Ladies: Your Yoga Pants Are Destroying Men! (Revised)

I simply had to share this confessional after reading yet another article about the Indisputable Evils of Yoga Pants. These pants are worn regularly by temptresses around the globe, so much so that they require a follow-up article about immodest Christian women.

These were followed by some stern warnings from a male pastor (who is apparently easily distracted) by these Jezebel pants in the gym–where, of course, women are simply looking for sexual attention rather than trying to get in shape.

The articles are old, but it started showing up again on my Twitter feed this week. After reading them, I have a confession to make as a Christian man and minister, one that may be shockingly scandalous to all true Christians:

I allow my wife to wear yoga pants. In PUBLIC, of all places!

Worse yet, it doesn’t really bother me. When she heads to the gym in that oh-so-sexy pony tail, tight pants, and fleece—which is scandalously not zipped up enough to cover her upper chest and neck–I don’t say a word. And I don’t worry that some other man might see and lust after her.

Shame on me for not controlling my household and having such a Jezebel for a wife. She exercises in, you know, EXERCISE pants! I should probably ask forgiveness for this, as well as for letting her wear something with the name “yoga” attached to it.

Silly me…but I kind of think that men are responsible for their own behavior. As in a 1 Thessalonians 4 kind of way: “…each one of you should control your own body…

I work at a small, Christian university. I can state this as a fact to all the Anti-Yoga Pants advocates out there:  You are losing. Not just a little, but massively losing. As in a blowout. As in a Seahawks-Broncos Super Bowl type of blowout.

And yet, I can think of very few times where I considered any of the young ladies at our school–and certainly not my wife–to be excessively immodest or subliminally seeking sexual attention.

So, why do I care so much about this article being posted and re-tweeted?

Simple. I have a teenage daughter. The last thing I want her to read/hear/feel is that she is guilty for men behaving badly, because she dressed in a way that sought out sexual attraction and attention. These blog authors deny it, but their underlying theme supports this archaic notion.

One of these authors is a pastor and the other apparently seeks opportunities to speak to young girls and youth groups. (By the way, I find it strange to read about modesty of dress from a lady who professes a passion for red stilletos–because guys would never notice those, right?) I would not want either of them within ten yards of my daughter, and I would prefer that she stay at least that far from their writings.

I don’t want my daughter carrying the guilt that pastors and so-called youth “speakers” have heaped onto young women for years. I’ve ministered to young people for a long time, and I know all the routines. I’ve witnessed the eyerolls from the ladies at the youth retreats, where they get another speech about how “men are visual” and they have to cover themselves out of respect for that…(oh, and respect for themselves, because that’s important too).

I have also counseled many adult women who have carried those hot guilt coals on their heads for a long time. Perhaps it’s time to stop dressing up guilt and blame in the language of spirituality and modesty. Perhaps we could spend more time giving them confidence and value in Christ and less time talking about clothing.

Believe me, as husband of an exquisitely attractive wife and father of a 15-year old daughter, I am all in favor of female modesty. The first young lad who knocks on our door will find our young lady dressed as Joan of Arc, in full chain mail, steel armor and a very large sword. (He may also find me cleaning shotguns and sharpening large hunting knives when he comes into the house–and he will come in, or she will not go out).

However, I am equally opposed to the notion that my daughter should have to alter her clothing because men are too spiritually weak and irresponsible to control themselves. And that this is somehow okay because they are more “visual”.

Let’s dispense with the myth that men are tempted primarily because of what women wear, and that the Bible supports any such myth. Matthew 5:28 tells us that Jesus said, “But I tell you that anyone who looks at a woman lustfully has already committed adultery with her in his heart.”

Women weren’t exactly sporting outfits like Julia Roberts in Pretty Woman, or Kim Kardashian on, say, a Tuesday. And Jesus still had to warn the men to use some self-control and stop undressing women with their eyes.

It also does not describe Jesus calling over the ladies and saying to them, “Now, the men are lusting after you. But it’s not really their fault because they’re just more visual. So make sure you go out dressed in swaddling clothes, leaving only room to breathe through your nose. Because they’re too spiritually ‘soft’ to handle it.”

In those links above, the author shares some words from her husband about how difficult it is for men to keep themselves focused and under control when close to a woman wearing yoga pants. Here’s the thing:  If you can’t keep yourself focused on your workout and keep yourself from lustful thoughts a sweaty, smelly female next to you is wearing yoga pants, that is explicitly and exclusively a YOU problem.

But the problem goes well beyond some guy who can’t keep his eyes straight in the gym. These articles foster the same attitude that allows counselors at Bob Jones University to ask victims of sexual assault, “What were you wearing?” Or refer to them as “damaged goods”. It allows places like Sovereign Grace Ministries to create a culture of guilt, shame and silence, even as women and children are sexually abused.

Because if you were sexually assaulted, you must have been wearing something that put off a signal…right?

Again, the authors will deny that this is a product of their teaching. But read between the lines, and pay attention to the tone. They’ve softened the language and dressed it up in spiritual platitudes, but the general theme is the same. And it’s not okay.

My daughter learns from her mother and the other women in her family and church. Yes, some of these Delilahs wear those sinful yoga pants. But they also teach her that wisdom, strength of heart and mind, and a desire to seek what God wants her are more important than her clothes. Modesty is more about attitude than attire. She knows that her Christianity is defined by who she is, and that it’s not okay for anyone to make assumptions about her based on her outfit.

We are grateful that these women have given her a Deborah spirit, rather than warning her against a Jezebel spirit.

My daughter makes great decisions about modesty, but not because these women drilled a bunch of legalism into her head or convinced her about the sinful eyes of boys. In fact, she probably makes these decision because we don’t talk about clothes! Isn’t it interesting that teaching strength and character is empowering her to make good choices on her own?

I’m sorry to take up your time with yoga pants—but I see too many people that are paying too much attention to this stuff. I saw it in all my years of youth ministry, and we’re still treading the same water. So maybe it’s time to change our approach rather than repeating the insanity.

Maybe we should teach our girls more about what it means to have a Deborah spirit, or Mary spirit, or Lydia spirit. If we did, then the clothing issue might take care of itself.

Let me thank a few of the Deborah/Mary/Martha/Lydia/Phoebe ladies in our lives:  Amanda, Debbie, Leslie, Mandy, Chasity, Dina, Beth, Sissy, Laurie, Shannon, Mickey, Phyllis, Sarah, Mrs. Jo, Aunt Y, Wilma, Tonda, Colleen, Meredith, Liz and especially Kaci…just to name a few. I am grateful and thankful for all these women–and many more–as examples. But most of all I thank my wife Tracy for instilling her with the true values of a Christian woman.

5 Things I’ve Learned in 5 Weeks Out of Church

Consider this official. I am issuing an apology to every member of every church that I have served over the last 20+ years.

This past Sunday ended a personal record that I never thought I would reach. We hit five. We had missed church for 5 straight Sundays until this week. Somewhat in our defense, we have been out of town for three of those, after rarely having a weekend off in our 24 years of marriage. But for a couple of them, we just stayed home.

In my entire life, I don’t think that I’ve ever missed church more than two weeks in a row. I certainly didn’t as a child, not even in college. I started working in the church as a volunteer or staff person when I was 17. Besides that, mom wouldn’t let me come home for Sunday Lunch ‘n Laundry if I didn’t go to church.

I hope my parents don’t actually read this blog, because I’m in for a phone call and a lecture if they do. Well, I might be in for that anyway, but maybe it won’t be the “Go to church!” lecture.

I’m taking some solace in the people that say the family was due for a “sabbatical”, and maybe that was true. I’ve never worked a job outside of the church, nor did my father. In essence, I’ve been to church almost every Sunday for 43+ years and the break–I’m a little ashamed to say–is doing me some good. Once in a while, we need to step away from something for a time in order to truly appreciate it. At this point, I am beginning to feel a loss of fellowship, community, camaraderie, servitude, reflective conversations…all the things that make church worth it. While those may not be the Spiritually Correct things to miss, they are what I long for the most in this absence because they are the things that bring home the reality of the Living Christ. At least to me.

But this Sunday Sabbatical has also illustrated some things to me, particularly now that I am working a 9-to-5 (or, more like 7-to-6) day. Honestly, I’ve never had a real job before, one that occupied a truly specific time slot and required a very specific and demanding schedule. Yes, church work is intense, but the one perk is the flexibility that it often has.

I actually think that every pastor needs a season of the workaday world, as it would benefit both the leader and the led. It is amazing how much can be learned by living in the same mode as the people to whom you are called to minister. Here are a few of them:

1. Getting up for church is hard:

At times, I’ve been very judgmental of people who would not get up for Sunday School or showed up late to church or just attended once in a while. Perhaps it’s unfair, but part of a pastor’s job is to try and get people to show up. And I was one of those pastors that assumed something was wrong if people didn’t come to church.

How different it is on the other side.

Maybe all pastors need to work a regular job, if they haven’t done so in a while. When someone is putting in 40+ a week, plus commute time and the daily demands of life/family, it’s tough to choose to give up one of the few days that you have free in order to take on another responsibility. Even if it is a deep-seeded spiritual responsibility, it’s still something else added to the schedule.

 

2. Family Matters

Churches can be notoriously insensitive to family time. We must have one more meeting, event, dinner, Bible study or gathering on the calendar, because that’s what we’re supposed to do. We hold events and studies and conferences centered around family issues, while failing to recognize that we are contributing to an overwhelming, oppressive issue in family life:  Time.

I can hardly think of a time when a church says, “Why don’t we schedule a little less, so that we put less pressure on our families?” Maybe we could contribute to the spirituality of church members by slowing things down a little rather than speeding them up.

I also understand a lot more about why people choose to go to church with their extended families. It’s that much easier to stay engaged if you’re able to cover two bases at once. It also makes me glad that mom forced me to attend church as a prerequisite to Sunday lunch when I was in college…because I kind of miss that family time now.

 

3. Yes, It’s okay to attend church where your children want to go

It used to make me nuts when parents would look to change churches because their children decided they wanted to. Now that we’re church-hunting with a 15-year old daughter, we are absolutely listening to what she has to say on the matter.

I am not a fan of making a move every six months because the youth minister said something that your child does not like, or because your child’s friends told them about how much better their church is. Once you pick a lane, you need to stay with it. But as children get older, it is absolutely crucial to listen to their ideas and perceptions about church.

 

4. A Sunday off is not a damnable offense

It always used to puzzle me that church members felt I needed a lengthy explanation when they missed a Sunday. As a pastor, it is a fine line between pressuring people to attend and showing interest when they do not. But I always tended to take it a little personally when people missed a Sunday, and I think that showed (even when I tried to cover the emotion).

It probably was not personal at all. Sometimes, people just need a break. While I would never encourage people to take five weeks off, it is okay to step away; in fact, a Sunday or two away (or even visiting another congregation) can help to freshen your perspective on your church home.

 

5. Meaningful relationships are much better motivators than guilt

So for our first trip back to church, we went for a visit to our old church (where I pastored for a little less than three years). Just to make the contrast in experience complete, we sat on the back row–which is a totally different perspective in and of itself!

We were a little concerned that there would be weirdness, and it certainly felt strange to walk in as spectators rather than leaders. But then came the handshakes and hugs and high fives from people with whom we had worked hand in hand during our short tenure. And it was all a reminder that those things are much better motivators than guilt trips. It was a reminder of all that is good and right about church, even in the midst of the hardships and struggles that occur with any organization (even a religious one).

What we didn’t get was a lot of “‘Bout time you showed up!” or “Well where have ya’ll been?” or “Yeah, thanks a lot for leaving us!” (Okay, we did get one or two of those last ones, but generally in good fun). My guess is that when we say those things to people who have not attended in a while, it’s not much of a motivator for them to return on a regular basis. The handshake or high five or hug is probably a much more pleasant reminder of what is missed, and I’m sure it’s a much greater incentive to return than the healthy plateful of guilt we tend to dish out.

 

When I was a pastor/church staffer, I felt it was my personal and professional responsibility to get as many people to come to church as possible. In many ways, I was right. But I fear that I never had a true understanding of church from the other side, until I stepped away from it. After just five short weeks, I can already see some things that I wish I had known 25 years ago.

Don’t get me wrong, I still believe in the church, still believe it’s important to attend. But what I value in it has changed, and my understanding is much different from the outside, looking in, and sitting on the back pew.

So to all those former church members, if I bothered/guilt-tripped/harassed you for not attending church:  I’m sorry! I was doing my job and I really didn’t see it from your perspective.

But even greater than that, to those who faithfully attended, participated, led, sang, met, “committeed”, “deaconed”, taught, prayed, practiced, and prepared:  Thank you! A THOUSAND TIMES, thank you! I appreciate your commitment a thousand times more than I ever did–and should have–when I was a pastor. Unfortunately, it took this most recent life change to make me appreciate and value you the way that I should have all along.

I hope some pastors will read this, and learn the lesson a little sooner than I did.