Tuesday, February 19, 2013
Standing Out or Blending in: Modesty in An Era Where Modesty Stands Out
It goes something like this: Yes we're Catholic, but that doesn't mean we have to look or behave or have homes that are different than everyone else. A home that "looks like someone robbed a Church" makes me uncomfortable. Wearing long dresses and long sleeves is immodest, because you stand out and modesty is all about not standing out. I can't stand books or curriculum that is filled with Catholic traditions, because everything doesn't have to scream that it's Catholic to be good and if is overly Catholic (referring usually to fiction here) it's not all that good.
There are parts that I agree with. I don't think a book has to be Catholic to be good. I'd say that majority of my favorite books are classics, and while they may touch on Catholicism since it was such a huge part of life in the particular cultures they were written in when they were written, they aren't books about Catholicism. However, I can't help but disagree about taking the next step and saying that modern fiction that portrays our faith is then inherently lacking.
And now I am Catholic and, inevitably, my faith and life, will overflow into my work. To try to stifle that would, in effect, stop the words.
Of course, it doesn't stop on the written page. I am Catholic. That reality, that belief in a God who made the ultimate sacrifice and who calls us all to follow him, to take the narrow path and pick ourselves up when we fall and cast ourselves on his mercy again and again, influences every other part of my life.
And I love the way it looks. I love the giant Last Supper that I never would have claimed on my own, that Paul has carefully packed from California to Florida to Michigan. I love the Sacred Heart of Jesus painting, with such gentle eyes, that Sadie ran up to earlier this week as I tried to decide on a spot to hang it, yelling: "My husband! My husband!" before gently kissing the painting and then worrying aloud about how high I would hang it so "Maggie doesn't hurt my husband!"
I'm sorry if the way my home looks makes some people uncomfortable because they "can't stand that type of house" but then, they don't have to live here. I'm less of a fan of modern design and furniture, but that doesn't mean I go around blathering about how it "makes me uncomfortable." It doesn't make me uncomfortable, because the idea of someone else having taste that is different from mine is perfectly normal.
I love that these old pictures mean that our children talk about the saints that they see in them like they're old family members.
Naturally, my faith has overflowed into the way I dress.
It may not fit our modern culture, although I feel my style fits here in Michigan, more than it's fit anywhere else. I see women in skirts and headcoverings every time I leave the house and I find myself far less traditionally dressed than many of the women I pass in the grocery store or on the street. And no, I don't think anyone has thought I was Muslim or Amish (which I have been asked here in the past) because honestly, we dress differently as a result of culture, and thus have different results in our search for modest dress.
Then again, I've never been a fashionista. I certainly tried a time or two, but my natural nerdy-geekiness has meant that I've always stood out as "different" in one way or another, in a culture that so often values uniformity. And I'm at a point in my life where when readers occasionally tell me that now "my husband is so glad I don't look like you" (that was a while back and it still makes me laugh, because seriously, who writes things like that?), it rolls of my back.
I'll be wearing it with my longer than average skirts, not looking like I stepped off the runway. I probably will fit the bill of "immodest" dress, as stated by certain bloggers who really wish we'd all just look exactly the same and stop insisting that certain body parts might be better up not shown to everyone on God's green earth (while simultaneously saying it's immodest to even speak of such things and the topic should just be banned), with the pieces I'll fit together from what I have in my closet. I have neither the money, nor the desire to go chasing after being just like everyone else at this point in my life.
And to be honest, I don't go around judging other outfits by some imagined standard of "modest." I just try to keep particular body parts covered, loosely enough that you can tell I'm a lady, but fitted so you can still tell I'm a woman (as the saying goes), and try to keep the toddler from stripping down and running around in a diaper while climbing store displays and that keeps me plenty busy without worrying about what anyone else is doing.
I guess in the end it just seems odd to me to be told true modesty is following the crowd, because you can't be modest if you stand out.
If we follow Christ, we're going to stand out. We're supposed to. We need to be a light to the world. The instructions to be in the world, but not of the world, keep echoing in my ears. When we strive to follow Christ in our lives, it's likely going mean we look different than the cultural average, in our words and speech, in our dress and in the way our homes look and run. What we hold as important is going to be different than the status quo. That's just how it is. The lover seeks to draw close and be more like the one that he loves. And when we let that love in it changes every aspect of our lives and eviscerates much of what we thought was important. The love that overflows from our hearts is going to transform our corner of the world. And that isn't going to leave us blending in with everyone else. He never intended it to.