The Wesley family was made famous by the two brothers, John and Charles, who worked together in the rise of Methodism in the British Isles during the 18th century. Their father once wrote to his children, “You know what you owe to one of the best of mothers… above all for the wholesome and sweet motherly advice and counsel which she has often given you to fear God.”
Susanna Wesley did not live an easy life but she met her trials with a faith in God that would leave an indelible imprint upon her children. In nineteen years, she gave birth to nineteen children, nine of whom died as infants. Her husband, a minister in the Church of England, was a poor money manager that had mired the family in debt. Despite his love for Susanna and his commitment to Christ, he was blind to his faults and at times was tyrannical and despotic at home. Once after a minor disagreement, he abandoned Susanna and their children for an entire year. No matter what the circumstances however, Susanna was committed to caring for her family the best way possible. Though resources were limited, she started a daily school for her children. She said her purpose was exclusively “the saving of their souls,” so the rigorous academics never took priority over instruction in the scriptures. Each day before class, she set aside an hour to herself for scripture reading and prayer, and then led them all in singing psalms.
With her family gathered around her bedside during her final illness, she said, “Children, as soon as I am released, sing a psalm of praise to God.” Her grave marker reads in part: “A Christian here her flesh laid down, the cross exchanging for a crown.”
Susanna Wesley never preached a sermon nor founded a church but she richly molded the character of her children. As children consciously or unconsciously will, the brothers applied the example and teachings and circumstances of their home life to ministries that would impact generations to come for the cause of Christ.
Although it is inspiring to read the stories of Susanna Wesley, Ann Judson, Mary Slessor, Gladys Aylward, and others, we find that the scriptures do not measure the greatness of a woman in the number of her extraordinary exploits but rather in her fear of God and submission to His will as revealed in the Bible. Proverbs chapter 31 gives us a description of a woman whose worth is “far above rubies.” As the kids and I celebrated Sandy on her birthday this past Thursday, I am so thankful the Lord has blessed me with a wife who could be described from many of the verses in Proverbs 31 and whose worth is far more than I can measure.
The Bible is very clear that the role of wives in marriage is to “guide the house” (1 Tim. 5:14) and be “keepers at home” (Titus 2:5). Perhaps I am biased in my opinion but I believe that no other area of Christian work is the role of helpmeet more intensified than in the mission field. It has been said that in missions, husband and wife have to live together under circumstances which test to the uttermost every weakness of body, of temper, of spirit, of faith.
I thank God that Sandy makes (and will continue to make on the field) our home a happy refuge. She will never allow it to be Grand Central Station but rather will always ensure it has a family atmosphere. I admire her determination not to neglect her God-given duties of wife and mother even in the face of adversity. She deals with the challenges of home schooling Isaiah (and in the future Pearl) and living a transient life from one part of the country to another while on deputation, in the future she will have to make the effort to overcome the language barrier in Italy, as well as loneliness, a different health care system and adjusting to a very different society. Because her deeds are not in the public eye she will likely never receive her due reward of appreciation and gratitude that she would have received had she chosen the career path she was on when we first met.
I write this in honor of one of the best of mothers who takes great pains in molding the character of her children and to a wonderful helpmeet that supports my work in the ministry.
“The heart of her husband doeth safely trust in her, so that he shall have no need of spoil.” – Proverbs 31:11