Thursday, September 23, 2010

I am woman. Hear me ROAR!

There are so many things that have me in roar mode lately. Some of that is good, some not so good. I haven't actually roared (as in I haven't yelled at anyone, which is good) but the extremes of feelings are wearing me out. And they are leaving me blogging IN CAPS which I typically try to avoid.

I warned you. HEAR ME ROAR.

- I'm a lioness at the gate of my home. Hear me roar! The energy -- spiritual, mental, emotional, physical -- that is required to be a good wife and mother, a powerful mother, is both exhilarating and exhausting at the same time. Honestly, motherhood when children were little was exhausting, but not so much in this all-around way. They didn't NEED me like they do now. I feel the urgency to use well the time we have left with our children (we're already halfway done with this stage of children being in our home (hear me roar). As they come and go, as they think and ask, as they search and seek, they need me, their mother. NO ONE ELSE in the world can do for them what I do. Not even their dad. NO ONE. And I feel heaven screaming to my soul to savor the sacredness of this. (That screaming, by the way, is the good kind of roar. Moving me to my core, motivating me through the Spirit.)

- On the flip side of this, I feel the battle that is going on out there and sometimes I feel nearly smothered by the responsibility to be that lioness. I also struggle not to feel sheer anger at the forces trying to pull women away from this critical, eternal role and those that twist and distort truth about womanhood in general. I am angry that the world objectifies women AND WOMEN PARTICIPATE IN THAT OBJECTIFICATION.

I watched a game show today (an archived broadcast online -- we don't have a TV connection, but my cousin was a contestant (he won!)). I was happy for him, but honestly DISGUSTED to see that these shows still use women in slinky outfits to slither around the stage showing off the stuff. (The stuff element of it all is also roar-worthy, but I'm already at risk of being hoarse.)

I want to shout out that WOMANHOOD MATTERS. Womanhood = power. Righteous woman living lives consistent with eternal principles and priorities are, individually and collectively, one of the most POWERFUL forces in the world. But the world keeps sending the message that sex=power, position=power, money=power. And women are buying into those lies. (LIES, I say!) Those are ILLUSIONS of power. Real power only comes from God.

How can we get women to get it? I feel to explode with the desire to shout those things to the world. But instead, I blog. (HEAR ME ROAR!)

- I am so stressed with so many things happening in our life right now that THAT is nearly consuming me, too. I want to scream: Stress, GO AWAY. To be that lioness, I have to watch for the enemies of anxiety, fear, insecurity, and distraction. Hear me roar as I fight off those things. I can't let MY stress become my family's stress.

- One of the things that is helping with this (although it may sound crazy) is to have family dinner every day, even if it's only for five minutes before everyone goes off to whatever. Hear me roar: Family dinner matters! Guard it like you would a treasure. MAKE IT HAPPEN! When we can sit together and chat and laugh and eat, everything else in the world is a little better. Connecting with family, nurturing those relationships is second only to nurturing faith in God. Of course, family prayer and scripture study are also glue that keeps us together and focused on what matters most. (I'm listening right now to a Mormon Channel broadcast with quotes about family life and the Proclamation, and right now Elder Bednar reminds us of how the little, daily things matter -- the consistency is a powerful force in family life.)

- In all of this, I have found lifetime friends along this journey, women who know and are doing all they can to know and learn more about being women who know. They are women who are working against the tides within and without to tap into that power that comes only from God. (Roar!) They understand statements like this one from Pres. Kimball:

Bear in mind, dear sisters, that the eternal blessings which are yours...are far, far greater than any other blessings you could possibly receive. No greater recognition can come to you in this world than to be known as a woman of God. No greater status can be conferred upon you than being a daughter of God who experiences true sisterhood, wifehood, and motherhood, or other tasks which influence lives for good....

Among the real heroines in the world who will come into the Church are women who are more concerned with being righteous than with being selfish. These real heroines have true humility, which places a higher value on integrity than on visibility.
These women, heroines to me, make me perhaps not want to roar, but to weep in gratitude. (No, then I want to just stand with them and roar. They are lionesses, too, women of POWER. Hear them roar.)

- I roared with laughter with some of these women yesterday. Oh, how I love my sisters. Oh, how I love the sisterhood of the gospel of Jesus Christ.

- I had to suppress a roar as I went visiting teaching and shared the message that ties into so much of this. All of these emotions were swirling and surfacing. I was grateful to be able to teach and testify (with more fervor than usual for a visiting teaching visit) about the principles in The Proclamation to the World on the Family (15 years old today, Sept 23). I'm grateful to my sisters who let me do a little pulpit pounding (or knee-pounding in this case). I'm grateful for prophets who give us anchors to ground us. Hear me roar. No, hear them roar (again, good kind of roar, full of the Spirit, connected with heaven).

- I'll just finish by saying I love to hear Sister Beck ROAR (good kind -- she's a fearless spiritual leader). I read all of her words directly today from the VT message (no paraphrasing today -- so powerful). I recently listened to her loving yet very direct teachings in a regional conference. (Priorities = Power. We are doing better than we think, but can be doing better, too.) I see her as a modern-day Esther (a post for another day). She is a woman who knows. Listen to the interview recently done with Sister Beck and her daughters. THEY are women who know, too. Sister Beck is the leader of the largest women's organization in the world. And I'm grateful she has the voice to shake the world. Hear her roar. (We'll get a chance to hear her this weekend. I can't wait.)

There is POWER in righteous womanhood. In motherhood. In sisterhood. Listen to the roar of the Spirit, live it, feel it.

Roar, ladies, ROAR! (The good kind, of course.)

Tuesday, September 7, 2010

Thoughts on Presiding and Partnership

This is a topic that comes up often in feminist discussion. Below are some of my thoughts on how these two notions of presiding and partnership are not necessarily antithetical.

I think that the doctrine of presiding as it relates to partnership is there for us to see and it isn't what people describe it as when they are frustrated about it. Personally, I think those who insist the word preside is a problem or that somehow in the Church presiding in the home means something akin to lording over or controlling or being better than or being 'over' a wife are missing all that we are taught. Such insistence to me ends up being part of the problem. We need to be willing to look beyond our limited language and seek the language of the Spirit which transcends Webster or feminist theory or logic alone.

Some use bad examples of marriages to 'prove' that the Church's use of presiding is wrong. But we need to just acknowledge that a woman simply stepping back and doing nothing is really missing the boat, as is a man who dominates. Any other permutation that includes control, abuse, manipulation, or power struggles is inconsistent with the doctrines surrounding partnership and what priesthood presiding is all about.

I think the covenants of the priesthood plus the covenants of the temple can work together in a harmony, a dance if you will, with each partner in the marriage seeking the guidance of the Spirit to truly counsel together in righteousness and equal partnership. A true presider in the gospel sense (look past the limitation of language -- what is the Truth in the gospel sense?) is nothing to be feared. I see, in fact, it potential evidence of God's love for women.

So why presiding? Why not say they are equal partners and be done with it? This is totally my opinion, but I think part of it may be that the presiding brings a covenantal responsibility (this is not to say priesthood is a prerequisite to good husband-hood or fatherhood, but I do see it as bringing a covenantal accountability and covenantal promises and power that can help a marriage and family). And a true presider SEEKS the counsel of his wife. That dynamic and responsibility is in my view inherent, implicit in that priesthood duty. A true presider gets that. Just because some men don't get that doesn't mean that that principle isn't true. (And, btw, that goes for at church or in the home... priesthood holders who get the spirit of the priesthood in my mind get what it means to seek and listen to counsel of those around's not about lording over).

A presider will see and understand that his wife is his partner. He'll know of her strengths and lean on her to use them in ways they feel right about in their family. She might be the better teacher, so it might make sense for her to take the lead on FHE. But he's plugged into that process, rather than sitting back letting her take over. By the same token a wise wife doesn't just sit back and silently let her husband lead. She has a responsibility to be a true partner and to discuss and decide things together with him.

The true spirit of priesthood is about service and seeking God's will and seeking others' well-being, not self-interest and control and all the things people fear with the word presiding. This spirit is not inconsistent in my view with the principle of partnersthip.

I think there is wisdom and *order* in how things work. I see presiding as a first critical element that is a foundation to a true partnership. If the man is not willing to preside in righteousness (D&C 121, which is really quite opposite of 'being in charge' of someone), then partnership cannot happen. If a man does not choose to really receive his wife with all his heart, then she will not be treated as a partner. I think the choices that a man makes about how he views and treats his wife sets the tone for the marriage partnership (even determining whether partnership can even happen) and the family culture. And I think we can see that reflected in how covenants unfold, starting even with priesthood training at a young age. (I felt the power of that at a recent Duty to God orientation meeting...POWER there to prepare young men to be real men who cherish their wives and serve with the Spirit. None of this lording over business.)

When a woman sees that her man is willing to (or at least trying to) make such loving and righteous choices, then -- and only then -- is she invited to also covenant to do her part to be a full and equal and righteous and D&C 121 type of wife and mother. There is a message there to me that God cares about the well-being of His daughters and there is no compulsion in His order of things.

By the same token, I think He has ways to remind His daughters that they, too, should not use compulsion or power struggles in order to prove something in their marriage. (We strong women do have a tendency to sometimes be too strong and maybe even too independent in our marriages, many of us, if we are honest with ourselves...imo. Partnership is interdependent and both parties need to be willing to engage in that partnership.)

To me, priesthood presiding is something akin to a man choosing to use an umbrella to gather his wife and children together in safety from a storm. What he chooses to do with that is something he'll answer to God for. If he uses it selfishly, he's not used it for why it was given. As he acknowledges and opens this the umbrella and what it's for (again here the analogy could breaks a little because an umbrella could be just self-serving, but priesthood service is others-focused ... and yet blesses him in the process), he provides a safe place for his wife to be right by his side. It's a signal that he's invested in her well-being and that he wants her there.

She'd be silly to ignore that effort of his just because he's a man. She'd be silly to insist that she should hold the umbrella to prove she's as important as he is. She knows she is perfectly able to hold an umbrella, but she lets him show his love in this way. She chooses to let him take the lead, as it were, in keeping the family safe from the storm. But that doesn't mean he's 'over' her or more important than she is.

Because he has made the choice to protect the family, shown his priorities and care, she feels safe next to him and then is available to wrap her arms around the children and pull them in. (Have you ever seen how hard it is for a woman not treated well to be a good mother?)

They don't have to fight over who holds the umbrella, and she doesn't have to nag him to do it or do it herself (while he's of doing something else. He's already taken that first step to 'take the lead.' But they'll probably talk as a family to figure out how they can best weather the storm together. But always, the husband/father is willing to be responsible for that umbrella to make sure it stays there over his family. If it's broken, he takes initiative to fix the holes...even as he surely will solicit help (again, not as a boss, but taking the lead to care for his family). 

A woman certainly could find an umbrella that works just as well with the function of shielding from the rain. But it sure makes life easier and sweeter when the wife and children know that the husband and father has made the choice to be there and be proactive saying, "I'm here for you. I care about your well-being." 

I think of the women I know who haven't had that kind of safety and love, and the priesthood expectation of presiding to me is a protection to them that says 1) you deserve to be treated with love and respect, to have a man who chooses to follow God and care about you and 2) if there is abuse, manipulation, controlling behavior, whatever, your covenants do not bind you to be miserable and repeatedly and grossly mistreated. The Spirit can help such women know if they need to draw boundaries, or in some cases, get out of their marriages altogether.

But there's a flip side to this partnership. A good man deserves support in his commitment, to have a wife respond lovingly to his in-tune invitations (and patiently even if his efforts aren't perfect) to come under the umbrella to work together as a couple, and then as a family, to weather the storms of life.

That's my meager (but long-winded) attempt to draw a visual of how I see presiding. I don't see it as an insult to women. I think God cares deeply about our well-being. To me presiding is an appropriate prerequisite and covenant-based accountability structure that shows God is serious about all of this.

In the Book of Mormon, when men were caught in sin or wickedness, the women and children suffered. I think the reverse is true. I think there is an important message in this. When men truly preside in righteousness, women and children can flourish as individuals and together as part of the eternal family unit.