THE WORDS OF INSTITUTION — “This is my body, broken for you” — used to sound like resignation: “This is all I have, and it is shattered to make room for you.” But we are asked to remember this sacrifice at every meal, with every bite of sustaining food we eat with our loved ones. In that remembering, we approach the words from a different angle. Jesus’ body has been and will be enough, and the offering of a humble human body can change the course of history, exemplifying God’s love and grace for infitnity.
Like the call of Christ, the call of motherhood is too often interpreted only as a call to martyrdom — the call for never-ending sacrifice, for sanguine depictions of excruciating pain and suffering, for perfect and docile piety. But this interpretation is weak and all to often damaging. Christ as (only) martyr leaves his followers in a place of discomfort, focused solely on anguish, shame, and woundedness. Likewise, motherhood as martyrdom leaves us in the same place, focused solely on self-denial, physical endurance, and sanctimony. We only need lurk for a few weeks on any number of mother-focused Internet forums or support groups to see motherhood as martyrdom at play. ….
Mothers hear those who oppose them approaching, and they become fearful, no matter how sound their confidence in their decisions. . . . The emphasis on mother as martyr is not a new phenomenon. The cult of domesticity has not left us. Our great-grandmothers were chided to follow the pattern, and they passed the example down to their children and their children’s children. Like the old joke about continuing to cut the ends off a roast because “That’s how Mom always did it,” we eventually learn that Mom only did so because her pan wasn’t big enough for the whole roast. As we strive for martyrdom, we are merely echoing our foremothers who had to shrink to fit a pan that wasn’t big enough for them either. But there is a bigger pan and a bigger call.
– Hannah Shanks
This Is My Body
From pages 79-81 of This Is My Body: Embracing the Messiness of Faith and Motherhood by Hannah Shanks. Copyright © 2018 by Hannah Shanks. All rights reserved. Used by permission of Upper Room Books. http://bookstore.upperroom.org/ Learn more about or purchase this book.
What is the nature of the bigger call in your life? Share your thoughts.
As it is written, “The one who had much did not have too much, and the one who had little did not have too little.”
2 Corinthians 8:15, NRSV
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This week we remember: Irenaeus (June 28).
(Courtesy of Vanderbilt Divinity Library)
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