Probably one of the most influential books in my life is Hidden Art by Edith Schaeffer. I would like to begin by telling you about Edith Schaeffer because her own life is embodied in the book. I met Mrs. Schaeffer through her first book, L’Abri. Sometime in the mid-70’s I was librarian in a small church library. It was my custom to go to the local Christian bookstore to peruse the offerings. It was here that I learned about L’Abri.
Dr. Francis and Mrs. Schaeffer came to Europe following the end of World War II to consider the condition of Christianity. The war had been brutal in many European countries, leaving century-old buildings bombed and in disrepair and human hearts in despair. Dr. Schaeffer, a Presbyterian pastor in St. Louis, gave his report of what he saw and made the decision to remain in Europe with his family to bring the gospel to the children and to revitalize faith in Europe. Now how does one go about revitalizing faith on a continent? The Shaeffers visited thirteen countries in thirteen weeks to discern what the needs were. They settled with their young and growing family in Switzerland and sought God’s direction as to how to go about such a task. They were living in one canton for a period of time, making friends, doing church, and living life. After some time, their family was asked to leave the primarily Catholic canton as some felt threatened by their non-Catholic faith. They prayed for God’s guidance, and Mrs. Schaeffer set out to find a home for their family in another canton. God led her to the small village of Huemoz at the base of the Alps. Theirs is the story of seeking God for guidance, for resources, for direction, and for provision. As God guided their family, He brought about a ministry where people could come and ask questions and learn about God and faith during a turbulent time in the history of Christianity. So L’Abri came to be. People heard about the Christian family where the father would sit with them and respectfully answer their questions. They learned of the family they could live with and do life with as the mother served tea and provided nourishment and beauty as people could gather around a dinner table and talk about ideas and learn about faith. They learned of a family who were daily seeking God and trying to live by faith. L’Abri was a beautiful blend of Dr. Schaeffer’s respectful sharing of faith and Mrs. Schaeffer’s welcoming heart with the resources that were available to her.
Frankly, I had never encountered anything like the description of faith being lived out at L’Abri. It was real. It was welcoming. It was respectful. Just reading it brought me to a new understanding of the reality of God and His involvement in life here on earth. I wanted to learn more. So I bought and read every book that I could find written by Mrs. Schaeffer.
The next book I read was Hidden Art. The first chapter describes the First Artist – God, in whose image we all are made. I re-read this chapter aloud about a week ago. It presents such an important idea of the One who created all things with such precision and in such beautiful and intertwining ways. And then He made people who were to be like Him. The book has chapters on music, painting, sketching, sculpturing, interior decoration, gardens and gardening, flower arranging, food, writing – prose and poetry, drama, creative recreation, clothing, the integration of all ‘nations and kindred and people and tongues’, and the environment. Mrs. Schaeffer describes the variety of ways that these different kinds of art can be used in our lives and our homes to share the beauty and hospitality of our living God.
For me, this book provides a vision for beautiful, comfortable communication of the truth of who God is into a very broken world. It is a wonderful exploration in how to be an instrument of God’s hospitality in the way that only each of us can do it as God has uniquely made us in His creative image.
I’m hoping for an opportunity to share more from this book.
How has God uniquely gifted you and how is He encouraging you to use your gifts?