The birth of a beautiful young girl to good friends has me thinking about moms and motherhood. In fact, the recent news of the birth of this child–the first for this couple–reminds me of a chapter in Michael Horton’s book Ordinary.
In the chapter I’m thinking about, Stop Dreaming and Love Your Neighbour, the author quotes George Eliot as she wrote in Middlemarch: “The growing good of the world is partly dependent on unhistoric acts; and that things not so ill with you and me as they might have been, is half owing to the number who lived faithfully a hidden life, and rest in unvisited tombs.”
To me, the toils of a mother and wife are precisely the “unhistoric acts” that make the world “not so ill.” I see these unknown acts daily; small, and sometimes large, sacrifices my wife makes on behalf of her family. I see that, despite the evil in this fallen world, things are “not so ill as they might have been” for our children and for me. And I think of our friends, and this new mother, and the innumerable unheralded acts that lay ahead of her as she faithfully lives her “hidden life.”
But, as I contemplate the often unrecognized acts of my wife and of my mom and of new mothers and of countless moms and mommies and mamas around the world, it occurs to me that, in fact, these acts may be unhistoric in the sense that history will not remember them, nevertheless, they are powerful and life-changing to husbands, children, and society.
Michael Horton recognizes this too. But all too often, our society doesn’t recognize this. Horton writes, “Nowhere is the ordinary more important to culture and yet less valuable to society than in relation to motherhood.” So true. Our very culture, and the culture of every civilization, is transformed, revitalized, and affected by mothers. The decline of our society can be seen in our pop culture; but the crucial battle of godly, cultural formation is heavily influenced by “Mom Culture.”
Horton continues: “In other vocations, we can often follow best practices, with the general expectation of successes that can be evident to us and to others. Yet there is no promotion in motherhood. Successes are measured in years, not days or even months, and you can never be quite sure of all the things you did each day that made a difference. Mother’s stand at the core of that gift exchange as it radiates into ever-wider concentric circles, from the home to the neighborhood and church, to society at large.” Perhaps we can’t be sure of the exact things moms do each day that made and make a difference, but we can be sure that a difference was made and will be made. Because of moms.
Having contemplated mothers, I meditated a bit more on the passage from Middlemarch. “The growing good of the world is partly dependent on unhistoric acts; and that things not so ill with you and me as they might have been, is half owing to the number who lived faithfully a hidden life, and rest in unvisited tombs.” In her quote, George Eliot raises the idea of unhistoric acts, of good in the world, of evils diminished, of lives lived faithfully, and of unvisited tombs. These various images took me beyond contemplation of mothers and motherhood to the One who actually is responsible for all of the good in the world. His act was arguably the most historic act the world has ever known. His act as described and defined in the Gospels, doesn’t just diminish evil; it destroys it. His life, of all lives, was lived most faithfully. His tomb was not unvisited, but it was unoccupied!
Jesus Christ’s life, death, and resurrection taken as a whole is the most historic act to ever have been acted. This is clearly in contrast to the unhistoric acts of so many women who mother their children. And yet, in the wisdom and grace of God, both moms and Jesus bring about good; they partially and he ultimately. Both moms and Jesus diminish evil; they somewhat and he entirely. Moms’ tombs will not be visited the way his tomb was and is (though we’re not sure it really is his tomb), and yet their lives can be conduits of grace that flows from Him.
Maybe today is a good day for you to revisit the unhistoric acts of your mother or your wife and let them know of the good they have brought into your life, and the evil that has been diminished as well. And today is also a good day to revisit the most historic act which brought about all good and demolishes all evil and let Him know how grateful you are.