I grew up in California, so naturally I love swimming, laying out by the pool, going to the beach and water skiing. Being in the sun was (and still is) my favorite.
I was taught that modesty was very important, so I always wore a one piece swim suit. At church I learned that dressing modestly meant that I need to wear shorts, dresses or skirts, that came to my knees. I needed to wear shirts that covered my stomach and shoulders. None of my clothes were supposed to be tight, sheer or revealing. I adhered to these rules, more or less (definitely less, when I went running).
After I started my family, I taught my daughters that modesty was important (let’s be honest, modesty is a rule that only affects the girls and women). Wearing proper swim wear was important. I bought my girls and myself tankinis (because it was soo much easier than a one piece swimsuit!).
My husband understood my deep love of the sun and water, and so we built a swimming pool. The kids and I spent almost everyday (except Sunday) around the pool, dressed in our modest tankinis. Modesty was our family rule.
Then we had a dilemma. What were we supposed to do about our kids friends? How could we make sure that our pool was a place of fun AND modesty? My husband and I decided that we would have a ‘no bikini’ rule for our pool (I felt the rules shouldn’t be only about the girls, so we also said no Speedos).
Our rule made things awkward.
When our kids invited friends over, they had to tell them our modesty rule. When my adult friends came over in bikinis, I offered them a tank top to wear. We were serious about modesty. We were taught modesty at church and we knew that God wanted His people (women) to dress modestly. Our family was good at following rules and we wanted to please God.
Then in my mid-thirties my husband and I hit a rough patch in our marriage. After seven babies and years of nursing, we needed to rekindle the romance. I needed to be me. I needed to be a wife. I need to take a break from being 100% mom, all of the time.
So, we committed to going on a date every week and taking trips away from the kids once a quarter. Naturally, our trips involved a lot of sun and sand (because that is how much my husband loves me).
After many painstaking months, I decided to wear a bikini. I wanted to feel beautiful, sexual, and sexy. I wanted my husband to see me as his lover, and not just the mother of his children. I figured that God cared about our marriage. I figured that He wanted us to grow closer.
I wore bikinis on our romantic rendezvous. My husband took a lot of pictures. He became wonderful photographer. I made sure that he kept the pictures that he took, on his phone. All of the photos that I took, were ‘appropriate’ for the family photo album.
Then it happened.
We were sitting, as a family, looking at old family photos. I had my computer plugged into our large screen television. Did I mention that our television is large? All of my kids were focused on the big screen when it came up. A photo of me in a bikini.
I did what I could to change the picture, but it seemed like it was frozen on the big screen for several minutes (I’m sure it was just a few seconds), but, it was too late. The damage was done. My daughters had seen me in a bikini.
My ten-year old daughter (the oldest) was crushed.
Later that night, she asked if we could talk. She was really upset that I had broken our family rule. She didn’t understand why I wasn’t modest. She was right. I had broken our family rule. I wasn’t modest. I felt guilty.
We had three subsequent conversations that involved lots of tears and frustration. My daughter was crushed. I tried every which way to explain to her that I was an adult in a married relationship and that married people act differently than children. I tried to be delicate as I explained the importance intimacy and sexuality in marriage. None of it mattered. She was inconsolable. I thought I had done what was good for my marriage. I didn’t know how to make it better. She was still upset.
Finally, after the fourth conversation, she told me. She told me what had upset her the most.
“Mom, if you wear a bikini, then our family can’t be together in heaven.”
This time I was shocked. I was upset. I was sad. Had I taught this to my daughter? What was she learning at church that made her believe that wearing a bikini could keep someone out of heaven? Had I led her to believe that God would keep our family out of heaven just because of my clothing? Was God that cruel? Was modesty more important then my marriage?