by Sylvia Huffnagle
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Kerstin ambled into her eleventh grade English class thinking about the test they were about to have. As she entered the room, her eyes took in the scene before her. Toward the back of the room, she notice Deserai Collins. She was crying and there was no evident explanation for it. Kertstin, being a Christian felt immediate concern. Why was Deserai crying? Did someone hurt her feelings? She was not a popular student and her looks were rather plain, so Kerstin, knowing how kids can be, wondered if maybe someone had said something unkind to her or about her. She glanced around for the teacher, Mrs. Clark, but she apparently was not in the room. Without further thought, Kerstin hurried back to Deserai’s desk. With a sympathetic smile, she said, “Hi Deserai, can I help in some way?”
Deserai quickly wiped her eyes and looked up at Kerstin. “W-what do you m-mean?”
“Why I saw you were crying and was hoping I could help with your problem. I’m a
Christian and we like to help people.”
“Because Christians have Jesus in their heart and therefore they like to help people. You see, Jesus is God’s Son sent to minister to the needs of the world.” At this point, Kerstin gave a sheepish grin, aware that she was probably being too informational. “Have you ever heard about Jesus? You know--Christmas--the Christmas story?”
Her face void of expression, Deserai replied, “Of course I’ve heard of Jesus. I know the Christmas story and the Easter story, but it doesn’t make sense,” she said, screwing up her face. “Why did he have to die so that we don’t have to go to hell? What kind of sense does it make for God to send his Son to die for us?”
Kerstin saw that the teacher had come in and was calling for order. “Listen Deserai, this is heavy stuff and I’d like to share it with you, can we meet later today? Maybe have lunch together?”
Deserai’s eyes went wide. You’d sit with me at lunch? You’re one of the popular girls. They don ‘t bother with people like me.”
“Well, I want to bother with you. I might be able to make your life better and that is what I like to do--make things better. Will you have lunch with me?”
Deserai dropped her eyes. “I-I don’t know . . . its sounds a little weird to me and besides I never would have known that you were a Christian--I mean the way you dress and all.”
Kerstin felt as if she had had the wind knocked out of her. She knew that in the old days Christians thought you had to cover up, but these were the 90s. She quickly recovered and cast Deserai a questioning look. Deserai relented. “Oh all right, you can answer my question at lunch. It’s just that I thought Christians dressed modestly.”
Kerstin looked down at her skimpy top, tiny skirt, and bare midsection and then back at Deserai, she had no answer.
Mr. Dobbs, the teacher, stood in front of his desk talking to the class, but though Kerstin tried hard to listen, her mind kept going back to what Deserai had said. “I never would have known that you were a Christian--the way you dress.” Now that she thought about it, she had heard them say at church a couple of times that Christians should dress properly, but the words had had no meaning for her and she hadn’t cared to find out what they were talking about. She liked to dress just like the other kids. She liked to feel that she was up to the moment--in fashion--on the cutting edge. “What was wrong with her clothes? She asked herself.”
At lunch, Deserai did let Kerstin sit with her and talk to her about the Lord, but Kerstin did not feel as if she was getting through and she suspected that it was because she had not won Deserai’s confidence. Deserai kept eyeing Kerstin’s clothes. It appeared to be a big distraction for her.
As soon as Kerstin got home from school she called her Sunday school teacher, Mrs. Goss. When she answered, Kerstin said, “Oh, hi, Mrs. Goss, this is Kerstin Rhodes.”
Mrs. Goss smiled into the phone. “Hi, Kerstin, what can I do for you?”
“Well . . . someone at school made a comment that got me thinking. She said she hadn’t known I was a Christian because of the way I dress. What is she talking about? Do Christians have to dress a certain way?”
“Well, yes, Kerstin, I think so. I just taught on our appearance two weeks ago.”
Kerstin turned pink and was glad her teacher couldn’t see her. “Oh. I wasn’t there that week.”
“Still . . . I’m surprised that you don’t know how to dress. You’ve been in church pretty near all your life, haven’t you?”
“Yes, Mrs. Goss. Can you tell me what God has to say about how I dress?”
“Well, okay. First of all it was God who made long coats or coverings for Adam and Eve after they disobeyed him. That’s found in Genesis 3:21.
Secondly, clothes make a statement about the person.” She paused for effect, and then said, “Most people when they are going out in public dress to make a statement. The rich wear clothes that tell people they are rich. The hippies wear clothes that say they will not conform. The skateboarder wears baggie clothes to identify with other skateboarders. The prostitute wears clothes that advertise her wares and so on. I think you get my point.”
Feeling somewhat defensive, Kerstin said, “Well, yeah. My clothes say I’m a normal teenager.”
Mrs. Goss noticed the defensiveness in Kerstin’s tone, but she chose to go on with her argument. For scripture reference about how Christians should dress you can look up
1Timothy 2: 9-10. For another scripture that shows the importance of attire go to Zephaniah 1:7-8. Are you writing these down, Kerstin?”
Kerstin grabbed the pen and pad beside the phone and quickly scribbled down the scriptures references. “Yes, Mrs. Goss, please go on.”
“Well, then pertaining to the importance of how we dress there’s the new creature angle.”
“The Bible says Christians are new creatures and therefore they look and act differently than worldly people. Look up Ephesians 4:22-24 and 1Peter 1:14-16 to see what I mean. Also, Christians dress with consideration for others. They do not want to draw attention to or advertise their bodies because it may cause harm to men and boys, and wives and girlfriends.”
Kerstin drew her brows together severely. “You’ve lost me, Mrs. Goss. What would the one have to do with the other?”
“Skimpy attire excites men and boys to lust. Surely, Kerstin, you have been taught the facts of life by now. Men and boys get sexually excited when they see parts of a female’s body that they are accustom to seeing covered. Cleavage entices! Showing belly buttons entices! Legs showing up to buttocks entices!” Kerstin felt herself blushing. Mrs. Goss took her argument a step further. “I think the person who so entices males is a party to the sexual crimes that go on. The skimpy dresser wets their appetites and they hunt for someone to take it out on. That doesn’t go for all males. I mean bad guys, but still if you dress skimpily you are a guilty party in deliberately exciting a guy who may seriously hurt someone else. Then, Kerstin, there’s the wives and girlfriends. How do they feel about their guy looking at another woman’s private parts and salivating? So you see it hurts them too. I apologize for this crude talk, Kerstin, but indecent dressing causes indecent behavior. So God wants us to dress modestly so that we do not cause others trouble.”
By this time, Kerstin’s mouth was hanging open and with humility, she declared, “I never thought of this stuff, Mrs. Goss. I was just dressing cute like the other girls at school do. I like guys to look at me and like what they see. I just never thought about it the way you just said it.”
Mrs. Goss sighed, “I know Kerstin. That’s a problem in today’s world. People are just following the lead and not thinking things out. But I must say that the church leaders are to blame, in part. If people are just following others, our leaders need to lead our congregations more effectively in the area of proper covering.” Knowing that criticizing leaders was not a good thing, Mrs. Goss hurried on. “Anyway, some scriptures about dressing for the good of others are, Romans 14:13 and 14:21-23, and 15:2. I have one more point and that is that we are God’s witnesses. We are being watched, just as that girl at school pointed out to you. Look up 1Timothy 6:1 and 1Peter 2:9-12.”
Kerstin was feeling sick in her stomach. “Gosh, Mrs. Goss, it would be really hard to dress boring and plain. The thought of it turns my stomach.”
“I know Kerstin. That’s why we must renew our mind to what the Bible teaches. In Romans 12 it says be not conformed to the world but be transformed by the renewing of your mind. In order to follow Jesus and not the world you must renew your mind to think the way God teaches in the Bible. That’s how Jesus overcame. He thought God’s thoughts and resisted the world’s thinking. And he did 2Corinthians 10:4-5, too. He cast down vain thoughts and brought every thought into obedience to God. Romans 6:11-13 says we are not to let sin reign in our bodies, that we are instruments of righteousness.”
“Boy! I never even thought about two kinds of thinking pulling at people.”
“Absolutely, Kerstin, I quote 1John 2:15-17; Love not the world, neither the things that are in the world. If any man loves the world, the love of the Father is not in him. For all that is in the world, the lust of the flesh, and the lust of the eyes, and the pride of life, is not of the Father, but is of the world. And the world passes away, and the lust thereof: but he that doeth the will of God abides forever. I urge you to learn what that verse is talking about, Kerstin. But I do want to say, also, that one can dress very nicely and attractively without showing their secret parts”
Wearily, Kerstin answered, “Okay, Mrs. Goss, I’ll give this matter some serious thought. Thanks.” Kerstin hung up. Feeling overwhelmed, she curled up on her bed planning to think about what Mrs. Goss had said and sort it out. Words floated and whirled around in her head, but she could make no sense of it and soon she drifted into sleep.
Later that evening, she rallied enough to begin her search for the truth about godly dressing. In 1Timothy 2: 9-10 she read; “ In like manner also, that women adorn themselves in modest apparel, with shamefacedness and sobriety; not with broided hair, or gold, or pearls, or costly array; but (which becometh women professing godliness) with good works.”
Out loud, she said, “Ut oh. We really are supposed to dress modestly.” Then she read, Ephesians 4:22-24. “That ye put off concerning the former conversation the old man, which is corrupt according to the deceitful lusts; And be renewed in the spirit of your mind; And that ye put on the new man, which after God is created in righteousness and true holiness. Uh oh. I bet skimpy clothes come under the heading of deceitful lusts (high pressures).” Soon she was reading Romans 14:13. “Let us not therefore judge one another any more: but judge this rather, that no man put a stumbling block or an occasion to fall in his brother's way. Uh oh. We really are supposed to be careful for others.”
She read 1Peter 1:14-16. “As obedient children, not fashioning yourselves according to the former lusts in your ignorance: But as he which hath called you is holy, so be ye holy in all manner of conversation; Because it is written, Be ye holy; for I am holy. Uh oh. There’s no getting around that.” And then there was 2Corinthians 10:4-5 where she read; “ For the weapons of our warfare are not carnal, but mighty through God to the pulling down of strong holds;) Casting down imaginations, and every high thing that exalteth itself against the knowledge of God, and bringing into captivity every thought to the obedience of Christ. Uh oh.”
She read Romans 6:11-13. “Likewise reckon ye also yourselves to be dead indeed unto sin, but alive unto God through Jesus Christ our Lord. Let not sin therefore reign in your mortal body, that ye should obey it in the lusts thereof. Neither yield ye your members as instruments of unrighteousness unto sin: but yield yourselves unto God, as those that are alive from the dead, and your members as instruments of righteousness unto God. I guess God really means it.”
Reluctantly, she read 1Peter 2:9-12 “But ye are a chosen generation, a royal priesthood, an holy nation, a peculiar people; that ye should shew forth the praises of him who hath called you out of darkness into his marvellous light: Which in time past were not a people, but are now the people of God: which had not obtained mercy, but now have obtained mercy. Dearly beloved, I beseech you as strangers and pilgrims, abstain from fleshly lusts, which war against the soul; Having your conversation honest among the Gentiles: that, whereas they speak against you as evildoers, they may by your good works, which they shall behold, glorify God in the day of visitation. Uh oh.”
Under conviction, Kerstin felt literally nauseated. She didn’t watch any TV that evening, instead, she prayed for knowledge and understanding about the matter. Then she prayed for help to know and do God’s will.
The next morning when she awoke, she remembered her quest the day before and immediately felt sick to her stomach. “Mom!” she called. “I’m not going to school today! I don’t feel good!”
Her mother was there in an instant, feeling her forehead. “Are you sure? Where do you hurt?”
“I feel sick in my stomach, Mom. I just can’t go. I have a huge problem to work through.”
“Oh. Can I help?”
Kerstin’s eyes slid to the wall. “I don’t think so, Mom.”
“Oh. Well if you feel like confiding in me, please don’t hesitate. You know I want to help.”
“I know. Thanks, Mom.” Her mom went out of the room and Kerstin wished she could’ve talked to her, but it was obvious that her mom didn’t know it was wrong either or she would dress a little better herself and she have told her how she was to dress.
Kerstin wrestled with the subject of dress all week. She would dress for school as she had since seventh grade and then look in the mirror and feel ashamed. She would then start rummaging for tops that covered more and skirts that before she had hated because they weren’t short enough.
Determined to dress more modestly, she went shopping. That first trip was not very fruitful. She would pick up a top, decide that it was the right length and didn’t dip too much, and then immediately decide she didn’t like it at all. The same thing happened with the other items and after spending two hours shopping, she went home with one top and one skirt that she was sure she would hate. Gradually though, her clothes became more modest and as she got used to them, she began to feel more tolerant of them. Besides, she felt good inside, knowing she was pleasing Jesus.
Six weeks went by and one day Deserai approached her, “Hi Kerstin. I like your outfit. I must say I’m surprised to see that it covers everything.” Then realizing that she sounded catty, she covered her mouth and assured Kerstin, “I didn’t mean to be snide or anything. Maybe I shouldn’t have said that.”
“No. No, that’s all right, Deserai. I have to thank you for bringing my clothes to my attention. I didn’t realize, but now I know and I am striving to please God.
Deserai’s eyes went wide. “Wow! Maybe there is something to your religion. Can we talk again?”
A thrill of victory went through Kerstin. With a pleased smile, she said, “We certainly can. Do you want lunch with me today?’
“Yeah, that would be nice.”
“Great! See you then. And by the way, what I have is not religion; it’s a personal relationship with Jesus, my savior and God, my Father.”
© Sylvia Huffnagle
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