Some books change you, and you can never go back to who you were.
L’Abri was one of those books for me.
By the time I was finished with it, I had a fresh understanding of the power of God, His faithfulness, and His love for me. I was humbled and grateful to have been able to read that story of God’s glory. I had a sense of the reality of God’s provision and strength in our average, daily, somewhat monotonous lives. I had a new confidence in the work of the Holy Spirit.
I couldn’t wait to share it with everyone who would listen.
Naturally, my children were sitting ducks.
If you’ve never heard of L’Abri, it is the ministry founded by Francis and Edith Schaeffer and their children, originally based in the Swiss Alps. (It still is operating in that original location, as well as in several places around the world.) The Schaeffers went through many doubts and tests of faith, while at the same time opening their home to college age students and others from around the world who were eager for answers to the deep questions of life.
“It seemed to us that so much of Christianity was being spread by advertising designed to ‘put across’ something, and that there was very little genuine recognition of the supernatural work of the Holy Spirit.
One morning…Fran said to me, ‘Supposing we had awakened today to find everything concerning the Holy Spirit and prayer removed from the Bible…that God had somehow really removed everything about prayer and the Holy Spirit from the Bible. What difference would it make practically between the way we worked yesterday and the way we would work today, and tomorrow? What difference would it make in the majority of Christians’ practical work and plans? Aren’t most plans laid out ahead of time? Isn’t much work done by human talent, energy and clever ideas? Where does the supernatural power of God have a real place?
Challenged by this, we began to think and look over our own lives and work…and, we asked God to give us something more real in our work of the future.
-Edith Schaeffer, L’Abri (emphasis hers)
As I thought about reading this book to my children, here were some reasons I came up with:
I felt that as pastor’s children, they would be encouraged to hear the tests of faith that other children went through while they attempted to live for God. Since this book had been so life changing in my walk with the Lord, I hoped to give them an opportunity to have the same experience. I wanted to share with them the reality that God is present with us in the small details of life, and that He truly cares about us and wants to encourage us as we desire to live a life of faith.
For tougher books like this, I usually wait, think and pray about it for awhile before I make the decision to read it to my children. I know there will be some rough points, and I want to think it all the way through before I go for it. After much consideration, I decided it would be worth the journey.
So we jumped in! I edited some of the longer parts as I went along…Edith does get a bit wordy, but for the most part they were all tracking with it. I waited awhile for any evidence that they were understanding and encouraged on a deeper level. But then things started trickling in…
“Wow, Mom. That is really neat.”
“I really liked that part, Mom.”
I saw someone take it with them to copy a section into their commonplace book.
There were discussions of ways that God came through with an answer to prayer when it didn’t seem as if He was going to. And there were discussions over the confusion of when He doesn’t answer. The difficulty and at times complete lack of direction captured our imaginations, because we had all felt that too. The stories were meaningful to us, because it showed a creative and loving God coming through for His people.
And then there was a hilarious day. As a family, we were in one of our roughest seasons of life and ministry to date, and as I read aloud the description of the hard work that often goes unnoticed and unappreciated because of how mundane it is, we all began to laugh. Every time I would finish another paragraph, one of my kids would say, yep, just like at our house, and we would laugh harder. That was one of my favorite memories as a homeschooling mom-to see my children understand the importance of doing those small, seemingly pointless things…all for the love of God.
It’s been slow going. This book has lasted us a year or two since I read small sections only a few times a month. But I’ve been thrilled at how this story has settled in our souls. I remember recently after a two month break from reading, we were picking back up again and I was trying to remember what we had read last. I mentioned that we had been reading about the four questions that Edith would ask someone before she prayed with them to accept salvation. We had stopped on number three. Two months later, with no prompting, they remembered all three questions.
As time goes on, I continue to see the impact of L’Abri in my family.
Recently a child came to me and wanted to do something courageous and selfless. “You know, Mom, like in L’Abri”. Yes. Yes I did know.
I cried. The story lives on.
May the next generation know the faithfulness of our God.
“This is what we felt we were being led to do: to ask God that our work, and our lives, be a demonstration that He does exist; not just for six weeks, not for three months, but for as long as He would continue to lead us to live in this manner.”