Karamazov: Love in Action

“…love in action is a harsh and dreadful thing compared with love in dreams. Love in dreams is greedy for immediate action, rapidly performed and in the sight of all. Men will even give their lives if only the ordeal does not last long but is soon over, with all looking on and applauding as though on the stage. But active love is labor and fortitude, and for some people too, perhaps, a complete science.”

The Brothers Karamazov, Fyodor Dostoyevsky


Was Dostoyevsky referring specifically to motherhood?? ? I think he certainly could have been. ? Motherhood is love in action. ? Love creates a new little person, who cannot even survive without messy, physical love. ? (No one warned me I would spend so much of my time wet once I became a mother! ? Moms, you know what I’m talking about!) ? Babies need touching, carrying, snuggling. ? It can be “harsh and dreadful” just to have a little one suffering with gas, much less all the other things that can happen to cause children, and by extension, their mothers suffering. ?

“Labor and fortitude” it is, changing one more diaper, driving to one more soccer match, cooking one more dinner, washing one more load of laundry. ? And even from the most caring and considerate family, what mother feels she gets her due of thanks for all the unseen things she does?

There is no immediate fame, nor quick reward for sacrificially loving you husband and children every day (and every night!) ? It takes years to see the results of your labors, and then forces beyond your control may still ruin much of your hard work. ? Motherhood is anything but instant gratification! ?

On the other hand, have you ever seen a three-month-old smile? ? It’s not world-wide recognition, but what joy! ? I’ll take smiles and hugs and even “Mommy! ? Mommy! ? Scared!” over thirty seconds on the nightly news any day. ? If we are called to love sacrificially, what an opportunity! ? A baby can’t say “thank you”, except by crying for your love again the next time he is in need. ? Teenagers won’t say “thank you” on principle, until they grow out of themselves. ? (By the way, thanks, Mom.) ? And yet, somehow, it seems to me that motherhood manages to be remarkably fulfilling, and life-giving–not just to the children to whom I helped give life, but to myself as well. ? When I am able to rejoice in washing dishes, changing diapers, and calming tantrums (and this is difficult for me to do!) the joy that comes from service rooted in love is overwhelming. ? It is this joy that keeps me going when the nights are short and the grocery lists are long. ? It is a simple, quiet, warm sort of joy that blooms on the rocky slopes of love in action.

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