no more sports bras?
If you scour blogs written for Christian women, you will find no shortage of posts about God calling us to be more modest in the way we dress. So its no wonder I almost immediately began to mourn the loss of some of my more flattering outfits and almost all of my workout clothes when I committed to glorify in 2021.
However, after a fair amount of research and prayer it turns out I needed to change my behavior but not so much my wardrobe.
I am more than pleasantly surprised.
Most of my young adult life I dressed for attention from men. Like so many young girls I had a lot of social insecurity and a misunderstanding of my worth. When I was still pretty young I knew I wasn’t the prettiest, coolest or smartest girl in the room. At that age I didn’t understand I had it wrong. I thought beauty being “in the eye of the beholder” and “everyone is beautiful in God’s eyes” were just made up stories told by well meaning parents to make unattractive people feel better.
I was a product of our culture who believed beauty was what I saw all around me in the media, movies, and advertising. I lacked an understanding of how much of the content was designed to play on my insecurity and ultimately take my money (and my soul?).
I didn’t feel I measured up to the world’s standard, but once I hit puberty it didn’t take long to realize I had one asset that was a differentiator for me, a pretty darn good bod (thanks to being a super active kid and good genes). My insecurity led to me to take advantage of it for attention by showing more of it than I should. I was definitely a “young Kentucky girl in a push-up bra” like the one Tom Petty sang about in American Girl.
As I grew older I began to better understand the importance of propriety and modesty. God filled the need for male attention in other ways and helped me discover my worth. I no longer wanted just any attention from men, but the right kind of attention from the right kind of men.
I also became senior leader in a corporate environment. As a result, I began to moderate the way I dressed. I traded Daisy Dukes for banker blues.
This was true in almost all areas. Except, of course, two areas where I spend most my spare time.
In the gym and on a boat.
Ironically, the older I grew the more comfortable I felt in bikinis and scant workout clothes. I learned to accept my imperfections, treasure the evidence of my motherhood, and feel pride for the results of my hard work and the way they showed up in God’s temple.
But mostly, I just really like to be cool and comfortable when doing intense workouts or soaking up the sun. So, I embrace working out in booty shorts and donning a two piece on the boat.
I get teased about this a fair amount from family and friends. According to my middle sister, I am the only woman who has ever taken a shirt off during a cycle class at her local gym. I know this because she told me before our first ride there together. She seemed really concerned about it and wanted to make sure I knew that I would be breaking new ground if indeed I decided to ride the way I usually do at home. I presume she was hoping I would keep my top on and not embarrass her. But sadly for her, it did not happen.
I enjoy embarrassing my siblings almost as much as I enjoy popping my top mid-workout.
That being said, I was ready to give near-naked fitness up when I undertook glorify this year. During my very first trip to the gym in January I tried so hard to leave my tank top on, but I just could not do it. I was hot and sweaty and longed to be free. So I did what I normally do and stripped it off, thinking all the while about how I would have to face the change eventually.
I mean, how could a Christian woman workout the way I do? Showing so much (gasp)skin?
However over the the last several weeks the issue of what I wear when I workout started to fade into the background. When I look at all the areas of my life in which I need to be more Christ-like, this one just didn’t come up for me as a top priority.
I think the main reason for this is that there is absolutely nothing sexual about it at all for me at this stage of life. There hasn’t been for many years. What I wear in the gym is 100% for me and my comfort. Not for men. Not for attention.
Interestingly, I think this is why some women think I am brave (crazy?) for wearing what I do when I workout. We all have things about our bodies we really don’t like. Many women let these thing stop them from being liberated from their poly-blends. It blows their minds that I can strip down to a comfortable level without freaking out about the bod God made me.
And you know what? I think my body image and willingness to show it is a good influence overall. I think that God made our bodies to accomplish amazing feats. To create and to feed babies. To immediately begin healing itself after injury. To lift 8000 pounds from ground to overhead in less than 14 minutes (a Crossfit benchmark workout).
He made our bodies capable. He made our bodies beautiful. We knew no shame and did not bother to cover our bodies at all until after the fall.
Does that mean we have carte blanche as it relates to showing off our God given bodies? Definitely not. The Bible is clear on modesty in dress (more on this later in part 2). Propriety for Christian women is important. However so is the treasuring of the temple God made for you and having comfort and confidence in it.
The gym is not a bedroom or a stage. It is a place I go to test myself. To go through the fire and come out refined spiritually and physically. When I am in the dark place mid-workout, the last thing on my mind is how I look and if anyone is checking me out. There is nothing for me except the tunnel I am in and my need to fight to get out of it.
My gym clothes may not help me make my way out, but they definitely don’t get in the way. It’s function, not fashion.
This is not unique to my sport. What do gymnasts wear and why? Is it for function or attention? How about ballerinas? Elite lifters?
What I see when I look at these bare-bodied athletes is God-given talent living his purpose. Beautiful people made in his image shining bright for him. These bodies demonstrate what happens when you couple masterful design with discipline and commitment.
We do, unfortunately, live in a fallen world. Our fig leaves these days are much more elaborate for good reason. Even when my purpose is pure, I could be tempting others into sin. Many in the Christian community feel it is my duty to be modest in my dress to help out our brothers and sisters who struggle with sexual sin.
And that, my friends, we will address in Part 2. Because there is a lot to unravel here and it will take more than one blog to work it through it. Plus we haven’t even scratched the surface on how I have changed as it relates to my dress and being more modest. I can promise you I haven’t thrown my hands up in the air and ignored this issue or simply rationalized it into oblivion.
More on how I have changed and why next week…