Somedays my hands feel very full. Somedays I get to the end of the day and feel weary but don’t have anything really material to show for it. I haven’t come home with financial reward for my toil. The washing baskets are filling up when I just emptied them. Toys cover the floor even though I’ve picked them up more than once during the day. With two little ones, I am in the trenches of hands on motherhood. During my day, I find it easy to be filled with dissatisfaction that I can’t see anything amazing achieved. I can spiral down into a negative and frustrated mood, with too much self-focus and not enough time spent looking up to Jesus. Amongst a few of these days lately, I have been reading the short biography of Sarah Edwards written by Noel Piper in her book “Faithful Women and Their Extraordinary God” (2005, Crossway).
I’m not sure if you know much about Jonathan Edwards- he is perhaps the greatest theologian and philosopher America has known and lived around 250 years ago. His life, and that of his wife Sarah, prove the saying true: behind any great man is a great woman (and behind any great woman is a great God).
Sarah Edwards was mother to 11 children. Her husband Jonathan, was often given to times of deep contemplation that meant he wasn’t present at every meal and would spend the majority of his day in his office writing sermons, meeting with parishioners and studying the Bible. Sarah meanwhile, spent her day either doing or delegating the tasks of running a home in the 1700s and her tasks on her ‘to-do’ list may have included: “breaking ice to haul water, bringing in firewood and tending the fire, cooking and packing lunches for visiting travelers, making the family’s clothing (from sheep-shearing through spinning and weaving to sewing), growing and preserving produce, making brooms, doing laundry, tending babies and nursing illnesses, making candles, feeding poultry, overseeing butchering, teaching the boys whatever they didn’t learn at school, and seeing that the girls learned homemaking creativity. And that was only a fraction of Sarah’s responsibilities” (Piper, 2005, p. 23). Suddenly my hands feel a little less full….
Did Sarah sit around complaining or whinging at her ever-present list of tasks or her husband’s quiet retreat to his study? No. Sarah was the kind of wife who empowered her husband to be all that he could be as he followed God’s leading in his life. As she went about her daily tasks, she allowed her husband the time to grow in his knowledge and understanding of God and His Word and write down his reflections that still influence us today. Jonathan was an attentive husband and father. Their affection for God, each other and their children was often documented (even journaled about by visitors such as Samuel Hopkins and George Whitefield).
In 1900, Winship conducted a study that found the legacy that Jonathan and Sarah Edwards left included: “13 college presidents, 65 professors, 100 lawyers and a dean of a law school, 30 judges, 66 physicians and a dean of a medical school, and 80 holders of public office (including 3 US senators, mayors of 3 large cities, governors of 3 states, a vice president of the US, a controller of the US Treasury)” (in Piper, 2005, p.22). And this was only up until the year 1900!
In spite of this list though, and the sheer task of raising eleven children (AMAZING!), what really stood out to me about the biographies of Sarah’s life, was that she threw herself into her life with a deep peace that came from a personal, vibrant and living pursuit of relationship with God. Her life was not without hardship, but in it, she actively sought God in the middle of them. “Stresses over finances, distress at having upset her husband, jealousy over another’s ministry- all those things were real in Sarah’s life. And God used those things to reveal himself to Sarah, to show her how much she needed him, to uncover her own weakness” (Piper, 2005, p.30).
As I’ve read about Sarah Edwards’ life, I have been impacted by the work of the Holy Spirit in her life and available in our lives. As we are empowered by the grace of God that covers our sin and are equipped by the gentle leading of the Holy Spirit, rooted in His Word, our life too can be beautiful (Praise God!). As we go through what seems to be the mundane mothering tasks, we can recognise that we are undertaking our greatest evangelical role- that of raising children in the love and admonition of God. We also can remember we have the ability to empower our husbands through being their help-meet, or crippling them through our nagging brought on by too much bellybutton gazing. And we can experience the joy that is based on our relationship with God, rather than our circumstances.
May you be blessed as you go about your day and whatever situation you are in.
*As a side note, Desiring God do this amazingly generous thing by providing their books free for online download
“Faithful Women and Their Extraordinary God” (Noel Piper, Crossway): http://cdn.desiringgod.org/pdf/books_bfw/books_bfw.pdf
Blog Post on other free resources by Desiring God: http://www.desiringgod.org/blog/posts/24-free-ebooks-for-you
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