What is your vision of Motherhood? Is it this?
I had a friend once who shone like a star in society. She married and had four children as fast as she could. Well! What was the consequence? She lost her beauty, lost her spirit and animation, lost her youth, and lost her health. The only earthly things she can talk about are teething, dieting, and the measles.1
I wonder what Mrs. Edwards was thinking as she nursed her 11th child? I wonder if she had a vision for her family. Her fifth child, and only son, became the famous Puritan preacher Jonathan Edwards. A survey was taken in 1900 of the Edwards family. It was discovered that Jonathan and Sarah Edwards had produced some 1,400 descendants, including:
13 college presidents,
100 lawyers and a dean of a law school,
66 physicians and a dean of a medical school,
80 holders of public office,
three United States senators,
mayors of three large cities,
governors of three states,
a vice president of the United States, and
a controller of the United States Treasury.2
That’s my vision of motherhood!
And that is our privilege as mothers – to rear Godly men and women to influence the world for God. I Timothy 2 and 3 discuss qualifications and roles of men in the church, but in the middle of it all, there is an intriguing little verse, I Timothy 2:15: “But women will be saved through childbearing – if they continue in faith, love and holiness with propriety.” There are several different guesses at what exactly this verse means, and I don’t have time right now to go into why some of them are completely illogical, so I’ll just give you the one I think is the most accurate. The surrounding passage is detailing the various ways men can serve God in the church. This short section (verses 9-15) is the apostle’s encouragement to the ladies: “Don’t worry, you can still be saved, but your path is not some highly-visible official position but rather the rearing of children.” There is a catch, though. “Women will be saved through [or while] childbearing, IF THEY CONTINUE IN FAITH, LOVE AND HOLINESS, WITH PROPRIETY” (emphasis mine).
Let’s do some word studies3:
SAVED (as in “women will be saved…”) really does mean salvation from spiritual death, as far as I can tell from other uses of the word in the New Testament and the context of this particular verse.
FAITH has to do with reliance on Christ for salvation and having a constancy in such a profession. In other words, we are not “saved through childbearing” by our own works, but we are “saved even while bearing children” as we trust in Jesus for our salvation and maintain that trust through all the ups and downs of life.
LOVE – I have to quote this one straight from Zodhiates:
Translated “charity” meaning benevolent love. Its benevolence, however, is not shown by doing what the person loved desires but what the one who loves deems as needed by the one loved; e.g., “For God so loved the world…that he gave…” What did He give? Not what man wanted but what man needed as God perceived his need, His Son to bring forgiveness to man. God’s love for man is God doing what He thinks best for man and not what he desires. It is God’s willful direction toward man. But for man to show love to God, he must first appropriate God’s agape, for only God has such an unselfish love.4
So how do we continue in love as we bear children? I suggest that it has to do with the way we care for those children – with God’s version of love, giving the child what he needs (like training and discipline and veggies!) even when it’s not what he (or we) particularly want.
HOLINESS is sometimes translated “sanctification” or “purity,” and it denotes the state of being sanctified, not as a process but rather as the result of that process, and the behavior befitting those who are so sanctified. That means that we should act like the Godly adults that we are :) .
PROPRIETY or “sobriety” means “soundness of mind,” “sanity” or “self-control.” This word indicates a voluntary giving up of one’s own freedom, with proper restraint on one’s passions and desires. It can be difficult to behave with propriety when your child has just committed the 50th infraction of the same rule in the last hour! And how many times have we had some variation of the thought, “If only this child didn’t interfere so much with my plans!”?
And we are to CONTINUE in these things. This is derived from another Greek word that indicates patience toward things and circumstances. When God sends a child that we are not expecting or withholds a child when we desperately desire one, or any of the multitude of other circumstances arise that tend to make us discontent with our lot in life, we are to instead maintain patience as we go on “in faith, love and holiness with propriety.”
Let me encourage YOU to “work out your salvation with fear and trembling,” (Phil. 2:12) as you bear children for God and continue in that work having faith in Jesus as the author and perfecter of your faith (Heb. 12:2), availing yourself of His agape love and living in sanctification, with self-control. And have a big vision for what God will do through this child and any other children God may choose to give you!
I’d like to close with another reading from Stepping Heavenward, a fictional diary of a young mother, written in the mid-1800s. In this passage, she has just given birth to her third child. Her sister-in-law, Martha, is less than pleased.
Martha takes a most prosaic view of this proceeding, in which she detects malice prepense on my part. She says I shall now have one mouth the more to fill and two feet the more to shoe, more disturbed nights, more laborious days, and less leisure or visiting, reading, music, and drawing.
Well! This is one side of the story, to be sure, but I look at the other. Here is a sweet, fragrant mouth to kiss; here are two more feet to make music with their pattering about my nursery. Here is a soul to train for “God; and the body in which it dwells is worthy all it will cost, since it is the abode of a kingly tenant. I may see less of friends, but I have gained one dearer than them all, to whom, while I minister in Christ’s name, I make a willing sacrifice of what little leisure for my own recreation my other darlings had left me. Yes, my precious baby, you are welcome to your mother’s heart, welcome to her time, her strength, her health, her tenderest cares, to her lifelong prayers! Oh, how rich I am, how truly, how wondrously blest!5
©2003 Paula Wilson, background photo by Nate Wilson
1 Prentiss, Elizabeth, Stepping Heavenward, p. 262-263.
2Hess, Rick & Jan, A Full Quiver, Wolgemuth & Hyatt, Publishers, Inc., 1989, page172, quoting Hunter, Brenda, The Value of Motherhood, Focus on the Family, citing a study done be A.E. Winship in 1900.
3 These meanings were gleaned from Zodhiates, Spiros, ThD, Lexicon to the New Testament.
4 Zodhiates, Spiros, ThD, Lexicon to the New Testament.
5 Prentiss, Elizabeth, Stepping Heavenward, p. 228-229.