**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.