False modesty

I have a navel ring now. I got it yesterday.

But don’t worry. I still love Jesus.

I wasn’t sure if I should talk about this or not. I have been very concerned with modesty and how it plays out in my family, especially since I am raising a girl. Lately the whole idea of discussing anything that could be even remotely construed as immodest feels like a landmine. I spend an inappropriate amount of time wondering if I am going to screw up ‘the talk’ when it rears its ugly head  (“Mommy, why don’t I show everyone my private body??” gulp…where to step…). It feels a bit like any answer I give her will give her some sort of weird hangup and she’ll need therapy someday. I don’t know how to raise children that are truly modest.

See, I don’t think modesty truly consists of just wearing your skirts down to “there” or your shirt a size too big, or whatever. Certainly I think that I am instructed to not put myself on display for the purpose of making everyone think about How Great I Art (am?). But pursuing modesty in appearance can become a trap too.

A few days ago, J and I were discussing navel piercing. I don’t remember why, I just remember that it happened. He said, “That’s hot.”

I said in surprise, “Why didn’t you ever say so before? I might’ve….”

“Well, I knew you wouldn’t do that, so I never bothered to bring it up.”

I am having a little of what I’m calling a third-life crisis (I’m too old for a quarter-life and too young for a mid-life crisis). It’s not as dramatic as it sounds. Basically I cut off all my hair, bought a few new clothes (new to me, anyway, and a couple brand new fair trade items), and now with this new dare, as I took it, I set out to find a place to have my belly button pierced.

So before J’s drum class last night, I told him we needed to make a stop first. We went to the piercing shop, all four of us. J helped pick out the ring. It felt like a reclaiming of my abdomen. After having a surgical birth, then a completely unmedicated one, I wanted to celebrate that I have made peace with my midsection in some really important ways. I think this could have been accomplished without a VBAC (or a navel ring, for that matter), but that’s how it happened for me.

Also, my husband thinks it is hot.

The deed accomplished, we proceeded to drum class. I was holding the baby and chatting with one of the teachers. He wiggled just so that my tender act of celebration and a hint of rebellion stung, so I told C (or “the beautiful Miss C” as E sometimes calls her) that I had just gotten my navel pierced. She was being very encouraging and sweet and said it was beautiful. I said that I didn’t plan on showing it off much, but that I was excited to have it. She said something like, “You could, you know…there’s nothing wrong with your belly.” “I know.” I said. “I think I look fine, it’s just…well you know, modesty…” Internally I cringed. That’s not what I meant. I meant that I primarily got it for myself and my husband.

I think sometimes people might feel unwelcome at Sunday Services because people inside it look at them and judge them as immodest, whatever the condition of their heart is. As I said before, I think modesty has to go deeper than wearing enough clothes. It is so much more than being embarrassed about your body. It means recognizing your body for what it is, and realizing what it is not. I am for my husband (navel ring and all), and not for everyone else to look at in certain ways. But I am also not in charge of what everyone else thinks about. I am, in all things, to strive to bring attention not to myself, but to God’s goodness, beautiful creativity, and redemptive power.

Like I said, I wasn’t sure if I was going to share the fact that I had pierced myself. But then I started thinking about it, probably too much as usual, and it started to feel like false modesty not to. So there you go. I’m almost 30 and now I have a navel ring. And most people probably won’t ever see it. And I’m fine with that. And lots of other people have navel rings and everyone can see them all the time. And I’m fine with that too.


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