Women as Servants
As a woman, particularly, as a wife and mother, I use my body in service to others. This idea came to me late one evening after making love to my husband, then later breastfeeding my infant. I looked down at my body and realized that between my three children and my husband, I use my body for service almost around the clock, and sometimes for years at a time.* Since this realization, I’m trying to come to terms with it’s implications.
To clarify what I mean by physical service, here’s what comes immediately to mind. Thinking of all the kinds of service my body gives actually makes me more exhausted than doing those things. Breastfeeding, holding, rocking, cuddling, wiping, bathing, feeding, burping, carrying, clothing, washing, singing, reading, cleaning.
I can’t go on.
I’m too tired.
I feel pulled and prodded all day long. Sometimes at day’s end I don’t want to be touched at all. Then there is the less physical, but still important service I provide for those outside my family, like ward members, neighbors, friends, and the like.**
So why all of this service? Is it a choice? Is it how God designed my body? If so, is God trying to remind me of the physical service of Jesus? Of course we think of Jesus healing with his hands, and sacrificing his body for our ultimate physical and spiritual salvation. If I choose the physical service of wife and mother, am I choosing to be more like Jesus? Is it something else? Like a curse?
Another perspective is that perhaps my body was made to serve, but not because I am holy and Christlike. Maybe women are the pack-mules of the human race. I often remember this comment by Rilkerunning from a long ago thread on Zelophehad’s Daughters. In sum, the author explains her difficulties with her body, reproductively, and that her husband has no such difficulties. This difference, she asserts, is mirrored by church teachings of gender roles. Her last line, “In fact, I think I would have left the church thinking it was untrue based on its doctrine regarding women except that very doctrine makes me think it is true because it fits with the discrimination I see in how our very bodies are created.”
Are our bodies designed for service a blessing to make us more like Jesus, or a curse, perhaps from Eve? Does accepting the role our bodies play in service make it easier to accept the church’s teachings for mothers to be primary nurturers?
In the end, I’m glad I’m thinking about my body and it’s service in a new way. I’ve often taken this service for granted, or sometimes resented the use of my body by others. But, by comparing it to the Savior’s life, mission, and death, I can see my sacrifice in a new light. I am serving, and in some ways, a savior to those I serve.
There are ways we each serve, but for me, the physical daily service I provide to my family is a special kind. It is purifying, cleansing, holy. At least that’s what I think right now. Ask me tomorrow when I’m catching spit-up with my bare hands.