A Bigger Circle of Influence Than You May Think

feminine-threadsLast night I hosted a Housewife Theologian group for my church. We covered Chapter 7; on the responsibility God has given each one of us in our differing vocations as influencers. This morning as I was thinking about our discussion, I remembered Diana Lynn Severance’s wonderful book, Feminine Threads. This is a fascinating book about the service and influence of women in the church from the apostolic age through modern times. I thought I’d share an interesting excerpt from a mother in the mid-9th century. Her name is Dhuoda and she had two sons. Her husband, Bernard of Septimania, pledged loyalty to Charles the Bald during a typical Middle Ages sibling rivalry kingdom issue. Anyway, without getting into all those details, the important thing to know is that Bernard sent his 14-year-old son, William, to Charles’ court as a sign of his good faith. Dhouda wrote a manual for her son full of theology and its applications of wisdom in life since she would not be able to impart any teachings and advice in person. Here is part of her prologue:
I Dhuoda, though frail in sex, living unworthily among worthy women, am nonetheless your mother, my son William: to you the words of my handbook are directed now. For, just as playing at dice seems for a time most comely and apt to the young, amid other worldly accomplishments, or again, as some women are wont to gaze in mirrors, to remove their blemishes and reveal their glowing skin, concerned to please their husbands here and now—in the same way I want you, when you’re weighed down by hosts of worldly and temporal activities, to read this little book I have sent you, often, in memory of me; don’t neglect it—use it as if it were a matter of mirrors or of games at dice. Even if, more and more, you acquire books, many volumes, may it still please you to read frequently this little work of mine—may you have the strength to grasp it profitably, with the help of almighty God.  You will find in it, in epitome, whatever you choose to get to know; you will also find there a mirror in which, beyond a doubt, you can examine the condition of your soul, so that you can not only please the world, but please him in every way that fashioned you out of clay. So it is altogether necessary for you, my son William, to show yourself, in both ventures, as one who can be of service to the world and at the same time always, through every action, give delight to God. (p. 105)
That got me thinking about just how blessed I am to have my lovely children with me every day. There are three major reflections I’m taking form this wonderful excerpt of Severance’s book:
  1. Dhuoda had been greatly educated in Scripture and its theological applications to write this very rich letter to her son.  Some probably stemmed from her upbringing, and much from her disciplined love of God’s word as an adult. She took theology very seriously. Do we look at our own level of theological knowledge as an investment into the wisdom of our children?
  2. Most of us are blessed to raise our own children in our homes. But are we as consciously involved in training them in God’s ways as Dhuoda was for her son far removed from her? Are my words and actions like a mirror and manual to my children of the gospel of Jesus Christ? Do I exalt Christ and his gospel message to my children?
  3. Dhuoda did not live in the nunneries or the inner court circles that were held in high esteem at that time. Likewise, my life is not one of noted importance in our society. And yet, her love for God and her son are recorded in history. Our influence for God is big, no matter what our position in life. One day my children will leave the home. It would be an honor to be remembered for my love of Christ and my passion to teach them his Word. I pray that they see how the gospel interrupts all parts of this world with the great drama of redemption.
Dhuoda’s prologue is a mirror for me, reflecting a woman of great passion for God’s Word. Funny how you can influence far beyond your intended audience.