Abigail Adams Exemplified Wife's Role

by Mary Somerville

Mary SomervilleWe can learn from remarkable women of the past like Abigail Adams, one of my favorites-one of the most distinguished first ladies in the history of our country. She grew up in the home of a Puritan minister in a society that held its clergy in highest esteem, as they were the most highly educated and influential leaders in the community in morals, politics, and social life. Abigail was well-read and was very astute in many areas.

She married John, a budding lawyer, in 1764 and was called upon to support him in his many endeavors as he used his skill as a thinker and writer to shape the course of our destiny as a country. When he first began in public life by drafting the resolution opposing the British Stamp Act he knew that he was entering the fray and he asked Abigail's opinion if he should stay out of it. She replied, "No, John. We're small, we three dependents of yours, and not of much use in a fight; but we'll follow you down the trail as far as it goes."1

That trail led him to the Second Continental Congress where he was a delegate. He helped draft the Declaration of Independence and the Massachusetts State Constititution. It led them through many separations while he was away in Philadelphia and abroad when he served as an ambassador in France and the Netherlands. The trail led him to negotiate a peace treaty with Britain, and then to become minister to Britain, which meant more time away from family. Then the trail led him to become the first vice president of the United States and then the second president.

It was a very hard trail. Abigail managed the finances and since they were poor public servants, she took up the slack and ran their farm including the care of the cows while her husband ran the ship of state. Her life was hard. She suffered the death of two of her children-one, a son who died a drunkard and a gambler. She was often ill and escaped an early death. When she had the opportunity to be with her husband, the travel was horrendous. They both suffered abuse and were misrepresented by some of the people they were the closest to, but through it all she had an indomitable spirit and a strong faith in God.

By reading her biography I saw a strong marriage bolstered by Abigail's aim to make John a success through the way she released him for service to his country during a very turbulent time. She accomplished this through her management of the home, earning extra income through their farm, caring for the children, expressing faith in her husband, reading and keeping her mind active discussing issues, and encouraging him in his position. Abigail is a model of perseverance, frugality, good taste, and hospitality. As well as entertaining heads of state and cabinet members and their wives, she also welcomed the general populace. Here was a woman who didn't hold grudges, gave wise input to her husband, and remained submissive, humble, and flexible-all qualities that I would like to emulate.

God blessed her in that not only was she married to the president-thereby sharing the honor of the highest position in the land-she also had the honor of being the mother of the sixth president of the U.S. She was welcomed by King George III and his wife and the king of France into their palaces. She was privileged to be friends with and host such people as George and Martha Washington, Ben Franklin, and Thomas Jefferson. She was part of a generation who shaped our republic.

I see a corollary to my own life. Will I seek to make my husband's work-the ministry-a success through all means possible? It will lead through some rough places, but it is worth every sacrifice. It is shaping a far greater kingdom-the Kingdom of God.

When we were called to church planting in California, the final decision to move was my husband's to make. I let him know that I would support him whether we stayed in New Jersey or if we moved. The important thing was to follow where God was leading him even if it meant leaving extended family behind. When we were discussing moving to California, my home state, I told my husband that I would happily move anywhere in the state except to a certain, especially hot area where I had grown up. Knowing that moving would have a far-reaching impact on our family, we made it a matter of concerted prayer. He took my thoughts into consideration, pursued counsel from godly men, and then he made the final decision to move.

Wouldn't you know it, God moved us to that especially hot area! Even in that, God gave me His grace to happily move. As I reflect back there are no regrets, although it has been difficult being away from our families.

Now you may be thinking, "But my husband makes some pretty unwise decisions. Do I submit when he is going to do something that I think is bad financially or in another way?"

We are responsible to let him know our thinking on the matter, but then step back and allow him to make the final decision. The Bible is clear, "Wives, likewise, be submissive to your own husbands, that even if some do not obey the word, they, without a word, may be won by the conduct of their wives, when they observe your chaste conduct accompanied by fear" (1 Pet. 3:1-2). God can sovereignly work through our husband's mistakes, if they are that.

The Trinity had a plan for redeeming the world and They were one in how it should be accomplished. We know that Jesus took the submissive servant role to accomplish that plan. How amazing that Jesus, who was one with the Father, equal with God, did not consider it something to be grasped, but made Himself of no reputation, taking the form of a bondservant and died the death of a criminal on an ignominious cross (Phil. 2:5-11). By becoming a servant and dying our death, Jesus accomplished the purpose that He and His Father had planned before the world came into being.

With Christ-like submission and dependency in our marriage Satan doesn't have a foothold to separate us. We will be going forward under one head, accomplishing the will of God.

1. Irving Stone, Those Who Love, (Garden City, New York: Doubleday & Co, 1965), 141.

Excerpted from Mary's book, One with a Shepherd: the Tears and Triumphs of a Ministry Marriage

A graduate of Trinity Evangelical Divinity School, Mary has 35 years of experience
as a pastor's wife. She has been her husband Bob's chief encourager as he has pastored
two Evangelical Free Churches-one in New Jersey and
one in California, where they now reside.

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