Susanna Wesley – an Excerpt from Spiritual Companioning

The following is an excerpt from Spiritual Companioning, by Angela Reed, Richard Osmer, and Marcus Smucker.

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John and Charles [Wesley] were the sons of a minister and his wife, Samuel and Susanna, and they spent most of their upbringing in a remote English community.

In the context of near constant poverty and hardship, Susanna birthed nineteen children, ten of whom survived into adulthood. She took on the primary responsibility of educating the children and training them in the Christian faith. They were expected to follow a rigid routine that required respect for rules and adherence to ongoing devotional practices.

Cover ArtIn the middle of numerous pregnancies, infant deaths, and the responsibilities of a sizeable household, Susanna managed to give significant attention to her children’s personal spiritual growth. She companioned each child by creating a space for them to encounter God and to reflect on those encounters.

Several key qualities of Susanna’s companionship stand out. She regularly led the children in family worship, Scripture lessons, and prayer. Her methodical approach to prayer and other spiritual disciplines deeply influenced John and Charles, who would later incorporate this kind of discipline into their own ministry. Susanna also encouraged her children in their moral development, requiring them to respect each other’s belongings and practice confession and forgiveness.

She served her local community and educated others about overseas mission work. When her husband left for an extended absence, she welcomed a few hundred people into her home for evening prayers and readings about foreign missionaries.

Perhaps one of the most astounding things about Susanna’s mothering was her commitment to weekly spiritual conversations with each child, individually or in pairs, from early childhood until adulthood. She continued to provide spiritual counsel, words of encouragement, and the promise of constant intercessory prayer in her letters to John and Charles.

Susanna believed in the value of modeling a relationship with God by sharing her own joys and challenges in the life of faith. As she trained her children to interpret life through the lenses of prayer, theological convictions, and responsive action, she gave them a worldview and a language for recognizing the spiritual in the ordinary.

Susanna’s life reminds us that no matter what our sense of call or lack thereof, all of us have a vocation from God that we can live out. Richard Foster suggests that Susanna Wesley can be identified with the incarnational tradition of Christian spirituality. She viewed her home and neighborhood as the place where God is present and active, and she understood family relationships to be worthy of intentional spiritual companionship.

While she did not have a traditional profession, she did have a vocation in the biblical sense, a calling far greater than any one particular job. Susanna lived her faith in a way that focused on “making present and visible the realm of the invisible spirit.”

©2015 by Angela H. Reed, Richard R. Osmer, and Marcus G. Smucker. Published by Baker Academic. Unauthorized use of this material without express written permission is strictly prohibited.

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