Intimacy requires secrecy. In order to truly experience intimacy we must share relationship in a mutually inclusive and exclusive way. There must be boundaries. We must shut some people in and some people out in order to experience intimacy. All healthy relationships entail this polar balance of mutual inclusivity and exclusivity. The parent-child relationship is inclusive of their children and exclusive of everyone else's children. My children will never feel special in their relationship to me if I insist that they mean no more to me than the neighbor's kids. The same is true in marriage. A healthy marriage requires recognizing who is "in" and who is "out" of the relationship. People who cannot tell the difference become adulterers.
Relationships that are strong and healthy are all "closed" to some degree. In fact, those who boast that they have an "open" relationship are simply admitting that they don't have much of a relationship at all. The deeper a relationship goes, the more closed it becomes, and the more closed it becomes, the closer it becomes. This is a fact of human existence, and to deny it is to deny reality.
The point here is that the human body and its physical appearance was created to be an instrument of intimacy, specifically an instrument of the sexual relationship that celebrates and communicates the covenantal unity of marriage. Sex was designed to make a man and woman one in both body and spirit, thus actualizing the contractual and legal union effected in holy matrimony. Sex was created to facilitate intimacy, to enact it and enable it, and this intimacy is manifested physically in the glory of covenantal nakedness and the private celebration of physical beauty and attraction that occurs in the secret chamber of a married man and woman. This is why fornication is so deeply dissatisfying and requires ever-increasingly bizarre experimentation. Sex without covenant acts out a lie. Married sexual relations actualize marital oneness, and thus fornication has nothing to offer but the empty bodily actions of a sick charade. Fornication is a farce.
So, the nakedness of the body was created to facilitate intimacy. God designed the naked body to arouse the sexual passions that make two people one. Nakedness is an invitation, a powerful, primal call, to enter into the secret places of the body and share oneness of soul. Thus, when we expose our nakedness to the general public by dressing immodestly, we confuse both our psyche and the psyche of the beholder by issuing an invitation we likely have no intention of fulfilling. When we undress in public, we frustrate intimacy. We reveal the secrets of our body to everyone, and we all know what happens to a relationship when someone breaks a confidence and tells all your secrets.
Immodesty makes intimacy more elusive. Immodesty shares the secrets of the body with total strangers, and this means that there is less for the husband and wife to share exclusively. This causes deep angst within the human psyche that is often unrecognized and contributes to the ongoing dissatisfaction that characterizes the average couple's love life. Immodesty is live, public pornography, and it has exactly the same soul-numbing effect on the love life. When intimacy is lost, love is lost.
There is something very troubling happening to the human race. We are having great difficulty loving because we have trouble keeping secrets. We have real problems with intimacy. We know very little these days about what it means to share in covenantal exclusivity. A planet full of psychiatrists will never be able to sort out the damage that is being done to our daughters and wives as lecherous fathers and husbands encourage their women to display in public the treasures of physical beauty that God gave for a husband to enjoy alone. When a man encourages his wife to expose her body, he is telling her that she is worth very little to him--so little, in fact, that he is willing for the man on the street to share her secret beauty, the beauty that was given by God to facilitate sexual oneness.
Now, I should say here that I am not against women being beautiful and displaying that beauty for all to see. In fact, I am planning a separate post on Modesty and Beauty to further elaborate this point. The Word of God goes to great lengths in various places to show us the beauty of many leading women of scripture, and the Bride of Christ is a woman of eternal and spectacular beauty. No, I am not condemning beauty. For all those who equate holiness with homeliness, I am not on your bandwagon. Rather, what I am referring to is the public display of the parts of the body that are considered to be secret parts and sanctified to the priestly love of a godly husband. And this is more than what hides in a bathing suit. Much more. (See my earlier post on Modesty and Scripture.)
I once had an awkward experience on an airplane. A very provocatively dressed young woman was seated next to me, and she immediately began telling me that she was a stripper and Playboy model. She told me that she had won Cyber-Playmate of the year. I listened for a few minutes while she told me all this, and then she asked me what I did for a living. I told her I was a pastor. She gasped and sputtered and began apologizing profusely for even mentioning what she did for a living. She was bright red for a bit, and I was grateful that she at least still had the capacity for shame.
We talked for nearly two hours on the flight as I told her about my wife and children and showed her all my pictures. She told me my wife was lovely and that led us to discuss the question of what is real beauty. In our discussion on beauty, she made the statement that she felt like her beauty should be shared with the world. I responded that her beauty was like gravel on the ground--anyone can pick up gravel and put it in their pocket. Thus, it has no real value. But my wife's beauty, on the other hand, is like diamonds. Because my wife's beauty is for my eyes only, her beauty is rare and valuable. We don't throw diamonds on the ground for anyone to pick up. No, we treasure them and place them in a vault for safekeeping. She confessed that she had never heard it put like that.
I need to wrap this up before it becomes a book. One last comment: modesty promotes intimacy because modesty recognizes the value of physical beauty and the role that nakedness plays in promoting mental and spiritual health through sexual wholeness in marriage. Modesty declares to the world that both the man and the woman treasure intimacy so much that they will not violate it in deference to worldly fashion. If you are a secret worth keeping, then cover up.