Held Against Her Will

We’re all still shaking our heads with disbelief and joy over the headlines out of Cleveland, Ohio, this week. On Monday afternoon the 911 dispatcher heard the plea of a breathless female voice: “Help me. I’m Amanda Berry. I’ve been kidnapped, and I’ve been missing for 10 years now and I’m, I’m here, I’m free now.” Emergency responders were at the door within minutes. “They’re more in there,” the young woman pointed to the second floor of the shuttered up house. “Two more.” One desperate phone call, and the world learned their nearly unfathomable story—a decade long nightmare for three young girls, kidnapped one by one from their nearby neighborhoods, and held captive in a rundown house in that blue collar neighborhood, held by three men—brothers, all now in their 50s—held against their will. For a decade. And nobody knew. Not the three grieving families who were sure their girls were dead, not the authorities who knocked twice on that front door but didn’t investigated further, not the neighbors who every day passed by the garbage-bag-covered windows of that decrepit house—no one knew the unspeakable horrors Amanda Berry (now 27), Michelle Knight (32) and Gina DeJesus (23) endured in lost silence for ten years. Held against her will. There surely is a Mother’s Day reflection embedded in this stunning headline. Not that our beloved mothers—God bless them—were ever held against their will by our needy childhoods. Quite to the contrary. As it was with my mother it surely was with yours, too—she endured all that she put with from a rascal like me (you, no doubt, were more cherubic than I) for the sake of her deep love for her children. Career dreams interrupted or even put on indefinite hold, fanciful visions of global adventure shelved away for another day or another lifetime, all because of a mother’s relentless love for the child she received from God. Held against her will—hardly. She was held by the will of God to pour out His love through her to the likes of you and me. But beyond this national holiday, the truth is that there are women the world over who by desperate circumstances or cultural decrees are being held against their will. The recent tragedy in that Bangladeshi clothing factory that collapsed on top of hundreds of female workers was a reminder of the tens of thousands and millions of women on earth who slave away for a pittance of a wage, for the survival of their hungry families. Held against their will by circumstances we find abhorring. There are countless other women who have poured themselves into careers that have hit the proverbial glass ceiling—held back against their will by cultural norms that allow only males to “ascend” to such elevated responsibilities. Jesus’ compelling example of filial love for His mother as He hung dying on the cross and His countercultural elevation of women in service and ministry throughout His life are evidence enough of God’s heart for the women of this race. Surely on this day in which we remember our blessed mothers we might also say a prayer for all the women who, held against their will, still wait for that God-moment when the locked door will fly wide open—open at last to God’s high ideals and personal calling for the daughters of His family on earth.

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