[NOTE: Often when we hear “mentoring,” we only think of the one-on-one kind. However, it struck me recently that I had been mentored by many women who never knew my name. I heard them speak or read their books and through their words, they mentored me. This series which will be posted occasionally includes some of the lessons we can learn when we receive Words from the Wise.]
The late theologian Dr. Francis Schaeffer used to say that there is only one reason for believing in Christ—because it is the Truth. He and his wife Edith married in 1935 and in 1948 went to Switzerland as missionaries. They founded the L’Abri houses which have helped many seekers with backgrounds from atheist to Buddhist find that Truth. For many years the Schaeffers lived in the L’Abri house in Switzerland and traveled the world speaking. Dr. Schaeffer’s death from cancer in 1984 did not stop his wife Edith from carrying on the ministry.
In 1986 I heard Edith Schaeffer speak at a women’s retreat on the Gulf coast four times to over 500 women. Although 71 at the time, she looked much younger. And like Moses of old, her strength didn’t seem to have abated with the years. Each time she spoke no less than an hour and a half. (She started at the Garden of Eden and worked her way forward!) Some ladies, frankly, left the building—especially on the sunny weekend mornings to walk on the beach. I stayed, but each time I thought she must be drawing to a close, she would say, “I’ll tell you more about this a little later.” And she did.
Days (and years) after she spoke, I found myself able to remember many things she said—remember and ponder them. Now I ask myself, isn’t this the purpose of a speaker? Not to thrill with eloquence nor to be what we often call “dynamic” but to implant ideas that will remain with the listener long after the speech is over.
Here are some things she said that have stayed with me (and have mentored me):
“Answered prayer is a broken teapot.” The same people the Schaeffers prayed would be sent to L’Abri were the ones who broke her dishes. God answers prayer, but often in ways we don’t expect.
Edith, the author of 17 books, spoke on many topics. In the midst of a lesson on the broken walls in Nehemiah, she inserted her personal formula for daily Bible reading: read one chapter out of each of four books—two Old Testament and two New Testament. She found that reading in different sections often allowed the Bible to be a commentary on itself.
Her words were current (and remain so) as she related the philosophy that pervades the educational system today. A philosophy that is amoral and teaches that there is no truth, no fixed right and wrong and that everything is relative. Like the broken walls of Jerusalem, our culture has broken down the walls of God’s laws only to find ourselves surrounded by rubble rather than freedom.
She spoke of her memories of living in a missionary compound in China as a small child. (Her parents were missionaries with the China Inland Mission.) On a walk with her Chinese nurse, she heard pathetic little cries coming from a pagoda and asked about it. The nurse replied that parents left girl babies to die there because they wanted a boy (China then and now only allowed couples to raise one child). She longed to come to the wonderful United States where such things didn’t happen. But after she came to the U.S., abortion was legalized and millions of babies were thrown away before they were born.
Edith liked to say that “there is continuity to life.” Each person must make a contribution to the best of their ability in the sphere in which God has placed them. There is no difference between secular and sacred. “All of life is to be spiritual—lived unto the Lord.”
At one point, she spoke of her husband’s death. When he had cancer, they bought a house near the Mayo Clinic in Minnesota where he was treated. She surrounded him with familiar things and as much beauty as possible. His dying words to her urged her to “go from strength to strength” (from Psalm 84:5-7):
Blessed are those whose strength is in you,
whose hearts are set on pilgrimage.
6 As they pass through the Valley of Baka,
they make it a place of springs;
the autumn rains also cover it with pools.
7 They go from strength to strength,
till each appears before God in Zion.
That passage has become one of my favorites because of her message.
Edith lived in Switzerland with her daughter until she died March 30, 2013 at the age of 98. For many years Edith (and then her children and grandchildren) went “from strength to strength” doing the work she and her husband started—reminding us that there is only one reason for belief in Christ. Because it is the TRUTH.