12 September 2008

Oppose heresy: have another baby

Consider this my convoluted attempt to make sense of that scullery maid/laundry wench feeling I've been having lately...


Motherhood is a notoriously physical endeavor. If we at CSPP don’t have a babe in the womb, we’ve got one in our arms (and more clinging about our legs). The nurture of these creatures doesn’t end when the umbilical cord is cut nor when they are weaned. If you don’t see us in the garden, the grocery, or the kitchen, you can find us in the bathroom or the laundry room, dealing with the inevitable results of such nurturing.

Need I say that all this can sometimes seem monotonous, endless, and even worthless work? Yes, yes, I know: vocation, vocation, vocation…the rallying cry trumpeted from Luther to us via instruments like Veith. It’s the funniest thing, though: “the vocation of motherhood” sounded much nobler before I was knee-deep in diapers, before I was so irrevocably, so physically, so wholly vested in the venture.

Nowadays, if I read something on vocation, I have to force myself to focus on the words rather than the fact that they were likely written by some dude who was sitting in a quiet office or pleasant café all by himself, taking bathroom and coffee breaks whenever it darn well pleased him, receiving phone calls without having to cast threatening looks or menacing gestures at anyone, and going home (or out) to a supper cooked by someone else. [No, I’m not thinking of anyone in particular here; it’s just a generic image conjured by my wistful brain.]

Some days, the word “vocation” is muttered around here with an ironically cast eyebrow at least as much as it is uttered without the scare quotes. Alas!

But back to the main point, if such may be found here. In many, various, and increasing ways, we all know that motherhood is an excellent way to mortify one’s own sinful flesh—not in spite of, but because of, that monotonous, endless, and sometimes seemingly worthless work. Let’s not forget that this vocation [Look! No scare quotes!] also models Truth to a generically-Gnostic world which tends to focus on developing the “spiritual self.” Pursuing this elusive “spiritual self” requires a good deal of time and effort delving into one’s own inner workings, a journey in which the menial tasks of childrearing are cumbersome detours.

It seems to me that the pervasiveness of the spirit=good / body=bad dichotomy is one reason large families are offensive to some, even within the church, which certainly ought to know better (This is my body, given for you…). Most every act in the life of a mother at home with her young/large family affirms the body’s created, redeemed, and sanctified worth and testifies that the self should be effaced, not embraced. Every day, every diaper and every dish glorify the Creator and express the sure and certain hope of bodily resurrection and eternal dwelling on the New Earth.

Of course, this is really only an effective witness if she performs her duties with grace and good humor. (Self: shape it up a bit!)

7 comments:

Rev. Rick Stuckwisch said...

Thank you, Reb. Mary. This is well said, helpful and appreciated.

This example of theology in the flesh and blood of daily life is one of the many reasons that I do so enjoy the CSPP blog.

God bless you for serving your vocations, even under the cross, and for serving the rest of us from that crucible of experience.

Pam said...

I have in the past pondered how the "reformed type" moms, e.g., Elisabeth Eliot, could possibly have it all together the way they describe, and if so, what's the secret I seem to have been missing, that leaves my own miserable attempts looking so, well, miserable in comparison?

My husband has heard me say sooo many times over the years, "If I could just....." (fill in the blank here) "THEN maybe we could have a cleaner house, better-behaved children, a happy mom, a quieter home, etc, etc, etc."

I can't believe it took me a lifetime of being a Lutheran, a father who's a pastor, eleven years of marraige to a Lutheran pastor, eight children and a year of counseling to FINALLY figure it out.....

If you were thinking I figured out the secret, NOPE. I finally submitted to the fact that this is just life-- life in a sin-stricken world, where we can NOT forget our need for the Savior, because more goes "wrong" than ever goes "right!" I will never attain the image I described above, because it's not real! Mrs. Eliot or anyone else like her is looking at life from a synergistic view, at best. Hence, the "worm" label from Luther that I am using more and more often these days.

I am a worm, my husband is a worm, and my children are all worms. How silly of me in my inevitable worminess to ever have thought that a houseful of worms could be peaceful, clean, and happy? But for Christ, there is no such thing in this life. And through Christ, we have the joy and peace of the Gospel, but we still have to live this sinful life on earth before we can fully enjoy the "now, but not yet" of the crown of heaven.

It's that constant struggle we feel, and as moms at home with the rich blessings of children at our feet, we feel it acutely.

In my mellowing and maturing, I have come to be thankful for the drudgery, the exhaustion, the never getting on top of any aspect, whether it is the diapers or the dishes, the meals or the laundry.... because I am so much less in danger of depending on myself, when I am in the thick of the impossible! I can NOT forget that I am a miserable sinner, as are the rest of my family, and I can NOT forget that we have to rest in God's grace because we have no choice!!!

I may not have sounded so content five years and five children ago, because I was more exhausted, more sleep-deprived, and waaaay more uptight than I am now. Thanks be to God for the refining work He has done in my life, much of it through the vocation of wife and mother.

Reb. Mary said...

Fr. Stuckwisch: Thanks for the encouragement :)

Pam: Strange, isn't it, how theology of the cross--foolishness to the world--is the only thing that ultimately makes any sense...and that even once we know the truth, living it can still be a struggle.
Hey, eight kids! Sounds like we've found another resource person :)

Pam said...

Reb. Mary,

I guess my understimulated brain cells caused a lapse, and I didn't even introduce myself before posting!! Sorry.

Yes, eight kids and counting, Lord willing. And while I am far from an expert, if there is anything I can offer gals of like mind, you are welcome to it! I will warn you, I am not a woman of few words... this tendency is exacerbated by my lack of intellectually stimulating conversation. My poor dh can't keep up, though he tries. It's tough when the kids are always here (we homeschool), not that I would change it, of course, but we would like to someday be able to finish a thought, not to mention a sentence, without interruption. The children are not rude, really, it's just life, and anytime you take something relatively small and handleable, and multiply it by eight, it's a LOT.

Look at me, I've verbally vomited on you again! Makes me think I need a blog or something...I'm so new to that whole scene, as I just last month bought myself a computer. Yikes!

Rebekah said...

>>Nowadays, if I read something on vocation, I have to force myself to focus on the words rather than the fact that they were likely written by some dude who was sitting in a quiet office or pleasant café all by himself . . . .

Reb. Mary, I like you.

Pam!!! Would that be F. neé B.? Did you know you had a groupie? :D Seriously, I'm not a psycho though. Please tell us everything you know, immediately. And did I live down the hall from your sister my freshman year of college?

Pam said...

Rebekah,
I think my answers would be yes, yes, and yes, if you mean Sarah.

I have known of you through my dh's participation in Lutherans and Procreation, and have read your dh's posts.

Groupie?? Eeek, that makes it sound like I'm supposed to be wise or something. But seriously, thanks, and I have considered your suggestion long ago to write a book, and I promise when I have time (hee hee) I'll get right on it! :) I really was looking more to Dort for all that, but as it turns out she is a miserable sinner as much as I am, and doesn't have all the answers either... but she has given me wonderful advice and been a great listener on a few occasions.

The advice I keep in mind when I get frustrated? Love your kids, and make sure they know it.

Rebekah said...

How about just an advice column for the time being? Then you can compile it all and publish it ten years from now. :)

Would that I didn't need to be reminded of both of those last two things . . . .