That Time Yoga Pants Blew Up My Facebook…

**I want to say up front that I HATE conflict of any type, and I legitimately see ALL sides to this issue.  I am trying to tread a fine line here, while also acknowledging my feelings and beliefs.  So let me begin with the blanket assertion… if what I write seems offensive to you, I am sorry.  I didn’t mean it that way.  I promise**

A few weeks ago, I posted an article to my timeline that was reminiscent of some conversations I had with my roommates in college.  I thought we would have a chuckle and that would be that.  To my surprise, the link began filling up with comments almost immediately.  Clearly I had hit a nerve.

The article was on the debate about whether yoga pants and leggings are appropriate things for Christian women to wear.  The comments were so immediate and so passionate, that I realized there was much more to the issue than meets the eye.  And when I reflected upon it, my feelings ran deep too.  So here is my response.  To everyone.

Let me start by stating the obvious.

1) There are more important issues in Christendom.  People are dying.  Souls are at stake.  Yes.  Let’s dig wells and seek reconciliation and lift high the name of God.  But, with the level of emotion here, I think this may also be an issue that needs to be brought to the table.

2) Dressing modestly is important.  I do not wear string bikinis, crop tops, or short skirts.  I do think that it is part of our responsibility as Christian women to “dress modestly, with decency and propriety” (1 Timothy 2:9).  However, the issue here is not push up bras.  This conversation is about yoga pants.  First cousin to sweatpants.  Just to be clear.  I also realize that there are some black sheep yoga pants out there that were designed to entice.  However, I think it’s safe to say the people wearing these items are not reading this blog.  So stinging rhetoric in the blogosphere is not the most effective way to address this issue.  My assumption is that the women reading this blog own yoga pants paired with hooded sweatshirts, and leggings sold to be pants and not followed by ‘-yhose’.

OK.  That out of the way, here we go.  *deep breath*

The number one argument used against leggings/yoga pants/female clothing trend in debate is usually this…

Be careful, however, that the exercise of your rights does not become a stumbling block to the weak.  For if someone with a weak conscience sees you, with all your knowledge, eating in an idol’s temple, won’t that person be emboldened to eat what is sacrificed to idols? So this weak brother or sister, for whom Christ died, is destroyed by your knowledge.  When you sin against them in this way and wound their weak conscience, you sin against Christ. Therefore, if what I eat causes my brother or sister to fall into sin, I will never eat meat again, so that I will not cause them to fall.
-1 Corinthians 8:9-13

Following this line of thought, men who view women in tight pants can stumble, by being caught up in lustful thoughts.  Valid.

However, I would like to bring up another side to this debate.  What if the person caused to stumble into sin by this current debate is me?

Here is the thing.  My body image has always been a stumbling block to me.  I struggled with eating disorders in high school.  I have never once felt comfortable in tight, or even correctly fitting… anything.  And, as I grow older, I realize how MUCH emphasis is put on women’s bodies by the media, by society’s norms, and by my fellow sisters in Christ.  Female actors are critiqued on the clothes that they wear instead of the words that come our of their mouth.  In a middle school girl’s argument, the worst thing you can say is “well you’re FAT.”  We as women are constantly under a microscope- it feels as if our body does not belong to us, but to the public domain.  Am I a person, or an object?  Each time a wardrobe debate comes up, and they come up often, the message is reinforced that there is something inherently wrong about my body.  That I have to change, to hide, to be ashamed of my physical self.

In the church we speak a lot about souls.  And there is this implicit thought that we as humans are souls trapped within bodies.  That this physical container is merely a temporary holding place, something we must deal with until we are set free by death.  At best, our body is labeled as a temple- but still the message is that we have to care for it, feed, water, and exercise  to make sure it is an acceptable holding place for the Spirit of God.

But what if, as humans, we are souls created WITH bodies?  That our body, just like out soul, is part of the way God created us?  That my physical self is just as much ME as my mind or my soul or my heart?  That instead of hating it, starving it, resenting it, or hiding it, it is part of my journey as me? That coming to love me, my body, it’s limitations, its daily embarrassments, is part of my journey of faith?  Let’s put it out there- we all fart.  Perhaps that is a means of teaching humility.  We all have parts of our bodies we would change if we could.  Maybe that reminds us that God’s plans are higher than our plans.

This is probably one of the few times you will hear me talk about my body, or my struggles with self image.  Why?  Because I don’t want that to become a defining storyline of my life.  I don’t want to pass along a legacy of shame about my body to my children.  Because I have decided that the way I look, the numbers on a scale, the jiggle in my yoga pants, isn’t what matters about me.  That may sound trite, but for me, this is a huge battle.  One I fight daily.  And it’s one fought by us all one one level or another.  So be gentle with each other.

Here is the thing I have noticed recently- the main people objecting to yoga pants these days?  Women.  Females judging other females.  Sisters, why are we tearing each other down?  Why are we so busy policing each other, instead of encouraging each other?  What logs in our own eyes are we ignoring as we focus on the splinters in others?

Perhaps you hate my yoga pants… but honestly, isn’t there something else more important to say to me?  Like- ANYTHING else?  Because the fact I am wearing yoga pants today probably says a lot about the kind of morning I had- wrestling two toddlers into clothes and on to school.  Or maybe it speaks to the fact that I spent some time on myself today and went for a run.  That’s something I am proud of, and had to sacrifice to do.  Let’s focus more on the why of the pants, instead of the what.  It leads to a better place.

yoga pants

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A reminder

Just in case anyone else needs this today…

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our God.

I have always had a close relationship with God.  Growing up, I never knew a time when I didn’t belive, when I didn’t know Jesus.  I started reading my Bible when I was young.  My faith has sustained me through  the hardest times of my life.

However, I always felt like my faith was a private thing.  I didn’t often talk about my prayer life, about my time spent reading my Bible, or in devotions.  People knew I was a Christian, but the everyday mechanics of my faith felt like an intensely private thing to me.  The heart of this was good.  I didn’t want to alienate others, or make others feel intimidated by my relationship with God, or feel like they had to compare their walk with mine.

However, in that privacy, a seed of sin was planted.  A tiny sprout of pride grew, and its roots settled into my heart.  It looked spiritual, and sounded virtuous, so I didn’t recognize it for what it was.  But when I read about Mary finding favor with God, or David being a man after God’s own heart, I smiled inwardly, feeling that I had a place amongst this elite club.  I read my Bible cover to cover every year.  As years passed, and I had read my Bible 10, 11, 12 times, I began to feel as if I had this God stuff figured out.  It’s ironic, because I didn’t share my devotional practices with anyone because I didn’t want to seem to be bragging.  And yet, my heart was as prideful as they come.

As I have written before, last year I intentionally DIDN’T read my Bible through.  I spent the entire year in John.  Reading a verse at a sitting, instead of many chapters.  It was hard.  Incredibly hard, I felt a nagging voice in my head telling me that I wasn’t achieving enough for God.  But, for the first time, I was talking openly about my faith.  I started speaking with a spiritual director.  I started this blog.  I forced myself to say out loud that I have read the Bible all the way though.

And as I let the light in, I see my faith for what it is.  Strong.  Ordinary.  Treasured.  Human.  SO much more dependent on God’s faithfulness to me than mine to Him.

IMG_6647As the year began to draw to a close, I found myself wondering what was next.  Read another book?  Slow or fast?  What was I to do?  And then God answered.  I was meeting with a girl from the youth group, and she was asking me about how to read the Word of God.  We decided to read the Bible this year together.  Meeting every few weeks to talk about it.  Devotion, with fellowship.  Accountability.  Engaging together with scripture, and with God.

This is how our faith is meant to be.  Don’t get me wrong- our God is PERSONAL. You can’t read scripture and not see that (check Psalm 139 for proof).  But our faith is not meant to be private.  God instructs Christians as a community.  In scripture, most of the time when we read the word ‘you’, it is meant to be plural, not singular.  John Dyer explains this concept better than I can..

…Since the Protestant Reformation we’ve tended to emphasize the salvation of the individual and, with inverse proportion, downplayed God’s work in the Church as a community of people.

There are, of course, many reasons for this, but I think that two technologies (i.e. human inventions) have exacerbated the issue: (a) The technology of the book which encourages us to encounter Scripture textually in isolation rather than orally in a group; and (b) The technology of the English language (again, a human creation) which doesn’t have an agreed upon second person plural and therefore discards or hides important biblical data.

The scriptures were originally shared orally, told from parents to children, passed along in community.  Then, the New Testament was written, primarily in letter form… intended to be read aloud in church, and then passed along to other communities of believers.  With invention of the printing press, the Bible was put into the hands of the individual.  A priceless gift, don’t get me wrong, but one that can make us forget that we are to practice our faith in community.

So my resolution this year is to read my Bible.  In community.  In fact, I have begun reading it at the breakfast table, with my two kids right there.  So that they can see their mother read the Word of God.  And I am going to talk about it.  With my teenage friend.  And with others.  I am going to dive deeper into friendships, say the hard and vulnerable things, and try and allow others to really know me.  I am going to continue with Spiritual Direction.  In sum, continue to have a PERSONAL faith, but no longer make it PRIVATE.  It’s scary.  But here I go… IMG_6701

yours to carry

Something has bothered me deeply about the national discourse on Robin William’s death.  So much so that I didn’t want to write this post, because I didn’t want to use his name in vain.  I didn’t don’t want to use his death for my purposes.  I am not going to reference it any more in this post… but here is what I have to say.  His death isn’t about you.  It’s not yours.  It belongs to him.  And his family.

When something terrible happens to someone famous, we all have reactions.  We have opinions.  We have memories of the person, ways their life touched us or affected ours.  But the truth is, we didn’t know them.  They aren’t real to us.  We see glimpses, roles played, the public persona, not the person inside.  And so the loss of that person, while sad, isn’t world ending.  When something like this happens, and the world is captivated by the loss, the lingering public discourse always hurts me.  I can’t bring myself to click on the articles.  I don’t want to know the gory details, hear what the talking heads think, see the Top 10 Lists of best movie roles, their 14 best Golden Globe outfits, etc etc etc.  The truth is, this was a person.  They have friends.  A family.  Children.  And I can’t imagine losing someone I love desperately, and having to hear the rest of the world discuss them over the water cooler.

The same thing happens at our nation’s major tragedies.  I hate to see the reporters swarming a school shooting.  I refuse to read the profiles of the shooters.  I just don’t want to know.  Why?  Because in my mind, this person’s motivation was to become known.  They want the world to know their name.  To be captivated by their actions, their monstrosities.  When I refuse to click on the link, I refuse to reward the acts of terror.  We have to face it.  We have a celebrity culture.  We are watching the glitterati 24 hours a day.  In our country, to be important is to be famous.  To know about the comings and goings of the famous gives us something in common, something to talk about.  A seat at the table.

But here is the problem with that… we don’t actually have that in common.  We are just outsiders, looking in on someone else’s life, someone else’s tragedy.  The heartbreak of the people on the news is not ours to carry.  We can’t bring them a meal, show up at the wake, sit with them while they cry… we aren’t a part of their life.  We are just gawking at them from the other side of the screen.

In a way, I believe that the best ministry we can have to those people is privacy.  Give them the space and the room to mourn.  Show support and empathy, but hold the spectacle.  Stop the discourse.  This tragedy isn’t an issue, it’s a life.  A person.  A person in pain- not that uncommon.  We spend our lives surrounded by hurting people.  People whose lives we can impact.  Stories we can carry with us.  These are the people that need our presence, our ministry, our attention.  Have an opinion on depression?  Suicide?  How much time have you spent walking alongside someone who has been depressed?  Sat with people who have been robbed of loved ones by suicide?  These people are yours to carry.  Engage with them, engage with your world.  Instead of blogging, commenting, or tweeting about these issues, it’s time for us to get our hands dirty.  To invite our neighbors, friends, and coworkers into our lives and communities, and to do life with those in pain.  We can talk about suicide until we are blue in the face, but no amount of awareness, no pithy statement is going to stop this epidemic.  That hope lies within the context of relationship; it lies in face to face conversations; meals spent together; loving faces to witness the darkness of the pit.

That’s how Jesus did his ministry- not in public announcements, press releases, or blog posts (parchment posts?) but in living life with a group of people.  The disciples lives were transformed during nights around the campfire, fish roasting on a spit.  Jesus was deeply involved his people, and those people in turn, transformed the world.  It’s easier to stand at a distance and voice our opinions… but the reality is that nothing changes this way.  Dive in… engage… be present. Be with the people you are with, not the people you watch from afar.

Flipping the Switch

So… relationships can be hard for me.  It takes me a long time to warm up to people, and really let them in.   I will let pretty much anyone know facts about my life, but to see the real emotion and vulnerability behind those facts, that takes time.  Time measured in months and years, not minutes.  This is not something I particularly like about my personality, but I don’t know how to change itswitch.

I’ve been hurt by friends over the years, and it has caused me to develop a coping mechanism I call ‘flipping the switch.’  If I perceive that a friend is checking out of the relationship, or that I am bothering them, I’m gone.  I emotionally flip the switch.  I’m still nice, present, pleasant… the friend may not even notice the difference.  But I do.  I’m out.  This is NOT how Christ calls me to live.  I think about Judas, at the Last Supper, in the days and months before that.  Jesus still allows him to be one of his circle.  He still invites him to the table.  Judas hears the same words, feels the same blessing as the others, even though Jesus knows what he will do.  Let’s be honest, no slight or hurt from my friends can compare to being sent to your death on the testimony of on of your best buddies.

Flipping the switch may keep me safe, but it also keeps me alone.  I am not practicing hospitality, not investing in community, when I intentionally hold myself back from a friendship.  I have noticed another thing too- if I know a relationship is time limited, I never even consider investing in it.  If I know a friend is moving away, leaving my bubble, or in my life for just a season, I don’t want to let them into my inner world.  I don’t want to risk the inevitable hurt and heartache of goodbye.  So instead, I cheat myself out of a chance to be known, to truly know someone else.  All because I am afraid of the goodbye.  This, I am certain, is not what God wants.  This is my hidden sin.  Because here is the truth: we cannot be held accountable unless we allow people to see us.  See the real us, our hearts, our hopes, and our faults.

A friend is always loyal, and a brother is born to help in time of need Proverbs 17:17

I think that when God calls us to live a life of hospitality, he is asking us to let people in, not only to our homes and our lives, but to our hearts.  For our good, and for theirs.  We must risk pain, risk rejection, risk loss, in order to gain the companionship and the accountability we need.  When I feel the knee jerk impulse to check out of a friendship, I need to notice.  To examine the situation.  To fight it, and to lean in deeper.

But how do you do that?  How do you keep the switch from flipping?