I grew up in a Christian home. My parents sent my brother and I to Christian schools. We were at church every time the door opened. We learned to volunteer, to serve, to have manners, and to live differently than those around us.
I developed early, probably linked to my Polycystic Ovarian Disease. I was wearing a bra (not a training bra, mind you, the real thing) by third grade. I remember wearing a sun dress to my brother's baseball game one evening, right after getting bras. My mom looked at me, at the field, and said, "How come you're not wearing your new bra?" My response was, "I could see it through my dress." The dress was pretty, and girly, soft sunshine yellow and the front of it had white eyelet lace on it. She replied that if I could see my bra through the dress, then it was also possible to see my body through my dress. I think that was the first time that modesty, in an adult body sense ever dawned on my brain.
At some point around the time of junior high, I suppose, I became aware more fully of the issue. My parents were always careful with my appearance. They made sure what I wore was modest, and I vaguely recall that being something discussed with clothing choices.
In High School, I remember conversations about legalism in relation to modesty. Whole class periods were sometimes devoted to "discussions" about the spirit of the law versus the letter of the law, legalism, what an appropriate standard should take into consideration, exceptions to the rules, etc. Sometimes I wonder what the teachers were thinking, letting this stuff rage on and never addressing the heart of the issue.
Our school had a policy that skirts (which were worn every day) must touch the floor when you kneel. Another school had a policy of 3" longer than fingertip length (which I thought was really odd, because especially during puberty when bodies are changing, arm-length doesn't always change at the same speed as height & leg-length...). Kneeling-length made sense to me. The rule even applied to our cheerleading skirts (which were actually skorts), and some people tried to play the "That's dangerous! They'll get tangled up when they do stunts!" card. (Which is ludicrous, I might add. We were never endangered by the length of our uniforms. Besides, if a stunt couldn't be done safely, we wouldn't have been permitted to do it.)
Having slogged our way through these murky waters, and having conformed to the touches-the-floor-while-kneeling standard, I (and probably most of the girls from my school) thought I had a pretty basic understanding of modesty. Got it. I'm good. I know it when I see it. No, really. That is, until God started bringing it to my attention, just this year.
I'm thirty-two years old. I'm a very visually-stimulated person. I have to be very cautious with shows that I watch, pictures I see, books I read, because I get mental images in my mind that I can't get rid of.
That creepy scene from that movie? Yeah, it may not give me a nightmare tonight, but 6 years from now, I might have one. It stays in there. I've learned that if the preview is creepy or seems dark or twisted, it's better that I don't see it at all. I've learned that it's safer for me to avert my eyes when I see a guy jogging down the street shirtless, because I don't ever want to compare my husband to him, or have that image of him pop up at a time when my focus should be on something else. I've learned that my mind will construct images to go with things I read, so I need to restrict my reading habits to things that are going to give me good mental images, not sinful ones.
In this way, my brain is wired much more like a man's than like most women's. Part of that is probably due to the over-production of testosterone and androgen in a woman with polycystic ovaries, but whatever the cause, the end result is the same. It makes me more aware of what men deal with on a daily basis. So I've become very protective of my mind and my imagination over the last few years.
Yet, I still thought I didn't have any misunderstandings about modesty, even while wearing clothing that showcased my cleavage, my hourglass shape, or was simply too tight. God has been systematically revealing to me, over recent months, that the things I know I have to guard my mind from and avoid are the same things that I have exposed my brothers in Christ to, and that they must guard their minds, eyes, and hearts from me. Whoa.
Stay tuned for Part 2.