As I studied the Scriptures and wrestled with the implications of feminine attire only, I realized what most of us already know: the Bible is not self-interpreting. I don’t care what theologians say, if the Bible was self-interpreting there would be no need for commentaries. So, with that understanding now in hand, I started asking around to other people.
The first thing I found is that this subject is totally uninteresting to most people. Whenever I would bring it up the reactions ranged from thinly-veiled boredom to looks of outright puzzlement and even annoyance, on occasion. Now, granted, I can be annoying (just ask Blake), but it’s hard to realize that NO ONE was interested in this. I mean, after all, we’re talking about abominations here. Everyone’s willing to discuss them in regard to the books of Daniel and Revelation and the End Times, but what about the ones in our daily lives?
There were some reactions of wonderment that I would waste my time on something so frivolous as clothing when there are babies being aborted, a world headed to Hell and souls to save. However, I recall that God struck down Aaron’s sons for getting creative with the incense recipe for worship. Apparently, little things do matter to God. Often the reaction would be something like, “Well, God looks on the heart.” Yep, and man looks on the outward appearance and that’s what God’s talking about here. God never condemned us for looking at the outward appearance, that’s all we’ve got. He was simply pointing out to Samuel not to get over-awed by good looks. Only He can judge the heart and, apparently, our outward actions (including how we dress) reflect something of our hearts.
I ended up searching online for people’s views, finding out what Elisabeth Elliot thought, and talking to women who wore dresses all the time. After all, these were women who had thought about it and concluded to live contrary to the current culture as a result. What I couldn’t find was anyone who had studied this issue and come to a different conclusion. Anyone I found who had studied it had ended up going to dresses full-time. So, in April 1997, I went to dresses as well.
It was a hard change in some ways simply because of some of the looks I got. It’s very hard to swim upstream when everyone else is going the other way. I also struggled with why most women involved in public ministries didn’t have this conviction or ever mentioned even considering it. It was also hard because I wanted to be sure I didn’t get a “holier-than-thou” attitude, yet it was hard not to be perceived as having one because I was obviously doing something so different from everyone else and it was due to the desire to be obedient to God. Therefore, if I believe this to be obedience, then by default, they must be being disobedient. I didn’t actually feel that way, but continued to struggle with the whole issue for a long time. At one point I came across a pamphlet from a Mennonite publisher called, “Others May, You Cannot.” It was very helpful in explaining that there are times when God calls some people to lifestyles and practices to which He doesn’t call everyone. That gave me a lot of perspective and helped me to accept my own “oddness” and become comfortable with my own convictions even if they weren’t the convictions of others.
One question I think some may wonder is, where was Nolan in all of this. First, let me clarify that Nolan has never been a heavy-handed husband! 🙂 He’s always had a lot of respect for me and my own walk with God. Second, at that time Nolan was pastoring full-time as well as driving for a local cement plant full-time for nine months of the year. He was busy, he was tired and it wasn’t his area of interest. When I decided to wear dresses only, he was fine with it. He admired me for sticking by my convictions. He did say, though, that since this was my conviction and not the family conviction, I wasn’t to require our daughters to wear dresses only.
As I was studying this issues, I was also studying other issues: head-coverings, divorce & remarriage, women in ministry, women in the church, Bible versions, and many others. I had the sense that there would come a time when we would leave Rudyard and probably the evangelical church. I figured we were going to end up conservative Mennonites.