A Mother’s Influence

Written by Cara Shonamon
Musings of a Ministering Mother

Saint Monica by Luis Tristán de Escamilla
Public Domain – Wikimedia Commons

I love church history. I know that is a really “pastor-mom” thing to say, but I do. One of my favorite church history topics is the influence of godly mothers. While the number of such moms is innumerable, let’s focus on just two of them today.

Monica: Mother of Augustine
Monica was a devout Christian, but her husband was pagan. She saw potential in her son as a follower of Jesus while his dad saw potential as a great lawyer. Her husband died prematurely, so, as a single mother of three, she gave herself to raising her family and pointing them toward God. Augustine, however, was difficult and remained uninterested in Christianity. But Monica prayed anyway. It took Augustine 17 years of seeking truth in other places and in his own way before the prevenient grace of God reached his heart. The prayers of his mom were answered.

Augustine later wrote: ‘I cannot speak enough of the love she had for me. She suffered greater pains in my spiritual pregnancy than when she bore me in the flesh.’”[1]

Today, Monica is a testament to the power of prayer. Her faith and dedication to praying for her wayward son played a key role in Augustine devoting himself to the service of Christ. Monica is an amazing example of a mom who never stopped praying for her child!

Susanna Wesley – Welsh Portrait Collection
Public Domain – Wikimedia Commons

Susanna Wesley: Mother of John & Charles
Some refer to Susanna Wesley as the “Mother of Methodism.” With 19 children, 9 of whom died in infancy, her life was not easy. Her marriage was dysfunctional. Her home caught fire and burned down twice. Her husband went to jail twice for financial mismanagement in the church where he was the rector. During this time, the replacement preacher was not to her liking, so Susanna started a Sunday school in her kitchen for her children. Neighbors caught wind of what she was doing and the group grew to 200, forcing them to move to the barn.

One author wrote about her devotion to training and prayer, saying: “Susanna gave her children six hours of schooling a day, educating her daughters the same as her sons, plus an additional hour a week of undivided attention with each one of them. How on earth did she do all this? How did she survive the loss of nine children, and the heartbreak of a volatile marriage, without becoming broken and bitter? And how did she manage such a frenetic household while also establishing a Sunday school and educating ten children, two of whom would rise to the heights of international influence? Susanna Wesley was preeminently a woman of prayer.”[2]

Susanna was an intentional mom—devoted to God and to teaching her children to follow Him.

What I am Learning
I am learning a great deal from these and other mothers of faith. Monica teaches me to always pray for my kids. No matter where their choices take them, I will be faithful to pray for my children.

Susanna Wesley had an apron; I have noise-cancelling headphones.

Susanna teaches me no matter how difficult the circumstances of life, I can still have an impact on my kids, community, and world. She had every reason to be bitter and give up on God. Instead, she doubled-down. She preached the gospel, taught her kids, and was a woman of prayer. Her example illustrates the importance of teaching, of spending individual time with children, and of taking time for God.

Susanna Wesley’s home was so hectic there was no place for her to retreat, so she pulled her apron over her head when she needed to pray. It was a sign to her children that she was not to be bothered. Susanna Wesley had an apron; I have noise-cancelling headphones. My kids know when I wear them I am spending time with Jesus. The act of putting on the headphones also helps me to focus in the moment and be present with Jesus.

Recently, on the way home from church, Kenzi, my oldest (age 6), and I were talking about how my parents taught me about Jesus and how to make good choices. I told her I get to do that for her now. She responded: “Then I can teach my kids. That will just go on forever!”

Kenzie got it. As a mom, my first responsibility is to my kids. They are the ones I get to disciple. And, hopefully, they too will one day carry on the practice with their kids. What an honor to be invited into making Christlike disciples in my home. Thanks be to God!

Rev. Cara Shonamon is co-lead pastor of Shawnee, Kansas, Church of the Nazarene.

[1] D’Ambrosio, Marcellino. When the Church Was Young: Voices of the Early Fathers (p. 230). Franciscan Media. Kindle Edition.
[2] Greig, Pete. How to Pray: A Simple Guide for Normal People (pp. 30-31). The Navigators. Kindle Edition.