The saying that books are friends is so eternally true, that it cannot be labeled “an old saw”! More times than I can count, books have come through where people have goofed.
As a new Christian, 39 years ago, I was catapulted into a foreign-to-me culture. Although I now held the deeper answers to life in Scripture, some questions concerning lifestyle surfaced. Suddenly I was supposed to be a “church lady”. But I was shocked and horrified by the church ladies who tried to entice me into their midst.
I discovered that, in this fellowship, church ladies met frequently for “prayer meetings”. The prayer meetings consisted of a perfunctory opening prayer, lots of cake, and an overload of social conversation mainly focussed on those who were not present. We were supposed to pray for the absent ladies. To “help” us pray, personal details of their lives were spilled out for all to hear. The actual prayer following this chatter consumed—at the most—5 minutes. Also characteristic of church lady meetings were jokes and criticisms targeted toward husbands.
After a couple of these church lady gatherings, I realized I simply could not stomach any more! I have always detested gossip, and I believe that husbands deserve our loyalty. (If there would be a husband problem, a church woman’s group—or any kind of a group for that matter—would not the place to share!)
When I came to faith, I already had many long-standing friends—some of whom I’d grown up with. Although most of the women I knew did not publically profess faith in Christ—and they certainly did not run around with Bibles in hand—they were gracious, kind, and considerate. Gossip was anathema. My friends were home-loving women, steeped in arts and crafts, committed to creating beauty, and dedicated to gracious family living.
Hence, the gossipy church ladies were an enigma to me—especially because I had thought that, with Scripture in their hands, they would be extra sensitive kindred spirits. Not so! I was soon thought to be “odd” because I didn’t want to socialize with the women, and doubly “odd” because I was so very contented at home—knitting, making bread, reading, etc!
I had expressed my passion for the natural world (after all, it was God’s witness in creation that finally led me to Him at age 37) and that passion made me appear to be a kind of pagan. Coupled with my interest in old-fashioned home crafts, my penchant for nature branded me: I was an old Hippie in the church ladies’ eyes!
You can imagine my dilemma. I wanted to be friendly to those who shared my new faith, but I was constantly aware of their thinly veiled disapproval of my lifestyle. Was there actually something wrong with me, for hating gossip (even when it was called a prayer request) and wanting to stay home or hike in the woods?
God saw my confusiuon and loneliness, and came through by putting the perfect book in my hands: THE HIDDEN ART OF HOMEMAKING*, by Edith Schaeffer. I had already found answers for intellectual questions from books by Edith’s husband, Francis Schaeffer. Now here was a book by Francis Schaeffer’s wife—a treasure advocating the lovely, creative aspects of being a “keeper at home”.
The chapters in this book deal with ways to incorporate every area of arts and crafts into family living. HIDDEN ART is a joyous book, and it affirmed that my chosen vocation of homemaker was pleasing to God. Old Hippie or whatever, I was exactly where I was supposed to be. The church ladies had it all wrong!
I’m eternally grateful to Edith Schaeffer for HIDDEN ART, and the other faith and family based books she wrote. According to web sources, Edith is still alive with some of her family in Switzerland. I hope that somehow this blog entry will reach her or other family members!
The ongoing ministry of L’Abri, started by Francis and Edith Schaeffer in the 1950s, has produced (and will continue to bear) fruit which will astonish us when we get to Heaven and learn the facts! And the fruit of this godly couple’s books may be like the stars in the sky and the sands in the sea!
*THE HIDDEN ART OF HOMEMAKING is still available, but now it’s called HIDDEN ART. Sometime in the 1980s the word “homemaking” was dropped, during a time when homemaking was becoming less popular (how very tragic!).
Shortly after reading Edith Schaeffer’s book, I met a woman whom I consider to be the best, most thorough Bible teacher in the area: Judy Dalton, of APPLES OF GOLD ministry. (Judy is still faithfully teaching Scriptures, at 2 different locations outside of Milwaukee.) Through Judy’s study, I met many kindred spirited keepers at home. I left that first church with its gossipy scenario, and never looked back.
Meanwhile there’s a current groundswell of younger Christian women who make bread, knit, and home school their children! Some of the women even raise chickens, rabbits, and sheep—like I did for 2 decades, on my little “funny farm”!
I am happy to report that in at least some of our local fellowships, the “church lady” culture has become inspiring and fun. My friend, Judy Dalton, has had a lot to do with the upbeat focus. And I know that Edith Schaeffer’s writings have made a positive influence on Christian women as well! :)
Margaret L. Been—All Rights Reserved