Let me begin by saying that what I am about to say will tread on views you probably already have or those that you disagree with, and let me just encourage you to hear me for me. I want to share some thoughts that will serve as food for thought in the discussion of modesty, in particular at the beach.
My family and I just recently went on a vacation at a family friendly beach in California. Upon my packing our family's bathing suits, I picked this debate up in my mind as I made decisions about how I would dress at the beach. Would I wear a bathing suit, and how much skin would I show? As a follower of Jesus, I now know that I must consult what God teaches us in the Bible as I do my best to follow the Holy Spirit's leading me even in this area of my life.
To many men and women, it may seem like it's not a big deal how we dress at the beach, but I can still remember the day when it finally clicked that God has a say in the way I would dress, including at the beach. So, I don't consult what the world says is in style and normal, I consider what I believe God would be pleased with me doing. This is a personal journey God has been gracious and patient leading me in, and I believe it is one that God guides any one of his followers, men and women, who are listening and desiring to give this area of their life over to Him as well.
Am I going to write down a list of rules like many people do these days? No. Instead, I'm going to share my experience on our recent trip for you to consider and pray about your own questions before the Lord. So, what did I decide to pack for myself? I went with tank tops that I normally wouldn't wear outside of my home and some shorts.
We arrived at the beach, and I was tempted to become insecure and judgmental of the women around me. Instead, I remembered not to compare my body with the bodies of the other women around me, and be thankful for the body God has given me. Next, insecurity about what my husband's experience would be like with the majority of the women showing a lot more skin than we are normally exposed to in our regular daily life. Here, I remembered my husband is responsible before the Lord for his own eyes and mind. I trusted God and I trusted my husband.
And then, I noticed a friendly mom near me that smiled at me. That's when I noticed she and her friend were dressed similar to me, no bathing suits. I wondered if they might also have made the choice not to wear them like me because of a religious conviction. I began to notice a lot of the men and women at this beach did not wear bathing suits and instead had regular clothes on. Mostly everyone was there with their little ones. Still, many bathing suited people were also around.
When it became time for me to do the difficult task every introvert like myself has to muster up every ounce of motivation and confidence for, talk to the other moms around my kids in the water, I noticed this mom was pretty and friendly and sort of in a bathing suit. Her daughter and another mom's daughter became friends with my daughter and I took a moment to be thankful that my kids could play with other children during our vacation. It made their time a lot more fun than playing with mom and dad might have been! Other people, even strangers on a vacation are a blessing in our life given to us in community by our Creator.
Well, it became a bit cold, and we sat on the warm soft sand, where another mom was sitting with her sons, she was wearing a bathing suit. I realized after a few minutes that my son (6 years old) had dropped his boogie board on her shoes and bag! I asked him embarrassed to move it to our side. To my surprise, she didn't say anything about it. Not sure if she noticed, but maybe she did, because a few minutes later, my son picked up one of her son's sand toy buckets and raced to the water. I asked her if that was their bucket, and calmly she said it was but to not worry about it, that he could play with it.
I was surprised by her reaction, because I might have minded, very much actually. I can be territorial of my things, or my kids' things. I walked away from that beach that day having learned as an adult to share! Funny hmm? You know what else I learned? Women in bathing suits or in more modest attire are just people. Sometimes, we as Christians mean well, but we can place all of the responsibility on the way others dress, instead of on ourselves. We can be critical of women that show more than we think they should. I learned that when we have the Holy Spirit inside of us, we choose not to look at someone else's body. We know what's there, and we mind our own business. We guard our own heart. The responsibility is our own eyes and heart. We also show God's love and respect people because we know they might be on their own journey as I personally had been on and have arrived at surrendering my own body to God as a 34 year old woman. I am not fearfully covering every inch of skin, because I trust God loves me and is teaching me each day to be more like Him, and yet also paying attention to my heart and the decisions and effort I place in what I wear.
What's interesting is that this advice applies to women and men as well. Modesty is something both sexes should take before the Lord and follow His leading. We set an example for the younger generation. If you are a dad or a mom, and you want your children to understand modesty is important in life, begin by being their example and explaining to them why modesty is pleasing to the Lord and better for society.
Another thing brought to my attention was that in California, what I may consider is modest may be very immodest at another part of the world. These are questions and decisions we must individually bring before the Lord in our own unique situations and I believe that the God who knows the hearts of men and women will see our willingness to please Him. Here's the bottom line: love God and love others as you pursue modesty.
“Teacher, which is the greatest commandment in the Law?” Jesus replied: “‘Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind.’ This is the first and greatest commandment. And the second is like it: ‘Love your neighbor as yourself.’ All the Law and the Prophets hang on these two commandments.” (Matthew 22:36-40)