Several weeks ago, I picked up Noel Piper's Faithful Women & Their Extraordinary God. I've owned the book for a while and decided it was time to sit down and read the biographies of the five godly women Piper chose.
Sarah Edwards, Lilias Trotter, Gladys Aylward, Esther Ahn Kim, and Helen Roseveare were all women who chose to be faithful to their Savior and the callings He had given them. Their lives spanned 250 years but all showcase a beautiful lesson--What God can do in and through one surrendered life.
I have always had great respect for Sarah Edwards, wife of Jonathan Edwards. Her faithfulness in the mundane tasks of running a household so that her husband could be free to fulfill his calling to pastor challenges me. She was a true Proverbs 31 woman. A wife and mother who loved her family, directed their home with precision and care, and served the young ministers who came to study with Jonathan. Although I am not a wife or mother, being a nanny has taught me a little about the uninspiring routine of laundry, changing diapers, and making bottles. Don't get me wrong--I know these are important tasks. Being a helpmeet to your husband and raising little souls is one of the highest callings one can have, but that doesn't mean some of the daily responsibilities are exciting, appreciated, or eternal. They are, however, part of a larger foundation of love, faithfulness, and service which allowed Sarah's influence to reach far beyond the four walls of her house. And for that, I am both grateful and humbled.
Helen Roseveare is also a model of faithfulness. I was unfamiliar with Helen before reading Piper's book, but her life and journey with God give me pause. Helen was born in England and spent most of her life serving as a missionary doctor in Zaire (then known as the Congo). Facing language barriers, unsanitary conditions, political coups, illness, and rape, Helen lived and doctored among the people God had called her to for over twenty years. I don't face any of those challenges currently, but my spiritual struggles are similar to hers. I am tempted by pride, self-righteousness, and perfectionism just as she was. God used the problems above to work these sins out of Helen's life, and I know that He will do the same for me although the circumstances might be different.
Commenting on perfectionism and lofty goals, Piper said, "Perhaps [this] is an issue for some of us--struggling with the reality that God has called us to do less than we want to do or less than what we believe is best. That can happen in any setting. For me, it's been especially true in my years with small children--'I got a college degree for this?' Maybe our problem is the way we see ourselves. Maybe we think more highly of ourselves than we ought.... When God called Helen to less than she expected, he was helping her become like Christ, rather than like the best doctor or missionary she knew of." *
What a true statement. Doing what I love well, getting paid for it, and earning the respect of my peers doesn't necessarily make me more like Jesus and give God a greater opportunity for glory. But doing what's right and loving and selfless when I'm exhausted, covered in spit up, and haven't heard more than "ma ma ma ma ma" all day, that--for me--is the true test of faithfulness. It's sanctification. And a chance for God's strength to be made great in my weakness.
*Noel Piper, Faithful Women & Their Extraordinary God (Crossway: Wheaton, IL), 172.