Thursday, April 5, 2012

Unsolved Mysteries

Before our next two stories, a preface must be made.  I would like to share with you a theory… an I idea that I am not sure I am convinced of yet, but one I cannot let go of.  Ever since I first read it, it has been echoing in my mind like a half-remembered dream.  It holds such promise, ringing truth throughout every breath of my experience of life; and yet, I cannot fully grasp it to know for sure.  Like all beauty, it’s a mystery – longing to be known, fully comprehended – but just out of our full grasp.

It begins with a beautiful word: mother.  We all understand the impact of motherhood on the woman and child.  Though I believe the value of the “mother” has been belittled and berated in the public view in the last 40 years, there is still no denying the bond a woman forms with her child – first in the womb, and then in her arms.  They have even discovered that a woman’s body holds onto some of her child’s DNA.  She truly has a piece of him or her with her almost as long as she lives.

Her body changes, stretches, and gives all she has to bring the life of a new baby to the world.  Throughout that child’s life also, the mother changes, stretches, gives all she has to bring that child up in goodness and joy.

The theory is that “motherhood” is a woman’s way of being in the world.  “Womanhood” is who she is, but “motherhood” is how she relates to the world.  Whether she is a physical mother or not, she expresses that motherhood in all she is.  She gives herself to others; she cares about their emotional needs; she gives even forsaking herself; she loves before judging; she seeks to understand and develop relationships; and she breathes life to those around her.

This of course flies in the face of liberal feminism, which points to motherhood as the cause of female oppression.  I would humbly suggest it is quite the opposite.  I am convinced more and more that to the extent that a woman can tap into her “motherhood”, that is the extent to which she will feel fulfilled in life.  It is not motherhood that is the oppression, but the degradation of motherhood that debases women.

From falling in love with the wrinkled newborn in my arms, to empowering women to believe in themselves, to giving peace to the wound of a broken marriage, in every aspect of my life (with my children, the women with whom I work or the couples we minister too), my motherhood is actualized.

Again, my mind is not completely around this, and so I have more questions than answers.  What does this mean for God’s role in woman’s life?  In physical motherhood, He touches down into the body of woman and creates a new soul there.  If that is motherhood, when we live out our spiritual motherhood might there be a special divine grace to bring new life to each relationship we encounter?  Doesn’t this glorify even more the greatness of physical motherhood?  Does this mean without a greater value placed on motherhood in society, women will never have true equality?  With this view of motherhood, doesn’t it seem not to only go beyond the walls of the domestic life but demand that women take a greater role in the leadership of society?

And that is where we must leave it.  A mystery unsolved, but many ideas to ponder as we will hear, in coming posts, women share their motherhood.

There is such a stark contrast in the world.  On the one hand, deep inside we all know the greatness of motherhood.  And on the other, a woman without a career who chooses to be a stay at home mother is brushed aside as less than human…unsolved mysteries indeed.

That's my view of it and I welcome yours!  Please comment below!

If you like what you've read, please SHARE with others!  THANK YOU!

* I have read many philosophers and theologians who have touched on this idea, but I first read it in depth from (where else?) John Paul II's Apostolic Letter, Mulieris Dignitatem "On the Dignity and Vocation of Women" nn 4-5, 8, 17-22.


  1. Ages and ages ago, Gertrude Stein wrote a profound book with your exact thesis. It was called The Eternal Woman. I recommend it.

  2. Thank you, Dorothy! I'll check it out!

  3. Pleasein mind that mothers who work are still 100% mother. It is not a choice for me and for countless others, but a necessity to pay for a safe home, healthy food, and adquate health care. My profession is part of mothering. Otherwise, some great points.

  4. Oh I whole-heartily agree!! I meant 100% in terms of time not devotion or being. But you're right-that needs clarifying!
    I'm a working mother myself; so I totally get you! I'll clarify, THANK YOU!

  5. Is isn't that what you were already saying? That motherhood is in everything we do?

  6. Yes, but I believe the first commenter was making the point that even her work is a part of her physical motherhood because she is providing for her children. Both points are valid and good! ;-)

  7. Theresa - beautiful insight and so true. Motherhood encompasses our entire being, and you nailed it on the head when elaborating on the different "types" of motherhood. I see it as an "intrinsic vocation," if you which we are called to whether we recognize or not, and the extent to which it reaches is far beyond our simple line of sight.

  8. YES! I believe what you posited to be true. Women were designed and created in our very being, our very anatomy to be receptive creatures and by recognizing, accepting, embracing and actualizing this receptive nature we are most fruitful and fulfilled. The more closely any creature exists in accordance with it's created nature the more fruitful and fulfilled that creature will be. By answering the question "Who are we?" We necessarily answer "what is our purpose and how are we to live!". As far as defending and promoting this tremendous dignity and gift in which we have been bestowed we do so most effectively and on the most basic level by simply fulfilling that very nature.