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“the courage… of a man and of a woman, are not…the same.”
Aristotle, Politics

Not many nights ago, my wife shared something remarkable with me. Here is basically what she said:

In battle, or other such dramatic circumstances, a man might face the possibility of death, the separation of his body and soul. Yet in each and every childbirth, a woman must face the separation of body and soul. And further, when she carries a child, and nurses a child, and cares each day for a child, she experiences her whole body as an oblation for that child.

Frankly, I was stunned. These words have the obvious ring of truth, yet I think I never would have noticed this remarkable reality had she not given words to her experience. Indeed, what will it take for me really to comprehend?

Upon my prompting, she continued to try to explain the unexplainable. In giving birth, she said, it’s not so much that you feel that you could die—though there is certainly that. And it’s not so much that the pain seems unbearable, which at moments it does. Even more to the point is the experience that you must give forth what has been so intimately your own. In this different kind of separation of body and soul, it’s as though you are giving up your own body, without actually dying. In some way, actual death might be easier.

And of course, this is only the beginning. A woman’s beautiful and gentle body has just entered a season of consistent and growing demands. There is ongoing oblation. Yet she loves, and she endures, often with nary a word. Her life becomes a kind of life-giving death.

In the ever-astounding cycle and rhythm of human life, this oblation began with an embodied act of love. A mother can never forget the deep and mysterious connection between that act, and this oblation. She wonders, she endures, and she loves.

How is it that a man can so easily miss this? Is there a flaw in the design?

The design, I think, is not flawed. But we are. We need to learn to see what we do not see, and to give more than we think we have to give.

In honor of the courage and the love of this woman, and of all mothers, I now put down my pen in silence and in awe. Lord, help us to see, and forgive us for our lack of vision. Bless all mothers, and grant them the husbands they deserve. But if for whatever reason that is not to be, then please, grant them some fitting reward, for their courage and their love.

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