to give you a list. :) Sorry. Different times and cultures prevent a list from being authoritative. Principles from God's Word guide us, but we have to LOOK and see what it says! But I will do this ... I took what I read in the Song of Solomon and "translated" the basics into a "Five Point Check" based on scripture, to help myself do a little self-evaluation when I put myself together in the morning. Every morning, I want to dress to honor God and my husband. Here's my personal 5 Point MATCH Check:
M - Makeup... this creates the first invitation/signal we project, and it sends a message to the mind, so what message does our makeup send? I don't want to be a stumbling block because of the image my face sends. Prov. 6:25 Of course, we are most beautiful when God's nature shines through.
A - Abdomen... slipping a hand around a waist is NOT like a firm handshake; the abdomen invites touch that leads to greater intimacy. It's like candy on the counter ... we just see it and want to touch it and have it. It's an area of the body that leads to beautiful things in marriage, but it can lead to disaster outside of the one flesh zone. Sos 7:2
T - Tightness... even sweatpants can be seductive if they're tight enough or in the right places! Tightness invites the eyes and arouses the imagination. This doesn't mean you have to wear a potato sack, ;) (whew!) since God delights in women expressing the femininity He designed, but a tight garment that does the work for the imagination is not meant for the "common zone." 1 John 2:16
C - Chest... throughout history this unique part of a woman's body has represented fertility and maternity, something a woman enjoys with her spouse and offers as a gift and contribution to her family. It invites intimacy and arouses a desire for closeness. Prov. 5:19-21
H - Heart... Modesty is, ultimately, an issue and a result of the heart's condition. We have to be convinced that we belong to God, exist for His glory, and desire to honor Him with our bodies, if we are to have our modesty display an image void of pride, selfishness, and impurity. Though men look at the outward appearance, God looks at the heart, (1 Sam. 16:7) but our exterior appearance is a fruit of our inner man. If the heart is not full of pride and seeking attention, then a modest appearance is more likely to follow.
People commented on how hard it is to teach our children modesty today. We are not the first believers to feel this way in our culture. Since every culture is different and styles are always changing, we have to look to what never changes for guidance: God's Word preserved for us! Tomorrow we'll address the question about teaching our kids, and I'd love to hear if you have guidelines that have helped you. There's so much we could say about this important topic in the life of a follower of God. For today, let me close with a prayer:
You are the One who designed our bodies to be "good" in Your sight, a product of Your creativity. Your own Son bought us back for You, setting aside our bodies for Your honor. We need Your help not to become like the world in our appearance. We want to be transformed to be more like Your nature. Make us sensitive to what honors You, and help us to preserve the beauty of our bodies, Your Spirit's temple, so we can enjoy Your blessings, encourage our brothers and sisters in Christ, and reflect You. Help us to let go of our worldly desires or lust for attention that might motivate us, and help us to dress ourselves daily for Your pleasure.