Dear Young Women of the World: Your modesty isn’t about THEM

IMG_2056I have a daughter who is 9 years old. She’s a beautiful girl–happy, vibrant, full of love. She loves to play outside and pick on her brothers and walk around the house in my high heels and fancy scarves. She is all girl, and I love her for it. Occasionally, I see glimpses of her womanhood, growing closer as she grows older, and I’ll be honest. It scares the hell out of me. It scares me because there is a battle raging in our world–a fiercely brutal, demeaning war that has the potential to rip the value and sanctity of womanhood to shreds. It exists in the magazine covers that objectify a woman’s body. It exists in the filthy, shadowy corners of pornography. It exists in court rooms where defense attorneys suggest that a woman who has been raped was “asking for it” because of how she chose to dress, or what she chose to drink. 

I have a message for my daughter, and for all young women, everywhere. How you treat your body–how you dress, how you behave yourself–it isn’t about men. Your body is not to be owned, or used. You are MORE than something to look at, something to lust after. You, all alone, are important enough, valuable enough, powerful enough that you don’t have to think about what a man might think when you look at yourself in the mirror. Your value is not connected to the opinions of any boy.

I’ve heard it said before that a young woman should consider what her clothing choices mean to the young men around her. Is it fair to wear something revealing if it will tempt and torment? Do you want the young men around you to have impure thoughts? Worse yet, do you want a young man to get you drunk and in the hazy and forgetful shadows of alcohol, violate you, both body and soul?

Let me bold. You are not responsible for the thoughts and actions of boys or men. If they misbehave, it is NOT YOUR FAULT.

Don’t misinterpret my meaning. Every woman has a responsibility to protect herself. The sad truth is that we live in a world where people will take advantage. If you dress or behave like you do not value your body, or recognize your worth, you will tell others, by your clothing, that you are looking for a certain kind of attention, the kind of attention that doesn’t value your body, or your worth. By doing so, you cheapen yourself, and disrespect those men around you that are trying to do the right thing, that are trying to respect you. But that still doesn’t justify the poor behavior of others. Not one single bit.

Just like you, men both young and old, have a brain. They have a choice every morning when they wake up and look in the mirror. They can decide just like you, how they are going to behave. They can choose how they are going to treat women. And good  men–Godly men–they choose to respect and reverence the women in their lives. They choose to rise above the pervasive ideas that society sells, the idea that a woman’s body is simply an object, something to own, or conquer.

Sex is a funny thing. At the right time, in the right place, with the right person, it is powerful beyond words. It unites a man and woman together in one of life’s eternal rhythms–a blending of heart and body that elevates and lifts and strengthens. On the flip side, it can be turned into something cheap, something tawdry and worthless, a carnal act meant only to satisfy in the moment, then be forgotten.

My dear daughter, (and all daughters) don’t ever forget that you are MORE than a worthless moment. You are a powerful creature, not because of how your clothes fit, or how much skin you choose to reveal. You are powerful because you are a woman–because you have so much to offer this world. You are strong–a vessel of life and love that can and will do amazing things.

When you get dressed in the morning, I hope that you will choose to be modest because you know what you are worth. Because you don’t feel the need to buy into a society that sells sexuality–that tells you the size of your jeans or the size of your breasts are what define YOU.

You define You.

GOD defines YOU.

Religion not for Children? My Response

Yesterday I read a BlogHer blog post that really got under my skin. You might ought to check it out if you’d like to understand completely where my thoughts are coming from. Here’s the link:

Stop Inviting my Kid to Church: Religion is Not for Children

All caught up? Good.

I was 16 years old when I had an experience that solidified my certainty that God knew exactly who I was. I had always known who He was, but this experience took our relationship one step further. I knew Him… and He knew me. It’s a personal experience, one too personal to share in such a public forum, but it was real and good and validating and has stayed with me as a defining moment in my life, even 15 years later. I was prepared for such an experience because from the earliest days of my childhood I was taught about who God was. I was taught to recognize Him in the beauty of the world around me, in the love that I felt in my home, in the joy and happiness that I found in playing outside or snuggling inside. I was taught to recognize that God is everywhere, that God is love.

As a child, I was never told that if I did not believe a certain way, I was going to hell. I was never told that my friends who didn’t believe as I do were going to hell. I was never told that those who make different choices than I do, who live different lifestyles than I do were going to hell either. I was taught to be tolerant, to be kind, to be compassionate and forgiving.

I acknowledge that there is a brand of toxic Christianity that exists, that judges and belittles and demeans. I am a Mormon that grew up in the Southern United States. I have experienced such discrimination first hand. In high school, I had a boy tell me he didn’t want to date me anymore because his preacher told him I was going to hell for being Mormon. Notes were regularly left in my locker, inviting me to be saved, informing me that prayer meetings were being held on my behalf. Such gestures were particularly frustrating because I considered myself a person with a strong sense of who Jesus was and what role He played in my life.

I won’t try and tell anyone that all Christians, or all people of faith in general are perfect, but I will assert that to paint us all with one big brush–to push us all into a box of intolerant narrowmindedness, to imply that we are all scaring our children into following our footsteps with tales of fire and brimstone simply isn’t fair.

When my husband and I teach our children about God, we teach them that they have a right, even an obligation to study and pray and ponder so that they may learn for themselves. Of course, there is a level of blind obedience that exists with young children. But ultimately, each of my children will reach an age where they will have to decide for themselves what they believe. I guarantee when that day comes, they won’t have a mother standing over their head threatening damnation if they happen to choose a different path.

The thing is, I feel this way not in spite of my faith in God, but because of it. Because the God that I know is good and gracious and kind and loves us all. And that’s what my children are taught in church.

Divine Love Loans

Early this morning, all I wanted to do was cry. Morning sickness was knocking me flat – I’d already thrown up twice, and it wasn’t yet 9 AM. Henry and I had to be at preschool in an hour, Ivy was awake in her crib, calling over and over for me to get her up, and I hardly had the strength to pick myself up off the bathroom floor.

“Heaven help me,” I said, in utter exasperation. And then, it occurred to me… heaven help me.

I pulled myself to my knees and said a quick prayer, pleading with the Lord to give me the strength that I lacked.

And He did.

Sometimes, I forget to ask. Because I am strong and I am capable and I can do things for myself, thank you very much. But mothering is so hard, and I get so tired and sometimes I simply don’t have it in me to be what my children need…

We need not ever mother alone. When we are stressed, our nerves and patience wearing thin, God is there, ready and willing to fill in the gaps. He knows what our children need – what love and tenderness they deserve and he will help us when we feel we are falling short. He will loan us the love that is required. We need only ask.

Last year, my son Sam managed to collect a meager, but still cherished collection of Pokemon cards. Every day, he carried them around in his pants pocket, and every day I reminded him to take them out before he threw his pants into the laundry room to be washed. Most days, he remembered. But sometimes, he would forget and I would pull the cards out of his pocket before starting the washing machine, each time shaking my head. One of these days, I was going to miss them and his cards would be ruined. It was a disaster waiting to happen, and when it did, I was going to be ready with my “I told you so.”

Sure enough, on a fateful Tuesday afternoon, I missed the cards and mistakenly sent them through the wash. By the time his jeans came out of the dryer, his stack of Pokemon cards was a wilted pile of frayed edges and blurred pictures. I sighed. It was another two hours before Sam would be home from school, but the lecture started building in my mind right there on the spot. I knew he would blame me – would be upset that I had ruined his cards. And buddy, let me tell you, I was going to share a piece of my mind when he started pointing fingers at me. Because the cards belonged to him and he forgot to get them out of his pocket and it is not my responsibility and on, and on it went.

After school, I pulled Sam aside and handed him his cards, explaining what had happened. His face instantly fell. With an innocence I didn’t expect, he looked up at me, tears welling in his eyes and said, “Can you help me fix them?”

Heaven help me.

I swallowed my lecturing words and took Sam upstairs where we ironed and trimmed his cards, salvaging what we could. But it wasn’t me. I was the lecture, the I told you so and you should have known better. But God knew that Sam’s ruined cards were lesson enough and what he needed was an outpouring of love. And so He loaned me a little to get me through.

Mothering is hard, gritty, emotionally draining work. So much is expected of us and our reserves of energy and strength can be depleted so quickly. But heaven help us, we don’t have to manage alone. The raising of children is a holy work – a divinely appointed responsibility that is well worth the attention of our Father in Heaven. Ask. Ask with an open heart and let Him loan you the love that you need.