Tuesday, April 22, 2008

Yearning For Zion

I spent a couple of hours yesterday watching video and reading articles about the Yearning For Zion Ranch situation (down here in Texas, no less). I also read some articles about women who have left the Fundamentalist Church of Latter Day Saints.

This blog is a comment that I wrote in response to Jonalyn Fincher's blog. She was talking about the need for freedom for women to do whatever they are called to do in life; i.e. work or stay home, as well as questioning the sanctity of "mother love" as an instinct in women in light of the FLDS mothers who allowed their children to live in an abusive situation, but are wanting their children back. I agree with Jonalyn in her desire to bring freedom to women in the church who have been under restrictive or controlling lifestyles. But I don't think that it has to do specifically with working, or staying home with kids, or other life situations.

I believe that the real issue we are talking about here is an identity issue, and a spiritual issue. I have been both a full time mom and a full time worker at different times during my adult life. What I have found is that freedom in my life comes not from my physical circumstances, but from freedom in my spirit to be the person God is calling me to be. I am changing in Him each day, and I will be until I die. What form it takes in the natural is not so much the point as my right to obey the Lord as He leads me.

I had to learn that my wants and needs are valid, that my "no" is valid, and that I can trust my instincts. Control of any kind is actually abuse. Control can be maintained by religious reasoning, physical intimidation, verbal intimidation, and things as subtle as undermining one's confidence in one's basic instincts.

I see the women in the FLDS church subject to all these kinds of abuse in an overt way. I agree with Jonalyn that it happens in the Christian church too. The issues of women's roles is one place where it can happen, but that is just a small part of it. Anytime guilt is used to control behavior, or when fear is part of our Christian walk, we are being controlled by a spirit other than the Holy Spirit. "Shoulds" and "Oughts" are not from the Lord either. It is much bigger in our Christian culture than we realize, and we can't see it until we move out of it.

Men suffer the same bondage that women do if they are kept in any way from the freedom God has for them. I believe that men who want to control the people around them are in as much bondage if not more than those they are controlling. I should add here that women are equally part of the problem when it comes to controlling. It just looks different most the time.

Ultimately, what we are really dealing with here is the age old battle between God and Satan. God always wants to lead us into freedom, and Satan always wants to lead us into bondage. When Jesus came to earth, he did treat women amazingly differently than their culture. But he also treated men differently. He accepted sinners and oppressed of all kinds, and announced his ministry with the passage from Isaiah 61..."The Spirit of the Lord is upon me, for he has anointed me to preach Good News to the poor, He has sent me to proclaim that captive will be released, that the blind will see, that the downtrodden will be freed from their oppressors, and that the time of the Lord's favor has come."

Honestly, as I have begun to walk in the freedom that comes because the Spirit of the Lord is in me, my distinctions between men and women, or circumstances, or functions in life has melted away. I now see myself, and the Christians around me, as a part of the body of Christ, where there is "neither Jew nor Greek, slave nor free, male nor female." I am so delighted to walk in the same ministry that Jesus did-That of bringing freedom to the captives. Any time I hear His voice and obey, I bring the same freedom that He did; to myself, and to those around me, no matter who they are. They might be my children, they might be my coworkers, they might be the people I interact with daily. It doesn't really matter who. 

On Sunday night we celebrated Passover, which is the perfect picture of how the Lord takes us out of our bondage and into freedom. It's pretty ugly- there are the plagues, the unhappy Pharaoh, the leaving of the familiar, moving into the unknown, insurmountable obstacles like the Red Sea, and even 40 years wandering in the desert if we don't quite get it. But it is the hallmark of God's ministry in our lives. 

My heart breaks for the women of the Yearning For Zion ranch. And yet, I'll bet you anything this is God answering their yearning. Because He will always find and free those who truly yearn for Him.