On today's broadcast, Dannah Gresh, author of several best-selling books, including And the Bride Wore White, joins wife and mother of four girls, Teresa Coelho, to tell how dressing modestly brings glory to God.
On today's broadcast, Dannah Gresh, author of several best-selling books, including And the Bride Wore White, joins wife and mother of four girls, Teresa Coelho, to tell how dressing modestly brings glory to God.
Dannah: This little girl enters into middle school still playing with Barbies, braiding her hair, and within just a few weeks' time, she gets in this crowd, and they teach her how to dress, and they teach her how to act, and they teach her where to sit at lunch, and then they teach her how to shoplift, and then they teach her how to do drugs, and then they teach her how to have sex.
And it's not even half a year where this little girl becomes really scarred.
Bob: This is FamilyLife Today for Wednesday, March 22nd. Our host is the president of FamilyLife, Dennis Rainey, and I'm Bob Lepine. We're going to talk today about some things moms and dads can do to help their children make the transition safely to adolescence.
And welcome to FamilyLife Today, thanks for joining us. We're going to talk today about being counter-cultural, right?
Dennis: We are. We're going to talk about the power of modesty and how God takes – well, how He takes mistakes that occur in our lives growing up, and how He can turn them into what a good friend of mine, Dan Jarrell, refers to as "holy scars."
We have a couple of friends on FamilyLife Today – Dannah Gresh and Teresa Coelho who join us on the broadcast. Dannah, Teresa, welcome to the program.
Dannah: Thank you so much.
Dennis: Dannah is an author of a number of books including "The Bride Wore White," "Secret Keeper Girl," that FamilyLife had a little part in helping putting that together, which is "Eight Great Dates for You and Your Daughter." Teresa and her husband Danny live in Southern California. They have four daughters and, Teresa, you grew up wanting to get into modeling as a young lady. Was that something you always wanted to do?
Teresa: You know, not even quite then. It wasn't until ninth grade did I say "I want to be a model," and my parents took me to LA and took me to an agency where I started doing commercial work and practicing doing commercials. Before then I think I was just trying to figure out who I was as a girl and how I fit in and felt worthy and worthwhile and what as my niche, and what was I supposed to do. When I would go to the store with my mom, I would just get handfuls of magazines, and she would buy them for me, and I just kind of read these magazines and just tried to portray what I saw – you know, the makeup, the hair, the look, how to act. You know, they talk about how to hang out with boys and how you're supposed to flirt. You know, just all that's in there, and that's just how I tried to validate who I was.
Bob: Dannah, you work with a lot of teenage girls, girls who are junior high, high school, pretty typical?
Dannah: They're feasting on these magazines. They rate magazines second only to television in the media that really influences how they live, and the littlest of girls are being influenced by it. One Harvard University study told us that girls who look at those magazines – 12-year-old girls who look at those magazines who are underweight – two-thirds of them consider themselves to be fat. So it's having a very profound impact on them.
Dennis: When you say "those magazines," which ones are you referring to? And I want you to name them.
Dannah: You want me to blast them. I don't like those magazines.
Dennis: Well, if you blast them, so be it.
Dannah: "Teen Vogue," they're reading "Teen Vogue." Now, they've taken "Vogue" and "Cosmopolitan" magazine and all these things they have – the young version of them now – "Teen Vogue," "Cosmo Girl," that kind of thing, and when you were in fifth grade, they were saying how to flirt with boys. Now they're being very much more graphic in what you do with boys.
Dennis: Contrast that with Passport to Purity, where we've created a Friday night, all-day Saturday getaway for mother/daughter or a father/son to be able to get away for a weekend and in that two-day encounter, we helped the father and the mother draw some boundaries around purity, issues of modesty, and relating to the opposite sex.
Bob: Well, and, for girls, you contrast that with Secret Keep Girl with the resource that we've created for moms and daughters, because that's – I'll tell you what I was thinking about. I was thinking about a t-shirt that my kids wore – this was a decade ago. I think my daughter, Amy, had a t-shirt that had a whole school of fish going in one direction. You may have seen this old t-shirt, and there was this one fish swimming in the other direction against the school of fish and underneath it just said, "Go against the flow."
And I thought that's what Secret Keeper Girl is challenging girls to do in the culture today – to go against the flow and to swim in a different direction, which is a hard thing to do not only socially but the culture doesn't reward you for going against the flow, it doesn't even make it easy for you to go – you're a mom, you're raising daughters today. For your girls to go against the flow culturally, there is nothing in the culture that makes that easy for you, is there?
Teresa: There isn't, and it's so easy for them to get caught up, it's so easy for the parents to get caught up, because there is an expectation from where we live, especially, in Southern California, such an expectation for parents to perform. You know, to live up to the standard, and the kids expect the parents to do it. And to have our children grow up in that and then put that expectation on their future husband? That's not good, and we really want to pull them back and train them and to re-teach them how to think to be yourself and to – like you said, to be the one that's going to be different, to charge forward and to swim upstream.
Dennis: Instead of being conformed, be a pacesetter by being transformed.
Bob: Let me take you back to ninth grade when you said, "I want to be model," and your parents took you to a modeling agency. What did you really want as a ninth grader, do you think?
Teresa: I think what I really wanted, I wanted to be recognized as being a woman. I thought that …
Dennis: You were looking for acceptance?
Teresa: I was. I was looking to be accepted by my parents, by my peers. I always felt kind of odd and different, awkward, set apart from everybody else.
Teresa: Well, I think because of the abuse in my home, I just was very isolated and introverted. I didn't do sports. I wasn't involved in anything, and, as you become the young woman, you see your peers dating, you see that they're accepted, and you really want to feel that, you really want to be just like everybody else. And when I went there, they treated me so well. I mean, they brought me in, they fed me, they made me feel like I was somebody, and that I was important, and it just continued to snowball. And that was just Satan's way of getting his hands around me and keeping me away from God.
But, I can tell you, I look and look back on my life, and I really believe that God had put blinders on me, and He protected me from so much, He really did.
Bob: Because the environment you were in could have led you to all kinds of things.
Teresa: Oh, I talk to other girls that have paths that are far more horrific than my own, and they are into prostitution, they're into drugs, they're into alcohol, and I never even thought of those things. I almost thought that was just kind of normal. You know, everyone kind of grew up the way I was brought up, and I do, I look back, and I've always told people, "You know what? God has just always put blinders on me, and He's just kind of kept me" – you know, even though my family never went to church, we were not professing Christians, I went to church as a fourth grader. I walked across the street; I went to a Baptist church all by myself. I knew that there was something that I needed, but I didn't know what.
Dennis: We talked about how God can take a scar, a scar like your past of being abused as a little girl, and turn it into a holy scar. Because when He redeems us, when Christ went to the cross and died for our sins, yes, He made us right with God and brought us into a relationship with our Heavenly Father, and He forgave us our sins, but He wants to take all the past, all those scars, all those things where we were damaged growing up, and He wants to not merely transform us but turn those scars into holy scars. And that's really what's happening here, is you're becoming a champion for young ladies around the theme of modesty.
Teresa: Mm-hm, it's true. It is amazing how He can just kind of transform you, as we were saying earlier, who you think you are to who you really ought to be. And how humbling that is, for Him to take this broken girl, who thought nothing of herself, who felt worthless and not worthwhile, it was in the eyes of her parents or her friends, and to say, "You know what? You are worthwhile, you are valuable to me, and you know what? I'm going to use you for My glory." And it's just been an exciting ride.
Bob: I asked what you were looking for from that experience of being a model. Was there a prestige and clout – I mean – did you come back to Katella High and, "I'm a model," or "I'm on TV," or "I got my picture in" – I mean, was it a status symbol for you?
Teresa: Well, there were other girls I went to school with that were so beautiful and already were established models, so I was starting to fit in with that clique, and they kind of took me under their arm and helped me to dress and do my makeup just on a different level and became part of a different crowd, the accepted crowd. And that had bearing on who I thought I should be.
And you start wearing this mask of who you think that you need to be, because if God's not in the picture, your perception of the world is so amazing, because you do, you want the prestige, you want to think that you're somebody that you're not, and you start walking a little taller but for the wrong reasons. And you start wearing the clothes to get attention, even though it's not appropriate attention. But you know what? They're looking, finally, and you're getting that attention, and you just start covering up who you are, and the wounds of your heart just become calloused, and you just allow them to just get harder and harder.
Bob: Dannah, that is a powerful – almost like a narcotic for a teenage girl to, first of all, have the other girls bringing you into the group and then to have the guys starting to notice you when they hadn't before.
Dannah: It's very powerful. In fact, there is a movie that a recommend with great caution to parents who are maybe not sure how much influence friends can have on their children, and it's the movie "13." Definitely adult material, but this little girl enters into middle school still play with Barbies, braids in her hair, and within just a few weeks' time, she gets in the same kind of crowd, and they teach her how to dress, and they teach her how to act, and they teach her where to sit at lunch, and then they teach her how to shoplift, and then they teach her how to do drugs, and then they teach her how to have sex. And it's not even half a year where this little girl, who is so innocent, becomes really scarred. And they're not holy scars at that point, that's brokenness. And the mother has to just fight with everything to pull her daughter out of that crowd. And that's the responsibility that we have as parents in this culture today.
Dennis: Dannah, we talked about Teresa and her passion for really being a champion of young people today and help moms equip their daughters in navigating some pretty treacherous waters in this culture. You have some holy scars as well that God has used in your life that have created passion as well for this generation.
Dannah: Yeah, it's funny, because my story is just almost a little opposite of Teresa's in that I grew up in a family that I thought was totally abnormal because, really, they were so normal.
Dennis: What do you mean by that?
Dannah: Well, they were a good, protective, wholesome, Christian family, and I thought they were just nerds or nuts, you know?
Bob: Who wants to be a part of this group, right?
Dannah: And I look back now, and I realize how protected and loved I was. And yet the 15-year-old who loved the Lord, who just spent the whole summer as a summer missionary who was in a Christian high school, I very blindly and naively got into a Christian dating relationship where I gave the gift that God meant for me to give on my wedding night away to a guy who today is a perfect stranger to me, and that is the great heartbreak of my life, the great scar of my life, and there was a time when for 10 years I couldn't even speak about it. No one knew, you know, I just got out of the relationship and ran because who was that girl? And the sad thing is, when we run from our sin, and we hide and don't tell anybody, it doesn't make the hurt go away, it doesn't make us heal, it just creates thicker layers of scar tissue. And it wasn't until I finally confessed to my husband, who I'd been married to for five years, that I began to heal, and then God started to turn it into a holy scar.
Bob: Well, and where is it? I think it's Psalm 32 where David talks about his own transgression, and he says when I kept silent, when I didn't confess it to the Lord or anybody else, it's like my bones were wasting away. And the Scriptures instruct us that confession to God and to one another is a part of what God uses to take the damage that all of us have experienced and turned that into a redemptive part of our lives that can be used in the lives of others. That's what you've done with Pure Freedom Ministries – you've taken that scar and instead of it being the part of your life that would condemn you, it's now what you're using to try to help others avoid that.
Dannah: Yes, and I shouldn't say – I mean – one thing that I would change about what you just said is God took me, kicking and screaming, into it. Because even though I'd confessed to my husband, and that truly did bring such healing. You know, for 10 years I'd wake up, and I'd think "Everything is great, it's a beautiful day, wait a minute, something's wrong. Oh, yeah, that." You know, and it was just there every single day until the day of that confession. And in my head I knew I was forgiven but until my husband wrapped his arms around me, I couldn't feel it in my heart. And then God said, "Hey, look at this little girl over here in your church. Do you recognize the loneliness in those eyes? Do you know what she needs? She needs what you cried out for for 10 years – just one person to talk to." And, kicking and screaming, I would go over there and say, "But what am I going to say, what am I" – and the Lord would always give me the words, and one little heart at a time, the Lord drug me into what I'm doing today.
Dennis: I want to read the rest of the passage that Bob was referring to – Psalm 32:5, because you just expressed the experience of this. It says, "I acknowledge my sin to you, and I did not cover my iniquity. I said I will confess my transgressions to the Lord, and you forgave the iniquity of my sin." You experienced the liberty of bringing that sin, that hidden sin, out into the light and, at that point, you're free.
Darrah: Absolutely. It is such an amazing transformation. For me, at the age of probably about 25 or 26, I had known the Lord for over two decades, but it was like I just came to know Christ for the first time. Overnight, my life was transformed because I truly was forgiven. I understood for the first time I'm forgiven, and it revolutionized my life and my marriage and the purpose and call that God had in my life.
Bob: You've experienced a similar kind of thing, as you've acknowledged some of what's in your past, haven't you?
Teresa: I have. You know, I gave my heart to Christ when I was going into ninth grade, really seeking who He was and that I needed Him as my Savior, but it really wasn't until I met Danny that I really understood what that means – to have a testimony, to really change your heart wholeheartedly for Christ.
Bob: Danny is your husband, right?
Dennis: And how many years later was that from your freshman year in high school?
Teresa: My freshman year in high school until I was 28 years old.
Teresa: Yeah, well, not having a Christian background, I really didn't have someone to come alongside me and to teach me and to train me of what I needed to do as a new Christian. So I just continued to live my life. And from ninth grade until I met Danny, that's really where it kicked in that I was really modeling a lot and really living not a life of righteousness. I was really living what I thought was right. And it was just a lie that I was living, pretending to be something that I wasn't.
Dennis: It's interesting, here we are, we're talking about a subject that is so relevant to today's young ladies – the subject of modesty and moral purity, and yet in both of your lives what brings you to the table were your pasts – past mistakes you made, others made, and yet that's the way God creates stories in our hearts. He turns us into vessels to be able to speak to a generation, and you can do that because you understand the heartache of, as you just said, Dannah, holding onto sin and to a mistake that you made in terms of immorality, and in your situation, Teresa, you were holding onto a home you grew up in and the regret and the shame of being treated the way you were treated by parents who should have protected you. But now how God's taken both of you, and He's turned those scars into holy scars that can be used to really keep a generation of young ladies from ever being scarred.
Dannah: That's our hope.
Bob: And let me ask both of you in that regard, because we've got a lot of moms who are listening who may have never confronted some of their own scars, and they may be thinking, "Okay, I can take that to the Lord. I might even be able to take that to my husband after some time and some prayer, but my kids? Do I tell my own daughters?" Teresa, you were talking, before we came in here, about the fact that, for a long time, all of your modeling portfolio – your kids, they didn't even know that was part of your life.
Teresa: I hid my past from my family, from myself. I didn't want to look at that anymore. It was too shameful. It just all just went hand-in-hand with my childhood. It was just a continuation into my adulthood of shame, and it wasn't until the Lord started really convicting my heart that I needed to come clean with my past and to look at that and to start tearing down that mask that you're walking around with, and let me really show you who I want you to be, let me really show you the grace and the woman that you are to be and to embrace that woman.
Bob: Dannah, you give a mom the same advice?
Dannah: Well, my disclaimer would be, I guess, that it's age-sensitive and child-sensitive, and it has to be bathed in prayer. But in working with teenage girls, I see a lot of them who know that Mom has a secret, and because they know that Mom has a secret, they think "Why would I share my secrets with her if she can't be open with me?"
Dennis: I just want to underscore something you said almost in passing. I think you do need to be age-sensitive, and I think you also need to be careful about giving them the "Gone With the Wind" version of the story, because little children or even older children – I think there is a certain dignity to Mom and Dad that need to be protected and preserved, where if you go into the gory details, I think you tarnish some of that dignity of parents. And if you're going to confess, you want to do it in a way that at the end of the time they have a great God, and I understand that great God has a greater forgiveness. Christianity isn't just "a nice story at Easter." The tomb is empty, Christ is alive, and we are forgiven.
Bob: You were talking about the Passport to Purity weekend and about the Secret Keeper Girl material. These are some of the resources that we've come up with to help parents be able to engage with their children on these subjects and, where it's necessary or appropriate, you can talk at an age-appropriate level about some of the scars that have been a part of your past in a context that helps you reinforce what God has to say about purity and about modesty and about some of these other issues.
If You go to our website at FamilyLife.com, we have a number of resources that are designed to give parents tools you can use to help press these issues into the hearts, primarily of our daughters, in this case. We've got the Secret Keeper Girl collection, we've go the Passport to Purity resource for parents of boys and girls. Dannah has come up with the Secret Keeper Power Pack that also has a DVD in it that shows one of your modesty fashion shows – what you've done with young girls in the past to help them understand that modesty and beauty can go hand-in-hand. And there are other resources there as well.
Again, go to our website, FamilyLife.com. In the middle of the screen you'll see where it says "Today's Broadcast," and then there's a big red "Go" button there. You click that button, it will take you right to the page where you can get more information about the resources we've talked about today and other resources that are available from us here at FamilyLife. Again, the website is FamilyLife.com, click the big red "Go" button in the middle of the screen, and that will take you to a page where you can get more information about these resources, or you can order them online, if you'd like.
You could also contact us by phone at 1-800-358-6329. That's 1-800-F-as-in-family, L-as-in-life, and then the word TODAY, and we've got folks who are available here who can take your order and help get these resources out to you.
Well, tomorrow we're going to talk more about what parents can do to help reinforce this idea of modesty, and we'll hear all about a recent modesty fashion show that took place in Southern California. I hope you can be with us for that.
I want to thank our engineer today, Keith Lynch, and our entire broadcast production team. On behalf of our host, Dennis Rainey, I'm Bob Lepine. We'll see you back tomorrow for another edition of FamilyLife Today.
FamilyLife Today is a production of FamilyLife of Little Rock, Arkansas, a ministry of Campus Crusade for Christ.
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