I sat down on the beach blanket, completely out of breath. Sand all over my legs and arms, I collapsed onto the ground, exhausted as I sipped a cold Coke out of a glass bottle and looked at the beautiful, sparkling Pacific Ocean before me.
Recovering from throwing a football around for a while in the hot sun with my dad (which, for the record, almost killed me - the guy has the arm of a freakin' quarterback.) I smiled, thankful for the gorgeous last beach day of the summer spent with my sweet family on the Malibu shore. As I relaxed on the big quilt, someone pointed out a group of jumping dolphins, just feet past the crashing waves ahead of us - a breathtaking sight. The beach was pretty full that day, tourists sunbathing and local family's building sandcastles all around. But one particular little family caught my eye. A kind-looking grandmother set beach bag, ice chest and towels near my family's rainbow-umbrella beach perch, and she smiled at me as I noticed she had a little boy with her - obviously her grandson - who was about 6 years old. They made a cute pair as they settled on their blanket and snacked on grapes and chips. The grandmother had such a sweet spirit, and as the afternoon progressed, I noticed her diligent care and interaction with the little boy. She lovingly chatted with him, suggested ideas for fun play, but also carefully shepherding and leading him. When he began, unknowingly, kicking up sand with a little shovel as he excitedly filled his pail, she gently said, "Sweetie, be careful. You're accidentally throwing sand onto our neighbors." As she smiled over at us. When he ran too far into the shoreline waves, she gently but firmly reminded, "Son, you must be careful to only go as far as I told you. Grandma can't see you when you are too far out, and I'm unable to swim because of my knee problems. Stop and think of others." And when the little one darted back and forth across the sand, having childish fun while unthinkingly blocking the paths of seaside walkers, she took him aside and graciously explained, "People are trying to take a walk on the sand, you are blocking their path... you need to be careful to think of other people and put them before yourself."
As the afternoon sun sank through the clouds above the sea, a group of young people arrived and made their way down to the beach, positioning themselves slightly in front of my family's spot. As we read magazines and snacked on fresh cherries, I noticed the group laughing, joking, and interacting. They were about my age - in their 20's. And one needn't be very observant or look at them very long to notice something very blatant about their group: the young woman was wearing a thong. Not just a skimpy bikini....but a thong bikini. (And by the way, super awkward writing out that word on my blog!!) At first I thought, "Wait... who wears a thong out in public as they throw frisbees around on the beach with a group of guy friends? I must have been mistaken.." But sure enough, as she ran in front of our beach towel and bent over to pick up a fallen frisbee, my suspicions were confirmed.... unfortunately, as I turned to look away and nearly gag. The rest of the afternoon - as my family tried to look for dolphins on the horizon and relax on the sand, she bopped around in front of us... and every other family trying to enjoy their wholesome beach day. She flitted back and forth, overtly showing off her body as she ran across the sand, bouncing around and laughing loudly. At one point, she positioned her friend's surfboard on the sand in view of all the beach-goers, and stood on it. She spent about an hour chatting with her group as they laid on their beach towels, relaxing - while she bounced back and forth on the board, practically dancing around in her barely-there swimsuit, clearly begging for the attention of innocent families trying to enjoy their time by the sea. If I were to be completely honest with you, I would admit that this whole scene really irked me. In times like these, I tend to go all "Joan Of Arc", a passion against wrong and injustice just well up inside my heart and take over. I nearly approached the gal and told her to put some clothes on, as something in me was just sure it was against the law to wear a thong on a public California beach (and just for the record, it totally is - I later looked it up...touche!) but I didn't (instead, I just threw the football...really hard.) My group averted our gaze as she paraded around, causing an uncomfortable and awkward situation in a mixed group. But I couldn't help but look over at the grandmother and little boy I'd formerly noticed, and see a stark contrast between the separate groups who sat on either side of my quilt.
The woman on my right, quietly and kindly concerned for others - carefully taking the opportunity to input into her precious grandson's life a sense of thoughtfulness and care for those around him as she instructed and guided him to think of other's before himself.
And the woman on my left, absolutely oblivious to the feelings, hearts, and eyes of those around her. Completely enveloped in her self, she simply thought of her own needs and her own insecurities - flagrantly flaunting her body to get attention, distracting the eyes of the men on the beach, unmindful and careless of the children around her. Totally absorbed in herself.
Friends, I'm not sharing this with you to bash anyone, get up on my soapbox or preach a "prudish" message. But I am bringing this up because I believe it's important.... not just the idea or act of what I witnessed that day in Malibu, but of a greater heart issue involved. An issue I considered more carefully after this experience. An issue we, as women, must think about and consider.
Hey I get it - people can wear what they want to the beach and that's not my business. But I think we can all agree that showing your backside at a public, family beach is simply inappropriate. I don't care if you're a guy or a girl - I really don't wanna have to look at your backside as I'm enjoying a day at the beach with my family. But even further, she was clearly gaining quite a bit of "attention" from the majority of men on the beach - the husbands, the teenage boys, the grandpas. Totally selfish behavior, causing distraction and encouraging lust in the hearts of men so that she would feel "beautiful" and "loved". It was truly such a far cry from the dynamic on our other side - the care-filled grandmother who's main concern was others, not herself. And I thought - what a picture. A contrast of a selfish heart's actions, and a heart striving to put other people first.
My sweet readers, this particular post is not going to turn into a "5 Steps To Dressing Modestly" sermon. Growing up as a homeschooled PK (pastor's kid, for you unfamiliar with the lingo ;) and spending 4 years living on the campus of a very conservative Christian college, I have heard (and given) my share of "modesty talks." I think their guidelines can be very helpful and needed, especially in groups such as schools. This is a whole topic that I'm not going to explore in depth today. Guidelines for dressing in a way that pleases God, in a way that is appropriate for a Christian young woman, is helpful. Practical tips and advice are wonderful. But I think it goes deeper than just a list that says, "Okay, cotton dresses in dark fabric that go 12 inches past the knee is acceptable" or "Wearing a certain color really causes men to stumble." I've, honestly, seen girls covered up in baggy t-shirts and jeans who draw more attention to themselves than if they were sporting a minidress simply because of the way they interacted with guys - the way they talked, what they talked about, and how they drew attention to themselves in a selfish way simply by words and sexual innuendos. So, instead of sharing tips and tricks for dressing modestly, I want to simply bring up one thing to our attention, ladies. It can be so easy for us as women to use our physical bodies to gain attention and to ultimately be...self-centered. And after the little scene I viewed that day on the beach, I decided to strive to ask myself a question - in this area of my life, but also other areas:
Am I putting myself first?
Or am I careful to think of other people,
treating them as I would like to be treated?
It is truly a convicting reality. And it spreads into every area of our lives.
"Each of you should look not only to your own interests, but also to the interests of others."
"And He (Jesus) answered,
'Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your strength
and with all your mind, and love your neighbor as yourself."
I want to be like that precious grandmother on the beach that day....
Just somethin' to think about.
I pray that we choose to be women of God.
Women who embrace sexual purity.
Women who choose to be ladylike.
Who choose to say "no" to the world's standards of beauty.
The ones we see on TV and in fashion ads.
May we choose to be different.
May we be unafraid to speak out in this ever darkening culture.
May we see true, inner beauty as precious.
Women whose inner beauty shines much brighter than our outer.
We fail, we fall, we make mistakes, we get all wrapped up in ourselves.
But at the end of the day, may our hearts grow less and less selfish
and more and more focused on others...
Love y'all. Alot.
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