Little Sarah came into the world yesterday morning (12:42 am on November 19, 2012), weighing 7 pounds & a healthy four ounces. She stole her parents’ hearts immediately. She has since insisted on keeping them.
With the requisite forewarning that no one, outside of family, will likely care, here is why our daughter is named Sarah Auden.
Sarah Auden Francisco
Erin & I had settled on names that carried (1) a Christian or Biblical heritage & (2) an honorable literary heritage. Now, little Sarah Auden, we pray that God would mold you in the images of your namesakes and, more than that, in the image of His Son. We pray that you would be a woman who fears the Lord, who revels in wonder at the gospel, who loves her family well, who faithfully & humbly serves others, who communicates the majesty of Christ beautifully before the world, who discerns good from evil, and loves the Lord with all her heart, mind, soul, and strength.
Sarah= in honor of Sara(h) Childs, Matt’s great-aunt & godmother & Sarah Edwards, wife of Jonathan Edwards.
Sara Childs has always played an important role in my life. First, as Kathryn’s & my great aunt & godmother, she has poured out her love on us year after year, in friendship, thoughtfulness, constant support, and, of course, youthful playfulness. Second, Sara’s faith in Christ has always been an inspiration to Kathryn, me, and, recently, Erin. She has consistently pointed us to Christ as her treasure above all & served others that they may know Him, our God & King, who came not to be served, but to serve, and to give his life as a ransom for many (Mark 10:45).
Although we have always known her as “Aunt Sara,” it turns out that on her birth certificate, her name is spelled with an “h”!
Jonathan Edwards may have been America’s most important theologian ever, helping shape the First Great Awakening & influencing countless pastors & theologians in the centuries after his death. His book, The Life of David Brainerd, inspired countless numbers to go on to serve on the mission field, and several more of his books, including Charity & Its Fruits, Freedom of the Will, A Faithful Narrative of the Surprising Work of God, and Religious Affections, have continued to shape modern Christian thought on the atonement, sanctification, God’s sovereignty, revival, and countless other subjects.
Not only did Edwards leave an incredible theological & literary legacy, his descendants have continued to have a disproportionate influence on America. His descendants include at least 13 college presidents, Vice President Aaron Burr, First Lady Edith Roosevelt, the writer O. Henry, Poet Laureate Robert Lowell, 60+ professors, 3 senators, and publisher Frank Nelson Doubleday.
But, as they say, behind every great man is a great woman, and this was absolutely true of Jonathan’s wife, Sarah Pierrepont Edwards. The daughter of one of the founders of Yale, Sarah was the perfect complement for Jonathan- he was introspective & scholarly, while she was outgoing and hospitable- but they were bound together by their love for the Lord.
Jonathan Edwards, while an aspiring pastor, wrote of his wife when he first met her, “They say there is a young lady in New Haven who is beloved of that Almighty Being, who made and rules the world and that there are certain seasons in which this great Being, in some way or other invisible, comes to her and fills her mind with exceeding sweet delight, and that she hardly cares for anything, except to meditate on him—that she expects after a while to be received up where he is, to be raised up out of the world and caught up into heaven; being assured that he loves her too well to let her remain at a distance from him always. There she is to dwell with him, and to be ravished with his love and delight forever. Therefore, if you present all the world before her, with the richest of its treasures, she disregards it and cares not for it, and is unmindful of any pain or affliction. She has a strange sweetness in her mind, and singular purity in her affections; is most just and conscientious in all her actions; and you could not persuade her to do anything wrong or sinful, if you would give her all the world, lest she should offend this great Being. She is of a wonderful sweetness, calmness and universal benevolence of mind; especially after those seasons in which this great God has manifested himself to her mind. She will sometimes go about from place to place, singing sweetly; and seems to be always of joy and pleasure; and no one knows for what. She loves to be alone, and to wander in the fields and on the mountains, and seems to have someone invisible always conversing with her.”
They were married when she was 17, and they moved to Northampton, Massachusetts, where Jonathan studied under his grandfather until he took over the pastorate. While Jonathan spent up to thirteen hours a day in his study & was nearly useless in managing his household, Sarah took care of their 11 children & the endless chores.
Samuel Hopkins, a minister & Jonathan’s brother-in-law, wrote that her discipleship and training was such that would “promote a filial respect and affection, and to lead them to a mild tender treatment of each other. Quarreling and contention, which too frequently take place among children, were in her family unknown.” It was said that “when she had occasion to reprove… she would do it in a few words, without warmth and noise, and with all calmness and gentleness of mind… she would address herself to the reason of her children, that they might not only know her inclination and will, but at the same time be convinced of the reasonableness of it.”
George Whitefield, the famous evangelist, wrote that meeting Sarah caused him “to renew those prayers, which for some months, I have put up to God, that he would be pleased to send me a daughter of Abraham to be my wife.” He remarked that she was “adorned with a meek and quiet spirit,” but could speak “solidly of the things of God, and seemed to be such a helpmeet for her husband.” What a woman!
Near the close of the year 1738, according to Sarah’s testimony, she had an “uncommon discovery of God’s excellency, and in an exercise of love to God, and of rest and joy in Him,” subsequently made a new dedication that she would forsake all for God & do all for His glory. After this, she was frequently overwhelmed by the excellencies of Jesus.
Sarah later wrote, “These words, in Rom. 8:34, came into my mind ‘Who is he that condemneth; It is Christ that died, yea rather that is risen again, who is even at the right hand of God, who also maketh intercession for us;’ as well as the following words, ‘Who shall separate us from the love of Christ,’ etc.; which occasioned great sweetness and delight in my soul. But when I was alone, the words came to my mind with far greater power and sweetness; upon which I took the Bible, and read the words to the end of the chapter, when they were impressed on my heart with vastly greater power and sweetness still.
They appeared to me with undoubted certainty as the words of God, and as words which God did pronounce concerning me. I had no more doubt of it, than I had of my being. I seemed as it were to hear the great God proclaiming thus to the world concerning me; ‘Who shall lay any thing to thy charge,’ etc.; and had it strongly impressed on me, how impossible it was for any thing in heaven or earth, in this world or the future, ever to separate me from the love of God which was in Christ Jesus. I cannot find language to express, how certain this appeared – the everlasting mountains and hills were but shadows to it. My safety, and happiness, and eternal enjoyment of God’s immutable love, seemed as durable and unchangeable as God himself.
Melted and overcome by the sweetness of this assurance, I fell into a great flow of tears, and could not forbear weeping aloud. It appeared certain to me that God was my Father, and Christ my Lord and Savior, that he was mine and I his. Under a delightful sense of the immediate presence and love of God, these words seemed to come over and over in my mind, ‘My God, my all; my God, my all.’ The presence of God was so near, and so real, that I seemed scarcely conscious of any thing else. God the Father, and the Lord Jesus Christ, seemed as distinct persons, both manifesting their inconceivable loveliness, and mildness, and gentleness, and their great immutable love to me.
I seemed to be taken under the care and charge of my God and Savior, in an inexpressibly endearing manner; and Christ appeared to me as a mighty Savior, under the character of the Lion of the Tribe of Judah, taking my heart, with all its corruptions, under his care, and putting it at his feet. In all things, which concerned me, I felt myself safe under the protection of the Father and the Savior; who appeared with supreme kindness to keep a record of every thing that I did, and of every thing that was done to me, purely for my good.”
In 1758, Jonathan accepted the presidency of what would later become Princeton University. He arrived in New Jersey ahead of his family & was inoculated with the smallpox vaccine. Unfortunately, he contracted the disease & died before Sarah could make it to his side. At his deathbed, Jonathan gave his daughter these words:
“Give my kindest love to my dear wife, and tell her, that the uncommon union, which has so long subsisted between us, has been of such a nature, as I trust is spiritual, and therefore will continue forever: and I hope she will be supported under so great a trial, and submit cheerfully to the will of God.”
Upon hearing of her husband’s death, Sarah wrote in return: “O my very Dear Child, What shall I say? A holy and good God has covered us with a dark cloud. O that we may all kiss the rod and lay our hands on our mouths. The Lord has done it. He has made me adore His goodness that we had him so long. But my God lives, and He has my heart. O what a legacy my husband and your father has left us. We are all given to God and there I am and love to be.” Even in the midst of undeniable sadness, Sarah trusted in the sovereignty & goodness of God.
It is no wonder that Jonathan once wrote of her: “[Her] heart was swallowed up in a kind of glow of Christ’s love coming down as a constant stream of sweet light, at the same time the soul all flowing out in love to him; so that there seemed to be a constant flowing and reflowing from heart to heart. The soul dwelt on high, was lost in God and seemed almost to leave the body.”
Auden= in honor of W.H. Auden, 20th century poet
Wystan Hugh Auden (1907-1973) was a brilliant poet & essayist who wrote often of love, politics, religion, humanity, & nature. He was famous for his ability to move between styles with ease- sometimes writing in the then popular modern style, sometimes adeptly switching to the more flowery, traditional style.
In the late 1930s & early 40’s, Auden left England for America, abandoned his prophetic tone , and, in his words, “reconverted” to Anglicanism, in part thanks to the works of Charles Williams, C.S. Lewis & Soren Kierkegaard.
One of Erin’s & my advent traditions include reading his long poem, “For the Time Being: A Christmas Oratorio,” which centers around the characters in the Christmas story, but is told as if the events were happening in Auden’s world (early World War II). The poem shows just how shocking it really is that the Christ-child entered our mundane, fallen world- one full of knowledge, but full of confusion; full of those with conviction, but full of complacency. In this poem, we begin to see how God has acted “to redeem from insignificance” the whole world and that, by Christ’s life, He has given vibrant meaning to all things.
The New York Times’ Peter Steinfels wrote in 1990, “With its metaphysical musings and theological underpinnings, the poem will never replace ‘The Night Before Christmas’ or the seasonal pageant at Radio City Music Hall. But Auden’s is a Christmas that can glimpse redemption even in the trivialization of Christmas, in the frantic shopping, distracted gaiety and unsuccessful attempts, as he says, to love all of our relatives. This is a Christmas for the day after Christmas. This is a Christmas for grown-ups…The world that Jesus’s birth silently, but decisively, disrupted was one of sophisticated knowledge undermined by philosophical confusion, of political power sapped by moral complacency…Whatever joy Christ’s coming may ultimately promise, the poem makes clear that faith, like love, will not be easy.”
This is true. We, in this life, are never promised to escape our sin, but we are promised suffering. We are also promised that He would be infinitely worth it. I pray, in faith, that you too would one day soon believe the same.