I was standing alone in the youth room of my church. Or at least it was my church. That room was where I had taught many lessons and played many games with the church’s junior and senior high students for over a year. That room had been one of my favorite places. But now, it was a reminder of what I was about to face. In only about 15 minutes, I was going into a meeting with the church’s elders. Under other circumstances, this would not have been a big deal. I had known most of those men for several years and considered them to be friends of my family. But now it was different, because four days earlier, these men dismissed my dad as senior minister of the church after 17 ½ years.* The reason for the meeting was to see if I would be allowed to finish the school year with the youth group that my ministry partner and I had dedicated over a year of volunteer time to build up. I had so many emotions running through my heart and my mind, I didn’t know what to make of it.
This scene happened only a few months ago. I do believe that it has become one of the defining moments of my life. I believe I will still think that 20 or 30 years from now. It was one of the hardest things I have ever done, because the pain of the loss and separation were so fresh. But by God’s grace I walked into that meeting and was granted my request. The only stipulation they gave is that they wanted to make sure I would get plugged into another church, since they figured it would be too difficult to attend with them on Sunday mornings. When I told them I had a plan to look at churches in the area, they all stated how much they appreciated my willingness to come to the meeting and finish the work I had started, despite the difficulties of my circumstances.
Some of my friends or members of that congregation have questioned why I chose to stay a little longer or how I could bring myself to even go to that meeting. Some of you who are reading this post may be wondering the same thing. But as I have looked back on the last few months, I have come to realize that I began to find healing faster because I chose to face a painful situation head on instead of hiding from it. It’s something that author Levi Lusko coined as “running toward the roar” in his book Through the Eyes of a Lion [click link to read my review]. Facing that meeting changed everything for me, and I want to share about three things that have happened in my life because God gave me the power to “run toward the roar.”
I Learned How to Forgive Despite My Feelings
The night after my dad told me he had been let go, I couldn’t fall asleep. So I turned on a movie that addresses the issues of loss and forgiveness. Amish Grace is a film based on the true story about the Amish school shooting of 2006, in which a local milk truck driver in Pennsylvania entered a one-room school house with an arsenal of guns. He let all the boys and the teacher go, but took ten girls hostage. He eventually shot all ten girls before taking his own life. In the end, 5 of the 10 girls died within 24 hrs of the shooting, and the others survived with serious injuries. Obviously, it was a devastation to the Amish community, but they responded in ways that the world did not expect. In the film (which was slightly fictionalized), you see some Amish elders, including Gideon, a father who had lost his daughter, go the wife of the shooter to consul her and tell her that they had chosen to forgive Charlie, later that same day. The rest of the Amish community seems to support this decision to forgive, except for Gideon’s wife. Ida cannot let go of her anger, believing that choosing to forgive was betraying her daughter. She takes out her anger on the shooter’s wife when she runs into her. Ida is so bitter, she even makes plans to leave her Amish community and taking her surviving daughter away from her husband.
But the most powerful part of the film for me is at the end. Right before she plans to leave, Gideon asks Ida to go to a group meeting with a grief counselor, which would include other Amish parents that had lost children and the wife of the shooter, Amy. The audience learns that Amy is in the same place as Ida, not knowing how to forgive her husband for what he did to the Amish girls, and what he did to her and their children. At this point, an Amish mother who had lost two daughters shared a thought that I don’t know if I will ever forget. It was exactly what I needed to hear after everything that happened:
Every morning when I wake, I expect to hear Anna and Lydia singing together as they do their chores. But the silence reminds me that they’re gone, and I become so full of anger, I can barely breathe. But then I offer that anger up to God and I forgive. Sometimes, I have to do it again in an hour, and again an hour after that. But if I didn’t do that, I don’t know how I would ever breathe again.
As I was lying in my bed at 5 am still unable to sleep, I knew that kind of forgiveness, the kind that would compel most of that Amish community to attend the shooter’s funeral, or the kind that compelled Ida’s daughter to tell the man about to shoot her that she would pray for him, was the kind I had to challenge myself to have, no matter how painful it would be. So when I finally sat down with the elders, this is what I told them:
Just like they say love is not a feeling but a decision, I believe that forgiveness is a decision we sometimes have to make despite our feelings. I have been very hurt by what has happened and I am still healing, but I want you all to know that I have made the decision to forgive you.
It was difficult to say, but I said it, even with tears in my eyes. I said it because I was compelled to demonstrate the same grace that I would hope someone would show me, the same grace that we all want but never deserve on our own merit. The same grace we can only receive as a result of Christ’s sacrifice on the cross. We all need grace, but we struggle to give grace. We get so caught up in the guilty party’s offense that we cannot see past ourselves. But the sacrifice of Jesus was an offer of grace for every person who accepts it and then shapes their life in response to it. We don’t get to pick and choose who receives God’s grace, and neither should we. Part of dying to ourselves, as we are called to do by Christ, is choosing to give grace to anyone in our lives that is difficult to love or forgive. I hope that sharing this story will help you learn to do the same thing.
I Found a New Calling In the Midst of My Healing
Most of my friends know that since I started high school, I’ve wanted to become a music minister or worship director. In fact, I could have told you my plan the day I started high school. From then until I graduated from college in 2014, I never deviated from that plan. But when I was completing my music ministry internship the spring before I graduated, it became apparent that some gaps in my proficiency and personal training would prevent for pursuing music ministry after I graduated. I was so confused. I had pursued God’s calling as faithfully I knew how and I was still unable to devote my career to ministry. As a result, I really struggled with what I should do with my future when I moved back home. Although I was involved in music ministry, I wasn’t getting paid, and went back and forth from being in leadership to just being a participant. I struggled to find a job. Any job. It was a very difficult and uncertain time.
But I didn’t realize what God was doing behind the scenes to prepare me for something greater. Just as circumstances required me to take a step back from leading in music ministry again, an opportunity opened up for myself and a deacon to take over leadership of the youth ministry. In some ways, it surprised me. Although I had been a youth sponsor in college, I hadn’t really been involved in organizing a youth group. But I believed it was a need I could fulfill with Todd, so we jumped into it. We did what we could to teach but also have fun with our teens. It wasn’t easy, even for Todd who has youth ministry training, but after about a year, we really began to see great things happened in our group. We began to see growth in our numbers and in their understanding of their faith. Todd and I were both excited about what God had in store for our group in 2018.
But at the end of January, everything changed overnight. When my dad was let go, I was immediately afraid of what would become of the youth group if I would not allowed to return in light of what had already been planned for the spring. Only a few days later, I was given permission to finish out the school year. But the few days in between when I didn’t know were some of most emotionally trying days I’ve ever faced. After that was said and done, I came to realize how much I cared about our students and how much I had been devoted to the ministry. It made me think that maybe I could find a future in doing this kind of work as a job. Only about 3 weeks later, we took our Jr. High students to a youth conference in Cincinnati. Over that weekend, Todd and I had some honest conversations about the direction I was going with my life in regards to ministry. By the end of that weekend, I came to a major decision:
I want to become a youth minister
Some of you that have known me for a while might be shocked to hear me say this. Honestly, I’m still kind of shocked to be saying it. But as I look back over all of my ministry experiences, I now recognize that God was preparing my heart to work with students when I wasn’t looking. I attended a Jr. high conference at as sponsor my senior year of high school. I helped with a large Jr. high girls lock-in with a local Christian venue my freshman year of college. I spent about a year and half in college (minus the summers) working with my brother-in-law’s youth group, including teaching Jr. high Sunday school. When I was on my internship, I taught in a high school small group since my cousin was the youth minister. Before I officially became a youth leader, I had already lead two girls Bible studies and had attended a few youth conferences as a sponsor. It ends up adding up to a total of about 4 years I have spent volunteering in youth ministry. It all happened when I wasn’t looking, because God was subtly guiding me to a different future than I saw for myself. It’s something I would have never considered a year ago, or even 6 months ago. But God used my ability to trust Him during a painful trial of my life to help me find my new calling. I believe He can for you too.
I Found Healing Through A Surprising Friendship
I have said this before and I will say it again: community is an indispensable part of the Christian life, especially when we are going through trials. But unfortunately, most people don’t treat it like it is. In my post “Why This Millennial Isn’t Leaving the Church,” I mentioned my high school friend who claimed that because he was enrolled in a Christian school, he didn’t need to go to church. But in the end, he walked away from the faith when he left the school a year later. Adapting this kind of mentality is not just wrong, but it is dangerous, especially if you are going through personal struggles. The Christian life was not meant to be done alone, and this has been proven to me so clearly over the last few months. The day after my dad lost his job, many of the friends went out of their way to see how I was doing. Some would eventually invite me over to their house to spend time with them just so I could talk. Many of my friends have gone above and beyond to make sure there were they when I needed it. I am so grateful to each and every person who has been there for me through this difficult season. But in the end, the friend who has been there for me the most during this season was not one of my girlfriends or even a friend my own age, but it was my ministry partner.
I clearly remember talking to him on the phone the night after my dad was let go. He expressed genuine concern for myself and my family, since he is also a good friend of my dad’s. He wanted to support whatever decision I made. But what I remember the most clearly is when I told him the elders were planning to meet with me. His first words were, “I need to be there.” There were several reasons he told me, but the real reason was that there was no way he was going to let me go to that meeting by myself. When the meeting came, he sat down next to me, listened to the plan I shared with the elders, and when the elders asked his opinion, he replied, “I’m just here for emotional support.” After the meeting, we walked out into the foyer and I asked him for a hug. I don’t know if I will ever forget that hug. In that moment, although I knew the next few months would not be easy, I knew that I would not be facing any of it alone.
Since then, I have been surprised and incredibly blessed by how God has used our partnership and our friendship to help me through everything I’ve faced. Now I know that one of the reasons that God wanted me to stay a little longer was so that he could walk through this trial with me. God brought him into my life for such a time as this. I hope that anyone that faces similar trials finds a friend that is able to do the same thing for you. If you do, don’t ever take that friendship for granted.
I believe the God I serve is able to make something beautiful out of the broken. I choose to believe it, even when my feelings try to convince me otherwise. In some ways, He already has redeemed parts of what has happened to me and my family. But in other ways, when the pain is still difficult to face, I choose to believe that God will redeem all of it in His time. That brings me comfort and peace when it’s not easy to find. In the meanwhile, He promises to be ever-present in my pain. He knows my pain because He’s experienced pain. He doesn’t want me to experience it alone. He doesn’t want me to be paralyzed by my circumstances. He wants to use it to mold me into the image of His Son. That’s why we all have to learn to “run toward the roar.” Because that will be the best way for God to redeem our broken story.
[*Note: If you know the names of any of the people or places involved in this incident, please do not comment or share them. I still love and respect many people at my previous church. It is not my intention to demean the eldership or the church itself. I am just stating what happened as it impacted my life personally. Please respect my family’s privacy. Thank you]
As some of you may have noticed, I now officially own my own website domain! This is part of many changes that I have made over the past several days, not just to this blog, but also to my YouTube channel and my presence on social media. In order to clarify the confusion, I wanted to explain some of the changes I made, first to my brand, and then specifically to this blog. [I want to clarify that all my links from my previous domain (bethelcarpeaternataum.weebly.com) should reroute you to the same page on this new domain. If for some reason it doesn't please let me know.]
My New Name - Princess Worth Dying For
The previous name for this blog (Carpe Aeternatatum) and the username I had for my social media (HPgirl0609) were confusing and don't explain any of what I do or what I believe. So after much thought and prayer, I decided that it was time to get choose a new name for my brand. I chose the name "Princess Worth Dying For" because it express by belief that my value comes from the price Jesus paid for my ransom, not from anything I do to myself or for myself. I believe by byline also clarifies and unifies all my online projects so other can find it. This is what this change will mean for the rest of my work online:
1. YouTube - New Username, Same URL - YouTube is the place I've been the longest, even longer than Facebook. My previous username (HPgirl0609) wasn't working and was clarifying my brand. So now, my YouTube channel is under the name PrincessWorthDyingFor (no spaces). However, my custom URL is currently the same. I may change it in the future, but for now I will leave it as it is.
2. Facebook Page - Same Page Name, New URL - My FB page is the same username, but my URL and my handle changed. This should be a problem if you have already liked the page
3. Twitter and Instagram - New Accounts - For Twitter and Instagram, I decided that instead of trying to change everything about my established accounts that I was going to create new accounts that will give me the opportunity to share about my work without using my personal account. For Instagram, my new handle is @princessworthdyingfor. For Twitter, my name had to be shorten to @PrincessWD4. My previous accounts under the handle @hpgirl0609 will be my personal accounts from now on.
I hope that none of this get too confusing, and I hope that once everyone gets used to it that it will help strengthen my brand to reach the most people. Now, I want to explain a few of the changes specifically to this blog.
Changes to This Blog
1. Reviews Archive - To make my reviews more accessible, I have created two separate archives on the menu - one for Book Reviews and one for Other Reviews (mostly movies, Disney, and Broadway musicals)
2. Ratings System - As I have done more research recently, I have discovered that many people who do reviews have some sort of content rating system to help their readers or viewers understand the pros and cons to whatever they are reviewing. So I decided to come up with two. The first, which I will use for all my reviews, is the 5 Heart Rating System (like 5 stars). Everything I review will be given a personal rating, but it will vary between reviews in what other categories I will use this system. The second is a Color-Coded Content Rating System, which will be the way I will rate things like sexual content, violence, and language. This one I will use mostly in my movie and musicals reviews. For better clarification on how I plan to use these systems, check the Book Reviews tab or the Other Reviews tab and scroll to the bottom of the page.
3. Merchandise - I am now selling T-shirt through the "Merch by Amazon" program. To learn more about what shirts are available, click here
4. About Tab Expanded - Under "Above" on the menu, you will now find three pages. One explains the story of This Blog. One explains the story of my YouTube channel. And another my Personal Bio.
I think that should be it! I know I was REALLY BAD about writing reviews or even posting to this blog at all in 2017. But I am recommitting to my writing, as I plan to post at least two book reviews a month (once every other week) in 2018, and hopefully get back to other types of reviews and even writing non-review posts. I am so excited about all the opportunities this next year will hold! I hope many of you will join me in discovering how to live our lives in light of the Redemption of the price Jesus paid for you and me.
The story I’m going to share is a powerful personal journey. It’s one that I am amazed to look back on and see all that God was doing through the last several years to bring to fruition. The story of how, in the midst of a difficult season of my life, God used it as an opportunity to reveal to me a powerful truth. I eventually came to be able to share this truth publicly and see the impact it has had on other women like me. It all came about because of the phrase “A Princess Worth Dying For” and the truth associated with it. My hopes is that the truth will be even more powerfully proclaimed as I share the story behind what became my first spoken word poem.
What This Phrase Means
This phrase is applicable to every women who has ever lived and ever will live. Not only is it applicable, it’s also true of each and every women. Unfortunately, there are too many women that don’t know it’s true. Or if they have been told in some way or another, they have totally forgotten or disregarded it, and instead chosen to find their value in men or man-made things. It really and truly does break my heart to think that so many of us have been deceived in this area. I think it’s one of Satan’s strongest footholds in our society today. I know it was a foothold in my own life, until I learned what this phrase really means. Two main points stand out about its deeper meaning.
First, every woman is a princess. Now, before some of you roll your eyes at this analogy, I want to take it in a little bit of a different direction than you have probably heard it used. I use the term "princess" not as indication of her status or even the way she should be treated, but as a gauge of her value. In our world today, there are few women that are considered more valuable and precious that queens, princesses, first ladies, and the wives or daughters of those in the highest authority positions. Especially with today’s modern security measures, they are guarded like they are of the greatest value. Their security guards would give up their lives in the defense of these women, because of how valuable their lives and their work are to the country over which they preside. That’s the kind of value all women have in God’s eyes. Every women is that valued and precious in His sight. They are meant to be cherished and protected. Although I do think the princess analogy can be misused, it is one of the best ways I can find to explain this truth when presented in this way.
Second, every women is worth dying for. Every woman wants to know that someone loves her enough to lay down his life for her. The problem is that most women think they are unworthy of that kind of sacrificial love, which is heart-breaking to me. They think the guys that are that genuine would never be interested in them. But in reality, this quality in a guy isn’t just meant to be like Prince Charming of our dreams, but it is really meant to be the standard for what men should strive for. In other words, a guy that willing to lay down his life for a women should be an expectation or requirement, not an elusive dream that can’t be achieved. Especially once a man and a woman are married, this sacrificial love should be the standard of the relationship.
The truth is that we have had a man that laid down His life for each and every one of us. His name is Jesus Christ. The place where we should find our value is at the foot of the cross, because that is where Jesus declared that in His eyes, you were worth dying for. Your value is something no one on this earth has the right to define, because it was already determined on the cross. Regardless of anything you have done or what has been done to you, anyone can find this value in the sacrifice of Jesus. All you have to do is accept it for yourself. Once I started to understand this phrase in this way, things were never the same.
Where It Started
By the fact you are reading this blog post, you can probably assume that I like to write. Although it is true that I had only been blogging a little less than a year at the time I'm writing this, I have been writing in other ways for so much longer. But one of my greatest writing projects I’ve ever completed has, for the most part, never seen the light of day, and that’s because it’s a Lord of the Rings Fanfiction. I have essentially completed a sequel to LOTR that took me about 12 years to write. Really the only ones that know my story very well are those that have read my story on Fanfiction.net or on YouTube. There are several other friends in my life that know about my book, but haven’t necessarily read it. Some of these friends have asked me why I have been so determined to finish this book that I knew I'd never be able to publish. I think that what I'm about to tell you will explain the answer to this question.
One of the reasons I kept writing is because it was such a fun and creative way to write about the lessons I was learning in my own life while I was writing. I started to write this book around the same time that I made the decision to commit my life to Christ and be baptized. Because of this, the book became a reflection of my spiritual journey, especially in the life of my heroine. When I came to a time in my life when I was struggling with my self-esteem during college, I wrote this conflict into her life as well. Her struggle was so deep that when her best friend (King Aragorn’s son Eldarion) confesses his love for her and says he would die for her, she initially can’t even comprehend the feelings as true. She had gotten to the point where all she could see was the opinions others had of her.
One day in fall 2012 (probably September or October), as I was working on my book, I was specifically focused on this scene and struggling with finding the right words for Eldarion to break through her mental barrier and prove he loved her. Whatever I had previously written simply wasn’t working. But suddenly, out of nowhere it seemed, this line popped into my head:
“No matter what anyone has ever said, you are my princess…a princess worth dying for.”
I typed it out and stared at it on my laptop screen for a couple of minutes. I realized what a powerful truth it was, both within the context of this fictional story, and in my own life as it related to the powerful truth about Jesus’ love for me. This single line was what in the end sold this scene to me and to the few people that have read my book. And funny thing was, as much as I wanted to develop other parts of my story, I kept coming back to that scene again and again just to reread that passage. The lines surrounded this one expanded over time, but this line was the essence of what drove the scene. Sometimes, just reading it on the page makes me cry.
[If anyone is by any chance interested in reading my fanfiction online, click here. The scene I described here is in chapter 16]
Interesting thing was that for some reason, this line and the powerful truth behind it just wouldn’t go away. I was usually able to put my story away and not be thinking about it all the time, but that scene just wouldn’t go away in my mind. The connections to my understanding of Jesus’ sacrifice on the cross continued to get stronger over time. I eventually realized that this was a truth I wanted to maybe share with other women someday, but I wondered how I could, since the situation with sharing my fanfiction was complicated. Then, I figured out a small way to do it.
Fast forwarding to the next semester (Spring 2013), I was in a class affectionately called “chick preaching” (Biblical Communications for Women) and had to write a topical sermon. I decided to tackle the topic of modesty and as I mentioned in last week's blog post, this is a topic that is not only close of my heart, but also very directly connected to a woman’s understanding of her value. If you really believe that Jesus died for you, you are going to dress that you believe you are redeemed by the blood of Christ. As I wrote this into my sermon, my special phrase “a princess worth dying for” fell onto my heart again, and I realized that this was the perfect opportunity to share it. When the girls I shared the sermon with told me how much they appreciated what I had to say, I sensed that this was just the beginning of this powerful message.
When I Wrote the Poem
Some of you that read my post about meeting Jon Jorgenson have already heard this part of the story, but I'm going to share part of it again to illustrate the whole journey. As I mentioned in that post, although God was at work in my life during this time, I was in such a strange place mentally, emotionally, and spiritual during this whole time I was just describing. Although I knew this special phrase, I was still having a hard time accepting it. Just after I shared this sermon, a few things happened that made my singleness stand out, and I started to struggle with understanding why my relationship status has never changed. For several months, this struggle was always in the back of my mind, even as I entered my last on-campus semester of college. It was to the point that I had almost forgotten about my special phrase. Then in October 2013, someone on my dorm floor shared this video, which made me stop dead in my tracks.
The truths declared in this video are so powerful. For me, it was a reminder of not only how valued I am in God’s eyes, but also that I am capable of doing the things that I have been called to do, and that when I do, I can help bring change to our broken world. In the weeks that followed, I started making some changes in my life that needed to be made, especially in regards to my view of myself. I finally got to a point where I was healed from some hurts I had in relation to both my singleness and even my body image. It felt like I had literally been freed from a burden that had been weighting down on my heart for about two years. Even as I was on my knees praising God in tears of joy, my special phrase, “a princess worth dying for” fell upon my heart again. Suddenly, something clicked in my head to help me understand the fullness of what this phrase meant. The inspiration and most of the words of my poem flooded my mind over the course of a few days and I wrote them down on my document on my computer. It was crazy to see how fast the inspiration came, considering I’d never written a piece like that, but I also felt like God was giving me the words to say.
For that point on, this phrase really did start to become a sort of catch phrase. A little later in the semester, the girls on my floor were encouraged to make a two sided sign out of cardboard, one side having a phrase about your old life or struggles, and the other side about your new life in Christ or personal victories. It wasn’t hard for me to figure out what mine would say. The back said “Not Good Enough” and the front said “A Princess Worth Dying For.” We shared this signs with each other at our weekly dorm floor devotions. It really did feel like a moment of personal triumph when I showed the girls my sign and they applauded for me. It was a very special moment.
I thought that my poem was good, but I hesitated to widely share it at first. I decided to share it with a few of my college friends by asking them to read it and see what they thought. Even from the five or so friends I shared it with at the time, the response was so positive. I even had one friend that shared it on her blog. But beyond that semester, I kind of put the poem away for a while. I did pull it out on occasion and make a few revisions to it, but I didn’t try to share it again for quite some time.
When I Made the Video
About a year later, I was teaching a junior high girls Bible study on modesty, my poem came back to my mind. I thought about turning it into a video, but I was a little hesitant at first. Although I do enjoy video making, I didn’t have great video equipment and had no experience making that kind of video. But I couldn’t help but feel I needed to do it. I did want to share this message, especially with the girls of my Bible study. So in the end, I made to decision to go for it. I recorded this video in the same room where I did the teaching for the Bible study in my church building. In hindsight, it wasn’t the fanciest video I could have made, but for the resources I had at hand and the fact I made it by myself, it was good. I felt like I was faithful to what I was called to do with what I had.
[If you have never watched this video, please do!]
When I shared this video, the girls were so sweet about how much they liked it. Because I filmed it in the room I taught the girls in, I left the cross from the end of the video on the wall and used it as a prayer station for a prayer/reflection time I did with the girls after I showed them the video. At the end of the night, I also gave each girl a white stone with their name on one side, and on the other side it said, “A Princess Worth Dying For”
A couple of days later, I uploaded the video on YouTube and started to share it on my social media. Although it is not my most viewed video, I know that those that have viewed it have been touched. The share and comments I have gotten from people have been amazing. It is rather incredible to think how writing this poem about my personal experience has become such a powerful tool to help women see their value. It was in part from this reaction that I decided to seek out other opportunities to do more spoken word poetry on my YouTube channel. It all started with a short but simple phrase that taught me about my value in God’s eyes.
As I look back on this personal journey, I am still in awe of the powerful lesson God taught me and how I have been able to share it with others. As the time I am writing this, this video only has about 250 views, but I know it has made an impact in the lives of the few that have seen it. It’s awesome to see the impression it has left on the last few years of my own life. It has become one of the truths that I am most passionate about sharing with others. As I said earlier, this really has become a sort of catch phrase. Even as I was recently updating my bio on my social media sites, this was what ended up coming to my mind.
This really does describe me and my heart in so many ways, and I want to spend the rest of my life declaring that I worship the Living God because I am a Princess Worth Dying For. I hope that some of you have found inspiration in this story. If you have, please consider share this blog post or the video itself with someone that you think needs to hear it. If you are into the hashtag thing, use #princessworthdyingfor when you share. Let’s see how many women will believe this truth for themselves.
A Quick Update
Because this video and poem are so close to my heart, I have always wanted to reach as many people as possible with its message. For this reason, I took the opportunity to recreate this video. With the help of a friend that had the right video equipment, I was able to make the quality of video I wanted to make in the first place. I am adding this tag to this blog post the day I am releasing the new video, so I am not sure how well this new version will do. But I am hoping that no matter the outcome, I am being faithful with the little opportunities he places in front of me. And again, consider sharing the blog post or this video with the hashtag #princessworthdyingfor
It all started when I was in junior high. Since I was in a private Christian school, we often had talks about remembering school rules like the dress code. This usually didn’t bother me too much since I have always been conservative in the way I dress. But I will never forget one of these modesty discussions because of one of the comments made by my teacher. Mrs. Giles was probably my favorite teacher I have ever had, and this comment illustrates one of the reasons why. She told us in her southern Alabaman accent,
“Remember girls, as Gandalf said in The Lord of the Rings,
‘Keep it secret, keep it safe.”
Needless to say, we all laughed so hard! And almost any time I tell this story today, people still laugh. In the end, although this was definitely meant to be humorous, it also made a powerful point. When Gandalf told Frodo this, Frodo had no idea what the Ring was, the power it had, or the potential danger it posed for him to have it in his possession. For that matter, Gandalf was not entirely sure himself, but until he had the chance to find out, Frodo could not take any chances. Gandalf instructed him to keep the Ring hidden (not telling anyone he had it) and to guard it securely (making sure no one could steal it) until they knew the truth about it.
As I got older, I began to appreciate this analogy for modesty more and more. Men and women alike have also been given a power, although it isn’t from a gold ring. This is the power to attract attention to our bodies in the way that we present ourselves. The problem is most of us either are unaware of the how great this power is or we use our knowledge of this power to bring the attention to ourselves. But I also think that our misunderstanding of the biblical perspective on this topic has provided much disdain for it that needs to chance in the church. Modesty is about so much more than what we wear; it’s a lifestyle that reveals a humility of the heart and the spirit through our attitude and our actions.
After I began to understand this, I became quite passionate about this topic and have come to do much research over the last few years of my life. Although I had always been aware of needing to dress modestly, I began to desire to understand why I should, and I eventually came to realize that modesty is not just about your wardrobe; it's a lifestyle of humility that is usually reflected by your wardrobe. I want to walk you through my understanding of what biblical modesty looks like, how to live that out in our world today, and some of the stories of how I came to discover these truths for myself. Because most of the discussions associated with this topic are directed at women, I am assuming they will be my main audience for this post. But I think men should also read this to not only understand what women struggle with in this area, but also to see if any of these truths can also apply to you. I think you will all be surprised. These are the three qualities that I believe lead to a lifestyle of modesty.
Assurance In Our Value
When I see a young women dressed immodestly, my first thought is that her understanding of her value and worth as a human being is messed up, because it obviously isn’t coming from the right source. When a girl dresses that way, she is communicating that the attention she get from the way she present yourself is the where she find her worth. If she doesn’t get the attention she wants, she doesn’t feel affirmed and will often go to greater extremes to regain that affirmation. There is something wrong with her understanding of the way God sees her. She either doesn’t know how valued she is in God’s eyes, or she's been told but then forgot her value in God’s eyes, or she has chosen to disregard the value she has in God’s eyes. These paths usually result in a women seeking human approval for the worth they already have in God’s eyes. As a Christian young woman, my ultimate reason for dressing modesty is my understanding of my value, and it comes from what Jesus did for me on the cross.
Let me illustrate. Have you ever watched a movie where the guy gave up his life for the guy? Those are some of the worst tearjerkers, right? That’s because in watching those moments on screen, we can't help but desire that for ourselves. We see how pure and true that man’s love is and we can’t help but think, I wish I had a guy that loved me that much.
Well ladies, I have good news for you – you do have someone that loves you that much. His name is Jesus Christ. Not only is His love so deep that He is willing to lay down His life for you, but he actually did lay down His life for you. Have you ever let that truth sink in? Jesus died for you. Coming to understand this fully will literally change your perspective of yourself and everyone around you.
What does this have to do with modesty? Well, if you really believe that Jesus died for you, you natural response is going to be to live your life in gratitude for that sacrifice. You are going to want to obey God’s instructions for your life not because you’re obligated, but because you are genuinely grateful for His sacrifice. 1 Corinthians 6 19b-20 reminds us:
“You are not your own; you were brought with a price. Therefore, honor God with your body.”
If we remember we were brought with a price, our natural conclusion will be in honor God with what we choose to do with our bodies, and that definitely includes how we dress. We need to teach this generation of Christian young women how to dress like they believe they are redeemed by the blood of the One that loved us enough to die for their sins. I think that’s a value lesson for all of us to learn.
An Attitude of Humility and Grace
Attitude is everything when it comes to modesty. In addition to communicating that she has a misunderstanding of her value, a young women dressed immodestly is also communicating that she has a bad attitude that ultimately represents that her heart is in the wrong place. Whether it be selfishness or anger or something else, they is something wrong with the condition of her heart. You can absolutely see that based on what clothes she is wearing. Most of us don’t think of that, but it’s true. Your clothing (or lack thereof) reflects the condition of your heart. What makes this interesting is that there can actually be occasions when a woman may be appropriately dressed, but is being immodest in her attitude by arrogant or pride, like when she dresses in such a way to outshine everyone else on purpose. Either way, the way you present yourself on the outside will represent where your heart is on the inside.
I feel like most of the direct references to the concept of modesty in the Bible are difficult for us to understand, because there were speaking to a different time and place. But I found this video of David Platt (author of the book Radical) breaking down these cultural references in the best way I’ve ever heard 1 Timothy 2:9-10 explained. This video is totally worth taking the time to watch.
When we are properly living out a lifestyle of modesty, we are reflecting an attitude of humility that worships God with our life and demonstrates God’s grace through good works. We will be living our lives as an act of worship and not have the desire to draw unnecessary attention to ourselves. I love what Platt said at the end of the video when he said,
“Let us raise us women across this church that get us every day, including Sunday, thinking humbly, ‘How can I dress today and what can I do today that will draw the most attention to the glory of my God?’ That’s not easy in today’s culture. That’s totally against the grain.”
When we do the opposite, choosing to draw attention to ourselves instead, we are taking attention away from God. One of my favorite authors on the topic of modesty, Dannah Gresh, put it this way in an interview.
“Any time we dressed immodestly...we’re bringing glory to ourselves. I think that’s the greatest sin of immodesty, is that we’re saying ‘Look at me’ instead of saying ‘Look at God.’”
David Platt also said in that video,
“Remember the One you are competing with for attention.”
Now I don’t think this means that we need to dress frumpy, dumpy, and out of fashion, but that does mean that our attempts to present ourselves well should never compromise your witness or distract anyone from seeing the God you profess to worship, as it is reflected in your attitude and your actions. If anything in your wardrobe hinders this, then you probably need to think twice before you wear it.
This is a slideshow from when I taught a Jr. High girls Bible study at my church last fall on this topic. We used Dannah Gresh's book, The Secret Keeper: The Delicate Power of Modesty. I learned so much about modesty as I did my research for these lessons, as well as teaching the girls in general. Aside from the fun pictures of our time together, there are some references to videos I used with the lessons as well as a song in the background that reflect what I believe the concept of modesty to be all about. It’s called Don’t Look At Me by Stacie Orrico. I think the lyrics speak for themselves.
Awareness of Our Secret
In addition to having assurance in our value and an attitude of humility, we must also develop an awareness of the logistical reasons for dressing modestly. This is the part of the conversation where most of you would expect me to pull out the “causing our brothers to stumble” argument, which personally drives me nuts. Although we should not desire to cause anyone to stumble, I think that is false motivation. Returning to the Frodo-Gandalf story, Frodo had absolutely no idea how powerful the Ring was or why he needed to keep it secretly secure until Gandalf returned. When Gandalf educated Frodo on all he learned about the Ring, Frodo became aware of the threat the Ring posed on the Shire and knew what he needed to do to keep that power out of the wrong hands. But it wasn’t until Gandalf told him that he was aware of the power that was in his possession.
The same is true of our physical beauty and our bodies. Most of us are really rather unaware of how powerful we are in regards to our sexuality, or at least how special that power is. The truth is that God designed human bodies to be attractive, specifically to the opposite gender. Dannah Gresh terms this ability as the power of allure. It's pretty incredible to think that God designed our bodies that way. There’s actually a verse in Proverbs that illustrates that a woman has the ability to intoxicate a man by her sexuality. That’s pretty strong language! Although a lot of people don’t necessarily equate immodesty with sexual immorality, they are very much connected to each other. As a Christian woman, my goal should be to dress myself in such a way as to save the deepest secret of my beauty for just one man. Anything outside of that will separate me from God and keep me from His better plan for my life.
Unfortunately, it is also true that there are many that know the power their bodies have and choose to use that to their advantage to get attention and have control in their situation. But as I said earlier, if you really believe that Jesus died for you, your natural response is going to be to desire to obey God’s guidelines for the way we dress out of gratitude. Yielding our wardrobes to Him will come naturally if we choose to think of it in this way. If that’s not the case, then your heart is not in the right place about it.
The way that I believe we should view this power is as an incredible gift from God. If we really believe that we are valued in God’s eyes, I think we should believe that our sexuality is a special gift, one that is taken for granted in our culture today. Although it is not something to be ashamed of, there is a right time and a right place to use it – and that’s within the context of marriage between a man and a woman. Revealing anything that was only meant to be for your husband’s eyes cheats him and yourself out of the full beauty of this special gift. We would all be a whole lot better off if we began to see it that way.
I’ve have been led on an incredible personal journey that led me to understand modesty in this way. From writing and delivering a sermon on modesty, to teaching a Bible study about it, to writing a spoken word poem on the topic, God has developed a passion within me to declare the truth on this subject. I may even write more about it in the future, but for now I feel like the poem I completed this summer is the best way to summarize my conclusions. If you have found anything I’ve said in this post to be inspiring, please consider sharing this video, for it hasn't gotten very much response. [There is also a link to my modesty sermon at the end of the video if you are interested]
“Now, I’m not going to give you a list of fashion do’s and don’t
Because if I ask you to go through your closet, you probably won’t
But I will ask you a question with wisdom I need to impart:
What does your clothing reveal about the condition of your heart?”