Every year Mother's Day is anticipated by many as a chance to show their love and thanks to their wives and mothers for all they do. Fathers and children look forward to it and rush to the nearest mall to get the latest Mother's Day gift or card.
But our mothers deserve much more than that. They are the backbone of the human family. This is a fact that we men often fail to comprehend. We think we are so smart, so much more discerning than our wives. We do not show them the respect they deserve.
It is mothers, not fathers, who carry the greatest burden in life and are much more in tune to what real life is all about. A mother thinks day and night about the well-being of her children. She is the first to praise them and to comfort them, and the first to protect them when she senses that they may be in danger. It is she who has carried them and borne the pains of pregnancy and childbirth, and who continues to carry them in her heart. There is an old Jewish saying: "God could not be everywhere at once, so he gave each child a mother."
If only we could grasp the tremendous importance of this mystery. Appreciating and respecting their wives and mothers is the only way for men to understand their task as husbands and fathers. There is great confusion today about the role of men and women. Many women rebel, with good reason, against the oppression and lovelessness of the men around them, but in the end their resentment, understandable as it may be, achieves little.
Man and woman have been created as equals, but God has given them different roles. My wife Verena and I have been blessed with 38 years of marriage. God gave us eight children and we now have 35 grandchildren. My wife has stood by me in bad times as well as in good times. In these 38 years we have experienced many crises, but she was always steadfastly at my side, never doubting in God's love and confident that everything would turn out all right in the end. Without an intensive prayer life and daily forgiveness, this would not have been possible.
There's an old saying that "when a woman delivers a child she has one foot in the grave." This is as true now as when my mother and my wife went through childbirth. In fact, only two or three decades ago we took a normal, healthy birth for granted. Of course there were exceptions; there is never a guarantee that mother and child will survive. But now, in this day and age, there are complications of one kind or another in a great proportion of births. If only for this reason, our wives and mothers deserve far more honor and respect from us men. In fact, if we were to show this love, our own lives-and the whole world-would be turned upside down.
Let's not miss the chance to use this Mother's Day to show much more love to our mothers and wives. If we do this, we will actually be doing ourselves a service: We might gain a better understanding of what fatherhood and marriage is all about. It is not about standing above our wives, tyrannizing and controlling them. Rather, it is about protecting, loving and caring for them. In the end we will feel a lot better about ourselves, not to mention the transforming effect on our children when they realize that Dad and Mom truly love and care for each other and for their children.
This Mother's Day--and every day--I will do my best to show my wife my appreciation for everything she has done for me, for my children and grandchildren, and for many others as well. Because, to quote a profound saying I found printed on a napkin at a horse show: "Iff'n Mama ain't happy, ain't nobody happy."
--- by Johann Christoph Arnold
[ Johann Christoph Arnold is an author and pastor with the Bruderhof Communities. ]