Modern Moms: We Need To Get Over Ourselves (The Testimony of Sarah Edwards)

I have been reading about possibly, one of the most amazing women who ever lived: Sarah Edwards (better known as wife to Jonathan Edwards).

What made her so amazing? Was she an accomplished musician, a politician, a doctor or a prolific writer? No, though she could have been any of those things (and those things are great), having received the privilege of a high education (her father was one of the founders of Yale) and a wealthy family with all the benefits that come with that.

As I read about Sarah, my memory keeps flashing facebook and blog posts of the current, Christian atmosphere among some young women, and the contrast is astounding. And having been in the middle of women’s issues and all its controversy, I’m not unaware of stereotypes and the aversion to reminiscing about the past. But when our fore mothers have something to teach us, it’s worth listening.

Today, I see a lot of Christian women heavily influenced by feminism, and it sounds like this:

“I can do anything…I can pursue my dreams and I am beautiful, smart, amazing and I have learned to love myself because that’s what God wants, and, and….”

More “hear me roar” than “I must decrease and He must increase.” And don’t get me wrong, I love a good dream! But it’s the self-focused attitude that I think we’ve gotten off about. It’s brazen instead of beautiful. Loud instead of meek. Haughty instead of humble. I am for strength, boldness and confidence, but let us have that kind characteristic of our Lord, and let our boast be in Him, and let our love for His desires be bigger than our desires.

It’s a tall order for all of us.

This self-love cloaked in “Just me and Jesus” is appealing, for sure, but not actually biblical. Christianity is where we are called hard to put others before ourselves, and to “look not to your own interests, but also the interests of others.” It’s an outward-focused love.

And I GET it! There is something that just feels right about the self-affirming, self-confident us. And I’m not suggesting we should have a self-deprecating attitude that leads women into depression and eating disorders. (And of course I’m not talking about women allowing others to abuse them, because that always comes up in this conversation.) That’s a distorted view of ourselves that is also not biblical.  I’m talking about an accurate view–seeing who we are in Christ and finding so much contentment and joy in that, all else fades away.

I wonder, if the Bible were the ONLY source we had from which to get our understanding and attitudes about life, how would we act?

So we go back to Sarah.

Sarah married at 17, did not “pursue her dreams” but became a wife to a man who spent the majority of his days in his study, while she knocked motherhood to 11 children out of the park.

That’s not all. The parish (her home) was expected to house guests frequently, long-term, which she not only did, but did so well, her guests boasted of the hospitality, love, sincerity and devotion Sarah gave to them, making them feel as if they were home.

Her secret? Sarah was in love with Jesus.

We might be tempted to picture her bearing the hard responsibilities with the proper duty of a woman of her time, grinding through life, a woman not yet liberated to a life of her own.

But that’s not what the written testimony reveals.

Listen to this, written by her would-be husband, Jonathan Edwards:

“They say there is a young lady in [New Haven] who is beloved of that Great Being, who made and rules the world, and that there are certain seasons in which this Great Being, in some way or other invisible, comes to her and fills her mind with exceeding sweet delight, and that she hardly cares for anything, except to meditate on him . . . you could not persuade her to do anything wrong or sinful, if you would give her all the world, lest she should offend this Great Being. She is of a wonderful sweetness, calmness and universal benevolence of mind; especially after this Great God has manifested himself to her mind.”

Jonathan expressed Sarah’s love for God as “a religion of joy” and often marveled at her deep love of Him, her hatred of sin, and her commitment to holiness.

Let me point out the blaring difference between Sarah and us:

She loved her Lord so much that her desires, her wishes, even her dreams didn’t matter. Her Self was lost in Him. She didn’t need any other validation of her worth. We get our knickers in a twist when someone insinuates devoting a life to serving family is as noble a thing as being a nurse. Why? Because we are focused on our interests and desires to be validated, not on our simple, glorious worth before the Lord.

Her identity was not even in her role. She could happily serve her family because she wasn’t clamoring to be anything but holy in God’s sight. Her duties as wife and mother and hostess were a simple extension of her love of Christ. She delighted to serve, because that’s what her Lord left as an example, and that was her highest idea of nobility. She didn’t begrudge that it was her husband in the spotlight while she was left to “only be a housewife.” She served God and the fullness of her love for Him was expressed in everything she did.

And she made a name for herself, after all. She bore much fruit for generations to come. Her life is still bearing fruit, even as I write here, having been, alongside thousands others, deeply affected by her testimony of humility, kindness and love. Sarah Edwards, only a wife and mother, immortalized by her life’s testimony.

I have been SO convicted reading about her life. If you’d like to get a glimpse into Sarah’s extraordinary testimony, you should read here and here, or read the book, Married to a Difficult Man.

The Edwards (with Sarah providing most of the instruction and care of the children) had produced from their decendants, by 1900:

  • thirteen college presidents
  • sixty-five professors
  • 100 lawyers and a dean of a law school
  • thirty judges
  • sixty-six physicians and a dean of a medical school
  • eighty holders of public office, including:
    • three U.S. Senators
    • mayors of three large cities
    • governors of three states
    • a vice president of the United States
    • a controller of the U.S. Treasury.

And according to one biographer, the Edwards’ descendants also “entered the ministry in platoons and sent one hundred missionaries overseas, as well as stocking many mission boards with lay trustees.”

Let us seek to fall so in love with our Savior, that our own identity melts into His. Let us love Him so much that our lives become a testimony of His grace and power, not of what we clamor to achieve. Then, it is His delight to exalt us.

10 Responses to “Modern Moms: We Need To Get Over Ourselves (The Testimony of Sarah Edwards)”

  1. Joanna says:

    YES!! We can all learn from Sarah Edwards! So sad that the modern view of what’s important has become so skewed.
    Marriage to a Difficult Man is a great book!

  2. Rebecca says:

    This article and the forwards it brought are some of your best ever. Such and encouragement to godly living! Thank you so much!

  3. 6 arrows says:

    It always comes back to this, doesn’t it — not my will, but Thy will be done.

    Too easy to get me, myself and I mixed up in the equation.

    A very good reminder, this post.

  4. Kelly says:

    I really appreciate your willingness to boldly speak these hard truths in love. God has given you great insight, and you are very gifted at hitting the nail on the head with hot topics that are controversial. But we need more people willing to speak the truth, and I’m grateful for what you write. My skin isn’t thick enough to be able to do what you do publicly, but I appreciate your truths. God says we are to love Him and love others, but we focus mostly on loving ourselves. I’m glad you helped to redirect that focus.

  5. Thank you, Kelly, for that. I did get some backlash on social media, and instantly, by instinct is to recoil. I do NOT like controversy, though my instinct is to say what needs to be said despite the results. Often I feel very misunderstood, as well. But I know that whatever backlash is so small compared to what many endure. I want to speak in love and I want to speak truth. I want to fear the Lord, mot men.

  6. D. says:

    Hi Kelly,

    If you are able…..What are your thoughts on how all-consuming the husband’s ministry was at that time? I know we’ve changed (much for the worse) in how lackadaisical ministry is now viewed and pursued. Yet I also sense there is a better balance perhaps in the mindset that a married man (pastor specifically) is actually first a father and husband. It seemed that often the wife was almost a single mother, in the name of the Lord’s work.

    I realize your article was more on the surrendered state of Sarah and her willingness to be less about “my rights” and more about God’s will in mind. That indeed is beautiful and severely lacking in our Christian community (myself struggling with the understanding of just being a vessel for God to work through, no complaints). I can’t stand the usage of “Christian Feminism,” which is a misunderstanding of not being of less value, just having different roles.

    Yet I also have a hard time with how we lift up heroes of the faith, when it all but seems they abandoned their families because of the cause of Christ (David Livingstone being one example). Just curious on your thoughts, while I know in my heart that whatever God brings into our lives (whether it seems just or not) is for our conformity to holiness.

  7. D–my thoughts are that it was terrible for men to prioritize ministry over families. I haven’t yet read the book, Married to a Difficult Man, but I do know it is said he was very busy with studies. However, one journal entry mentioned his commitment to spending one hour of devoted time to his children each day. And while that doesn’t sound like much, an hour of “devoted” attention is probably more than the average child gets from his father today.

    I have never held Jonathan Edwards and other men who seemed to sacrifice their families for ministry, in very high esteem. What I am enamored by is the way that often the wife, though she may view her situation as unfair, responded in a selfless way that preserved their children and family, where otherwise, she could have destroyed it.

    It’s a difficult thing to consider, but I would imagine Sarah was so devoted to her Lord, that she was determined to live uprightly and honorably, no matter what her husband did, and that may have made all the difference in the outcome of her family.

  8. D. says:

    Thanks for your thoughts. I completely agree.

  9. Mrs. Jackson says:

    OTOH, there’s not much family left to destroy if the father has “sacrificed “ it for his career, as you say.

  10. Jennifer Brown says:

    The thought I wrestle with in this, (just processing out loud with freedom/feminism and all it entails for a woman of God), is the reality of how many women made up that accomplished descendant list in 1900? Would pursuing a different path mean loving ourselves in an ungodly manner? I don’t always sit easy with the thought that this is the pinnacle of motherhood and only aspire to be and application in today’s context. What a tremendous woman of God! I don’t discount that for a second.

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