On Friday I flew to North Carolina and spent the weekend with some long time friends. We rented a house by the beach, burrowed in with good food and wine, and we talked. A lot.
I could devote a whole series of posts to unpacking the last few days since it was so good, so sweet, and so needed. Instead, I shall summarize the weekend with two simple words:
That’s right. Throughout the duration of the weekend, each of us sported sweat pants or the fashion equivalent thereof. We dressed not for style but for comfort, and that says a lot about our friendship.
You see for many women, being seen without makeup and a cute outfit on is akin to being seen naked. We feel vulnerable. We feel unattractive. We feel less confident. We can even feel weak.
Of course some women struggle with this more than others, but I count myself among those women who use fashion as a crutch. When faced with an intimidating situation, I turn to my old friend fashion. I rely on it to give me that extra boost. Even if I feel small inside, I can still look great on the outside!
In fact, I did this very thing 3 weeks ago. I have already written about the gathering I attended in Austin, Texas, and the impressive women I met there. Well let me tell you, as I prepared to meet those accomplished, beautiful women I was ALL KINDS of insecure.
And how did I deal with my anxiety? I shopped. I planned my outfits. I scheduled my apparel for each and every day, because those women may not know who I am, but they can admire my outfits, that’s for sure!
After all, isn’t that one of the highest compliments we women extend to one another?–”I LOVE those shoes. Where did you get them?” or “That top looks simply adorable on you!” or the best: “I can never look good in skinny jeans but you totally pull them off!”
However fleeting it may be, there is power to be had in fashion. It is a power rooted in comparison and competition, but it is power nonetheless.
For all the discussions about modesty, this is the most overlooked. Many women dress not for men but for other women. I know I’ll be sized up, so I want to impress. I want other women to think I’m cute in a she-doesn’t-try-too-hard kind of way, and I can, ironically, become enslaved to that image.
For women like me, my primary struggle with modesty is rooted in the desire to feel powerful in comparison with other women. The need to look good for other women produces in my an unholy immodesty that is more concerned with the way others perceive me than the way I am loving others.
That’s why this weekend’s attire spoke volumes. It not only communicated the intimacy we share–there was no need to “put on” or hide–but it also communicated our care for one another. I was less concerned with impressing them, and more concerned with loving them.
Now without being cheesy–actually, this is totally cheesy, and I apologize–Scripture talks about a different “outfit” that we are to put on. It is called the Armor of God, and you can read about it in Ephesians 610-11, 14-17:
Finally, be strong in the Lord and in his mighty power. Put on the full armor of God…Stand firm then, with the belt of truth buckled around your waist, with the breastplate of righteousness in place, and with your feet fitted with the readiness that comes from the gospel of peace.In addition to all this, take up the shield of faith, with which you can extinguish all the flaming arrows of the evil one. Take the helmet of salvation and the sword of the Spirit, which is the word of God.
Not all women rely on trendy outfits to boost their self-esteem; some of you will relate to this temptation more than others. But regardless of whether this is your particular struggle, there is a temptation for all of us to hide behind something when faced with vulnerability or weakness. Adam and Eve were the first to hide, and we’ve been doing it ever since.
So I ask you today–when you feel insecure, lonely, or inadequate, where do you turn? What “armor” do you rely on for confidence, strength, or power? What is your shield of protection? What is the “breastplate” that defends your heart? What is the “helmet” that conserves your mind and thoughts?
Some of us literally hide behind fashion while others of us put on figurative armors, like immaculate homes, deceptively happy Facebook profiles, or busy schedules. But each one is a poor substitute for the armor of God.
So the question is, where does your confidence lie? Does it come from the blood of Jesus, or your adorable patent peep-toes? Does it come from your identity in Christ, or your success as a wife and mom? Does it come from the grace of the gospel, or your accomplishments in the work force?
What do you “put on” to boost your self-esteem, and what is the purpose of that armor? Does it serve you alone, or does it serve God and neighbor?
Fashion is not wrong in and of itself. In fact, it can be a marvelous expression of your personality. But in a world where women are confronted with shame, insecurity, and lies, it makes for a flimsy spiritual armor.
So…what did you put on today?