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Modesty And Beauty

Modesty And Beauty
CC photo courtesy of jmawork via Flickr

You are beautiful.

There are few things more powerful than beauty. Lust is such a poor, thin response to it. Our culture allows lust to define beauty, but it can’t. Lust doesn’t tell us anything about the one seen. It only tells us about the one who looks, and how they look, and why.

You are beautiful.

Perhaps men have looked upon you with lust. Maybe they’ve done more than look. But this doesn’t tell us about your beauty. It only tells us about their lack of identity, their fear of risk, their orphaned hearts.

Lust is too small to define beauty. It’s not sufficient. It lacks concreteness, depth, perspective. Lust is not true enough. Lust has nothing to say about beauty. Nothing.

But you are beautiful. Powerfully beautiful.

Lust only speaks of self and therefore cannot speak of another. Lust cannot behold. Men who lust after you have never seen you. Perhaps they’ve never seen anyone. Perhaps they’ve never seen.

Modesty is very misunderstood. I fear that you’ve misunderstood it too. Lustful men have asked you to dress modestly to protect them from their lust, to protect you from their lust. But if their lust isn’t about you, how can what you wear affect their inward gaze? You can’t cover up enough to keep lustful men from lusting or pure men from seeing beauty.

Men will see what they’re looking for.

You are beautiful.

Modesty is not a reaction to lust. Modesty isn’t a reaction to anything. It’s an expression of beauty and power. Modesty is not about trying to control men, though its absence might be. Modesty is about self-control. Modesty is about who you are. Modesty recognizes the sacredness of your beauty and reserves the fullness of that beauty for covenant relationship.

God made you beautiful, and all men who can see beauty will see yours. But the fullness of your beauty is powerful. And it is yours to give fully to another. To one.

The lust of men cheapens beauty. You have no control over this and no responsibility for it. Your modesty or the lack thereof won’t affect it at all.

In Jesus’ day, no building was more beautiful than the Temple. All could behold its beauty. I’m sure those who could appreciate beauty were struck by its appearance. Some could enter the outer court. Still fewer could enter the Holy Place. Only one could enter the Most Holy Place.

Why limit access to such beauty? Why not grant full access to all?

Some might say these boundaries existed because of our sin. But it wasn’t the absence of sin in the Holy of Holies that necessitated the veil. It was the presence of holiness. The veil is more about the sacredness of what is within than the commonness of what is without.

Some of you cover yourself and call it modesty. But it’s not modesty at all, for it is not motivated by the sacredness of your beauty and power. You cover because you don’t see your beauty. You’ve allowed the lust of others to define your beauty, to erase it, to make it small. If you saw your beauty, you might cover it less. This covering is not modesty; it is shame.

Some of you cover less, and call this power. But it’s not power at all, for it does not protect the sacredness of your beauty. It is not power to take what is sacred and make it common.

Where are the boundaries? Who makes the rules? Public nudity is clearly inappropriate. A burka demeans a woman’s beauty. Somewhere in between is socially acceptable; where the line is drawn depends somewhat on the surrounding culture. But rules can be just another expression of control. Even if we were able to outwardly legislate the correct behavior, the root of control would contaminate all through.

A woman who knows who she is can wear a burka, and her beauty will still shine through. A woman who knows who she is can wear something she feels comfortable and beautiful in, and her beauty will shine through. It’s not about rules. It’s about knowing who you are.

And Whose you are.

You are beautiful.

“I praise you, for I am fearfully and wonderfully made. Wonderful are your works; my soul knows it very well” (Psalm 139:14, ESV).

Self-rejection can be a powerful limitation in your life. Of course, there are many aspects of self that you can either accept or reject, but self-rejection in the area of your beauty can be particularly devastating. Rejecting your beauty might feel like humility, but it’s not. If God says you are beautiful and you, in disagreeing with Him, elevate your judgment over His, this is pride not humility.

You are fearfully and wonderfully made.

Does your soul know this? Do you know this in the core of your inward being? Is this your default setting for how you see yourself?

It’s not about sex appeal; it’s not about allowing the lust of men to be the barometer by which your beauty is measured. Your beauty emanates from knowing who you are. It’s an overflow of value. It’s an expression of the unique aspects of God’s character on deposit in your life and manifest in every smile, the brightness of your eyes, and yes—in the form of your body. But these outward manifestations of beauty are powerful only as expressions of that which is inward.

You must know that you’re beautiful. You must know that beauty is a gift given to you by a loving and powerful God. He must be beauty’s wellspring in your heart. Without God as your source, your beauty will be defined by other influences: the lust of men, the whims of culture, or the brokenness of your own past.

You are beautiful.

Ask Him to show you.

Originally appeared in Destiny in Bloom. Used with permission.

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