Wednesday, July 7, 2010

The Story of the Schaeffers

I knew that I had come to be shown something more of how God works, making
His strength perfect in weakness, as well as to give some answers to
people eager to ask. God is very merciful to us in continuing to help us
to grow, to teach us more of how He works, to give us a growing closeness to
Himself and fresh glimpses of reality. Such things are exciting to me, but
they do not come from "nine to five" in neat little packages of time, when our
energy is fresh, when we have had enough sleep, exercise, and a balanced
This is not to say that exercise, proper food, sleep, and some sort of a
balanced schedule are not important, but we each need to recognize the Lord's
interruptions when they come, and DO what He is giving us to DO. We are
not in a union! Gideon's battle with so few men and such strange weapons
was not exactly a soothing night's sleep. Nor were Paul's shipwrecks,
beatings, imprisonments, stonings, lack of food and sleep all listed in a
preplanned schedule. So often in history the excitement of seeing and
being a part of God's work is accompanied by afflictions and persecutions and a
diversity of true hardships.
Turning a few pages to find out what happened "next," what happened in the
last twenty-three years, is not really possible if one were not reminded that it
takes twenty-three years to understand and feel the pain, fears,
uncertainties, shocks, and the constant waiting. One can't wait "with
patience" without a period of time that threatens to destroy all patience, that
slowly brings an increasing impatience. Condensed pages of "skimming" the
years may give a false impression...each year is made up of 365 twenty-four-hour
~Edith Schaeffer, L'Abri

These paragraphs are from the end of Edith Schaeffer's book describing the journey she and her husband, Francis Schaeffer, and her family took as they blindly, in faith, followed God's leading, resulting in a cluster of chalets in Switzerland where people from all over the world found their way to stay for a time and listen to answers to their questions and discussions about God and truth. The book is called, L'Abri, which is the name they gave their chalets, the French word for shelter.
What struck me as I read their story was how God led them in a way similar to how He led Abraham, making his will known to them a step at a time as they humbly obeyed in faith, without knowing His ultimate plan. Their story echoes so many other stories I've read of people used in mighty ways by God, people whose lives produced fruit a hundred fold. Prayer, humility, steps of faith, persistent obedience in doing what He calls us all to do, sacrificing their own comforts in service to others, welcoming with generous hospitality all He brought to their doors, and then, at certain moments, stepping into the unknown towards impossible things as He led them. The remarkable results of their life work seem to come from opennes to HIS plan (not concocting their own...they had ideas of what He might want them to do, but they let Him show them incrementally, and never professed to know where it would all lead), fervent prayer whenever they felt lost or up against impossible obstacles or had important decisions to make, and selfless service to others. That struck me deeply as I read the story from Edith's perspective. She never complained about the work, just mentioned in passing once towards the beginning of the story how some people's responding to her husband's conversation with them by coming to joyful faith in Christ erased the resentment she had been feeling about having to work through the whole long discussion. She was the hostess to countless guests who found their way to the "shelter." The Schaeffers didn't have an income other than what God provided for them, so much of their food was grown in gardens and made from scratch. When I think of all the meals she planned and organized and served day in and day out, I'm awed. She raised her four children and travelled with her husband and shared his work load and contributed to the ministry and held conversations with guests and workers who were helping in the gardens and with the meals. She never glossed over how much work it was or what sacrifice was required, but it was never a complaining or resentful spirit coming through her story. When she talked about the challenge it was to have a "family life" with such a steady stream of guests always in their home, she acknowledged that the challenges were real and not always solved. But the main story consists of the miracles, of God showing Himself and His will to them through supernatural workings of circumstances and situations and changed lives. She talks often of the joy of living a life where God kept showing to them that He is REAL.
I kept feeling so thankful, as I read their story, to be able to know some of the details about how God leads people. Their story is so different from other ones I've led in the kind of ministry they had, one of hospitality on Edith's part, and introducing intellectuals to the logic, coherency, and truth of Christianity on Francis's part. But it's the same story, too. People who chose to listen to God and obey his leading in faith finding themselves at the end of their lives having helped, changed, influenced, encouraged more people than they could ever know about.