Thursday, March 21, 2013

Bioethics + Life = All Kinds of Rabbit Trails

In Cambodia, I remember listening to the stories of mothers and grandmothers who had started small businesses to provide for their families. 

Where were the men?

At the bar, drinking the money away.

This year alone, I've seen several families fall apart. Who is left to put back the broken pieces? Nine times out of ten, it's mom. They are women with the resilience of warriors; they have no choice. 

Saying this does not imply that men are bad. It does not make me a man-hater or mean that I think men are the enemy. They so are not. Many are humble, strong servants and advocates who love, respect, and honor all people. Women can leave paths of destruction and wreck lives in the same way as men. As it turns out, we're all human. Even so, when we look at our world as a whole, the majority of inequality still falls on the backs of women. It's how it is, and I'm thankful for both men and women who are actively working on behalf of all people towards restoration.

Soon after having Emma, I wrote the following blog, with a couple modifications, about motherhood. I thought of it today as I was thinking through a bioethics assignment I'm working on. While I'm still staunchly pro-life, I wonder how we can do better support all the mothers and potential mothers out there who see no better option than abortion? I think of a former student, who journaled about how she had never wanted an abortion but whose parents and boyfriend pressured her into getting one. The majority of women cite a lack of support or inability to carry on other responsibilities as reasons to have abortions. How can we have an active role in reducing the number of abortions? I believe that in advocating for the unborn, we are also advocating for the dignity of those that carry them. 

I think mothers are the strongest creatures on earth (Of course, I say this six months after becoming one myself). While making a baby takes two people, the responsibility of protecting and nourishing that baby falls on the woman. We do a job that no man, literally, could ever do. While women have so many options that those that came before us did not have, nothing comes easy for a woman. It is still a man’s world and breaking through the glass ceiling is still an unlikely task. The fact that our bodies are able to reproduce is one of the obstacles of making it in a man’s world.

This is the beautiful burden of womanhood.

Some face this fact by choice, others by surprise, while others by force. There is a certain power and freedom that men have from never having to face this. As women we have worked so hard for equality and rightly so- equal wages, opportunity, etc. However, the greatest thing that separates us from men is our ability to reproduce. This is also the most beautiful, amazing thing about being a woman.

We give life.

The artistic beauty of a child being knit together inside a woman’s body is so incredible. In secret places where only we can feel the acrobats of this little one, we protect and nourish until he or she can survive apart from us. 

Through women, all men find their beginning. 

Yes, we have rights. We've worked very, very hard for our rights. But, as women, isn't it the ultimate show of strength to set these rights aside? Doesn't humanity always shine brightest when we choose sacrifice? I think most people would agree it’s best to choose love over indifference, optimism over cynicism, giving over taking, creativity over status quo. At times we are asked to set our rights aside for the sake of another, to sacrifice our bodies (and I have the stretch marks to prove it!) which a man would never have to do, but it is the ultimate display of strength and dignity. The kind that comes with celebration and "Eschet Chayils!" 

How can we ensure, even in unwanted pregnancy, that this is every woman's experience with giving birth? 

Monday, March 18, 2013

For My Jax (Thoughts on Being a Man)

Dear Jax,

There are times when I write your sister letters when I think of things that are so important for her to know but she is not ready to hear. Most of these thoughts come from the struggles I know she will encounter from being a girl. It's more difficult for me to do this with you. As a woman, I am by no means an authority on what it means to be a man. Thankfully, you have a good daddy that will model to you what manhood is. All I can do is offer my perspective as a woman, from what I see in our world, and give you the wisdom of a mom who wants nothing but the best for her son.

It's been one of those weeks, Jaxie-boy. While you're out playing and jumping and making some of the silliest faces I've ever seen, the world is turning in all kinds of ways that I wish I could forever block you from. I wish you would never have to experience the ugly things in life. While the world that you were born into is full of so much joy and beauty, I also want you to be prepared for some of those nasty little things that will sneak up on you and have the potential to destroy without you even realizing it's happening.

Right now, you have a favorite song. Every time we get into the car you ask me to play it. While it's been months and so far past the point of getting old, I still play it on your request. I love that it's your favorite song, and I love listening to your sweet, little voice as you sing along and fist pump in the back seat.

"Won't you stand up, stand up, stand up?
Won't you stand up, you girls and boys?
Won't you stand up, stand up, stand up?
Won't you stand up and use your voice?"

It's been our anthem, these last several months, Jackson, and I hope you never forget. You see, you will get so many messages before you about what it means to be a man. This scares me, as I know many of these messages will be so distorted.

I want you to know how to treat a woman, through the eyes of a woman. And while this will apply to future dating relationships and marriage, all I want to focus on right now is how you interact with the opposite sex. While marriage will be the single most important relationship in your life, over half the population is female. As your mom, it is so important to me that you grow up as a man who knows how to treat people in general, and while I think men and women have way more similarities than we realize, there are some things that you will need to know.

You see, honey, our culture has both sexualized and romanticized life in ways that make it very difficult to see the opposite sex as a beautiful gift that we can learn from, create with, and experience life alongside. Good things have been perverted. We're told that girls want love. We see the twisted nature of this in girls that will do anything to experience love, to capture the male gaze and keep it. She'll do things that strip her of her God-given dignity in order to make a man love her. And Jax, we see the twisted way this plays out for a man as he will do anything to make himself feel respected and powerful, which means taking everyone around him down so he can be built up. While our flesh may live under this curse, we are not bound by it, as the Spirit of the Living God lives in us, enabling us to live in the newness of His resurrection life. A new way, my dear, as He restores all things under him, even the battle of the sexes.

All creation longs for this renewal, my dear. The older you get, the more you will sense the longings around you for relationships that are life-giving and restorative. But, you will also feel the pull of wanting to belong, of desiring to be accepted, and doing whatever it takes to get it. I pray that you look for acceptance and affirmation in the right places. 

This past week I've heard far too many horrible stories about what men, boys even, are capable of doing that destroy women because they have absolutely no respect for them as fellow human beings. And it hurts my heart, as it always does, in a way that is unique to me because of the fact that I am a woman. And I am a mother. Maybe someday these stories will hurt your heart in a unique way as well. I hope as you grow, you remember to stand up for those around you. I hope that you are a man full of compassion, moved to act in behalf of others. I hope that you grow to become a man that looks at women and sees them as your equal. While there is so much mystery and strangeness in learning what it means to love and respect people, I hope that you fight hard to understand.

Jaxie, I challenge you to develop relationships of mutual respect with the opposite sex. I challenge you to look girls in the eye and hold their gaze. As beautiful as a woman's body is, you must know that she is more than her body. Never, ever call a girl a slut or a whore. I don't care who she is or what she's done. If all your friends are saying this about a girl, you stand up for her. Always. Women are not objects. In the same way men are, women are fully stamped with the image of God- think of that Jax, we bear the image of God! What an amazing, beautiful thing. No matter what it seems as you look at billboards, TV, the Internet or anywhere else, know that women have immense God-given value and worth. They are poets and artists, crafters and cultivators, scientists and teachers, physicians and pastors, warriors and princesses; they are the crown of all creation and worthy of your respect, my dear. Don't forget that, my love. You will be a leader but that looks a lot more like a servant than anything else. Your job is to build people up, never to tear down. Respect is important, but whose eyes you are respected in is of greatest value.  

My prayer for you, Jackson, is that you grow with a strength that is not of this world. 

"Won't you stand up, stand up, stand up?
Won't you stand up, you girls and boys?
Won't you stand up, stand up, stand up?
Won't you stand up and use your voice?"

I cannot wait to see the man you will become. I'm so proud to be your mommy.

Love you always and so much,