Isn’t it sad that motherhood and homemaking are occupations that are so often sidelined, even scorned, in Western society today? The irony is that mothers who take their position seriously are some of the most courageous, and even influential, women on earth.
Throughout history, faithful mothers have helped to hold together the fabric of society, equipping the next generations to serve their families, nations and world. This Mothers’ Day weekend, as a tribute to mothers everywhere and throughout the ages, I would like to highlight three valiant but relatively unknown mothers who helped shape history.
Let me take you back in time for a few moments.
A MOTHER FROM THE FIRST CENTURY
We find ourselves in a small household in the first century A.D. The father of the house is a pagan Greek, but the mother is a Jew who has believed the Gospel of Jesus Christ. They have a young son. Despite the unbelief of her husband, the mother, with the help of the boy’s grandmother, diligently, patiently trains her son in the ways of the Lord.
Can this mother and grandmother, living in the midst of a world darkened by paganism, imagine that in two thousand years’ time their names will be remembered across the world? Can they imagine the fruit that their labours will bear through the ministry of their son? Can they guess that their names will be mentioned in Scripture? Yes, these women are Eunice and Lois, the mother and grandmother of Timothy, a man who would one day work closely with the Apostle Paul, helping to proclaim the Gospel throughout his dark world.
A MOTHER FROM THE FOURTH CENTURY
We move forward in time to the 4th century. In a dusty North African city, there lives a Christian woman whose husband, much to her sadness, followed the religion of the Romans. To her grief, their son, despite all her entreaties, follows in the ways of his father, looking to this world and its pleasures to try to satisfy his soul.
For years this woman watches her son become more and more entangled in sin, and more and more distant from her. But though she can do nothing to change his soul or intercept his decisions, she can pray for him. And pray she does! She sheds many, many tears as she pleads with God for the salvation of her son. And after many long years, this godly woman’s prayers are answered. Her name? Monica. Her son? Augustine of Hippo, a man who would become one of the greatest and most respected theologians in the history of Christianity.
A MOTHER FROM THE NINTH CENTURY
Finally, let us visit England in the 9th century. Here we meet a woman whose name will be largely forgotten in years to come. She is the mother of six children: five boys and a girl. Sadly, her time of motherhood will be short for she dies before her youngest son is seven. Yet while she lives, she does what she can to raise her children well. Contrary to the general views of her day, she knows that some amount of academic education will greatly benefit her boys. In this time when all books are hand-written and when few people know how to read, she has few resources. But that doesn’t stop her.
One day she shows her sons a book of Saxon poems, and promises the book to the son who can memorise all of the poems first. Who should win the competition but her youngest son, Alfred? The very same Alfred who would one day become king of Wessex and would restore learning to his people. Little did Queen Osburh imagine that as she tried to instill in her children a love for literature, she was preparing her son to save her people, establishing a legacy that would last for over a thousand years.
I could fill books and books with more stories of faithful women who had a monumental impact on history through their quiet, faithful, self-sacrificial service. Women who, like Lois, Eunice, Monica and Osburh probably never imagined how their work would transform the world.
If you are a mother, I hope this article has been encouraging for you. Your children may not become great theologians or rulers, but your service as a mother is a priceless blessing to your family and community. Most of all, it is honouring to the One who honours those who honour Him (1 Sam 2:30).
If you are not a mother, may these stories remind you that wherever you are, and whatever you do, God can and will work through your obedience to Him. Even if you don’t see the full fruit of it in this life. Even if no one else seems to notice.