I remember a chat I had with a friend back in high school about what we wanted to be when we grew up. I don’t recall what I had said at the time, but it was probably a human rights lawyer or missionary.
Later on in our youth group discussion, our group leaders told us to write down what we thought was the ideal job. “How could there ever be a perfect job?” I thought. So I wrote down “stay-at-home mom”. The same friend I had been talking to earlier looked at me in surprise. “Stay-at-home mom? But you had such great ambitions earlier! Why do you want to be a stay-at-home mom now?”
In a way, her reaction wasn’t surprising. After all, most people wouldn’t consider a stay-at-home mom to be an “ambitious” or “successful” career choice.
Several years on, while I was pregnant with my son, my mother gave me a book about a woman called Sarah Edwards who raised 11 children. Intrigued, I decided to learn more about this woman.
Sarah was the wife of an American minister, Jonathan Edwards, in the 18th century.
Pastor Edwards was a busy man, so Sarah bore the brunt of raising the 11 children. She ran the household capably, disciplining her children in a just yet kind manner to instill obedience in them—not just towards her husband and herself, but ultimately to God.
Prayer was a key component of her life. Before each child was born, Sarah would pray diligently for them. She would also pray regularly with them from a young age as well as on her own as she went about her day, knowing the immense responsibility of raising an immortal soul.
When Pastor Edwards was suddenly dismissed from his church, Sarah was forced to find work for some time in order to support the family. Later on, Pastor Edwards brought his family to serve as missionaries in a Native American village. It was there that Pastor Edwards and Sarah passed away suddenly after eight years of mission work, leaving behind a family of orphans, the youngest of whom was only eight years old.
To the world, Sarah died with few achievements. She didn’t live a long life, didn’t work for a long time, and lived in a village. She wasn’t successful or prosperous. She was only a stay-at-home mom.
And yet, among Sarah’s descendants were 13 university presidents, 65 professors, 100 lawyers (including the dean of a law school), 30 judges, 66 doctors (including the dean of a medical school), three United States senators, three mayors, three governors of states, one controller of the U.S. Treasury, one vice-president, and over a hundred pastors, missionaries, and other religious workers.
A good portion of this legacy can certainly be attributed to Sarah’s faithfulness in raising her children in the way of the Lord. Why shouldn’t we consider that a worthy achievement?
When we measure others’ successes, it is easy to look out for external and tangible things: Do they have a big house or a nice car? What do they do for a living? What is their monthly income? Sometimes, we also look at their contributions to the society. In doing so, we unwittingly—or not—make worldly accolades and material achievements the benchmark of success.
But the Bible admonishes us not to store up treasures on earth. “But store up for yourselves treasures in heaven, where moths and vermin do not destroy, and where thieves do not break in and steal. For where your treasure is, there your heart will be also.”(Matthew 6:20-21). Of course, it is not wrong to be wealthy or own many material possessions; we are called to work hard to support ourselves and our relatives (1 Timothy 5:8).
But in all that we do, God is asking us this: Where do our hearts lie? Do we value material possessions or do we value Him more?
A comfortable life here on earth or recognition for our achievements shouldn’t be all that we seek. We should ultimately seek the treasures in heaven, that is, to live a life devoted to serving Jesus. God wants our faithfulness. Like Sarah Edwards, if we are faithful in seeking Him and faithful in the things that He has given to us to steward, God can use us to achieve great things for His kingdom. And in turn, we store treasure for ourselves in heaven.
In this season of life, God has allowed me to stay home with my infant son. I am given countless opportunities daily to witness God’s goodness to my child, and I have started praying for the same diligence and faithfulness that Sarah Edwards exhibited in her life. May my interactions with my son (as well as with my husband) point unwaveringly to the grace of God.
Let us work not for other people’s recognition, but for God’s reward (Philippians 3:14).