A Tribute to Our Sacrificing Mothers: The Altar of Motherhood – W. Wangerin, Jr.

Ah, Mother, every summer since then I have thought of you and all of your sisters through the ages. I see you, darling, distinctly – as in a vision. I see deep, and I see this: that once there lay in the precinct of many mothers’ souls some precious personal thing. Some talent, some private dream. The characteristic by which they defined their selves and their purpose for being. To write? Maybe. To run a marathon? Or to run a company? Yes. Yes.

But then the baby came home, and then you and others like you made a terrible, terribly lovely choice. You reached into your soul and withdrew that precious thing and lifted it up before your breast and began to walk. Deliberate and utterly beautiful, you strode to the altar of love for this child and placed there the talent, the dream, some core part of your particular self – and in order to mother another, you released it. There came for you a moment of conscious, sacred sacrifice. In that moment the self of yourself became a smoke, and the smoke went up to heaven as a perpetual prayer for the sake of your children.

And when it was voluntary, it was no less than divine. Never, never let anyone force such a gift from any woman! – for then it is not sacrifice at all. It is oppression.

But never, either, dear children, take such an extraordinary love for granted. It is holy. For this, in the face of such women, is the mind of Christ, who emptied himself for us. And then again, for us.

Ah, Mother, I am so slow to know, but now I know – and out of the knowledge wherewith my own children have burdened me I thank you. From an overflowing heart, I thank you, Mother, for your motherhood.

little-lamb-wangerinTaken from chapter 17, “The Altar of Motherhood,” of Walter Wangerin Jr.’s Little Lamb, Who Made Thee? A Book about Children and Parents  (Zondervan, 1993; reprinted in 2004).

This comes at the end of the author’s story of his struggle to care for the household after he and his wife reversed roles for a time (including a summer when he about went crazy!). He had begun his writing career and she returned temporarily to working full time to help support the family. They both found out this could not last, prompting him to praise his own mother and his wife for their sacrificial labor in the home.

Which brings to mind my own dear mother and my own dear wife and the sacrifices they made for me and my siblings and for our children, respectively. From “an overflowing heart” I also thank you, precious mothers for your motherhood.

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