Book Review: The Tapestry, by Edith Schaeffer

Well, I fear I am going to fall far short of my goal of reading 25 books this year, considering The Tapestry is only number eleven! In my defense, this book is 650 pages long; I began it before outreach and desperately wanted to finish it before we left for Asia, but was unsuccessful. I didn’t want to lug it around Thailand and Nepal with me, hence my reading and review of A Year of Biblical Womanhood, by Rachel Held Evans, but after getting back home from outreach, I delved back into The Tapestry, and am so glad I did.

I’d heard about this book in snippets of conversation from many here at YWAM Turner Valley. I looked online for it, but it seems to be relatively difficult to find. I was fortunate enough to borrow a copy (one of the reasons I was hesitant to carry it around Asia with me). Written by Edith Schaeffer, wife and ministry partner of Francis Schaeffer, it is an excellent read about their lives, beginning with recounting the lives of their parents, through to 1981, when the book was written. Francis Schaeffer lived until 1984, so the book really includes the vast majority of his life, how the couple developed L’Abri, and their ministry that grew, particularly through Francis Schaeffer’s books and the corresponding films. Edith Schaeffer is an author in her own right; she wrote well over a dozen books before her death earlier this year.

While I can’t possibly summarize a 650 page book in the space of a blog post, I can share with you some of the things that struck me most about The Tapestry. First of all, the title requires some explanation. Edith Schaeffer approaches the retelling of her and her husband’s lives through the image of a tapestry, with each person included in that story as one of the “threads.” Schaeffer sees God’s plans, and all people, as part of this tapestry, and her family’s story occupies one small corner of that work. The “threads” of that tapestry are traced throughout the book, with God bringing people together in extraordinary ways. Schaeffer often reflects forward as she introduces an individual, sharing something along the lines of, “if only we had known meeting this person on this day would result in _________ in years ahead.” It is a beautiful idea to view humanity in this way – as a tapestry created by God, meant to reflect His glory in its interweaving as the threads contribute to the greater picture. While giving value to each thread – each life – it also shows that one thread on its own is not the whole picture, and has a small (though significant and very important) role to play in the grand scheme of God’s plans.

One theme that particularly influenced me as I read this book was the value Edith and Francis Schaeffer had for each individual. They formed L’Abri, which defines itself as “study centers in Europe, Asia and America where individuals have the opportunity to seek answers to honest questions about God and the significance of human life” (http://labri.org/). While L’Abri communities have spread out throughout the world, the idea began with the Schaeffer’s opening their home in Switzerland to those curious about Christianity. All were welcome, and through having their questions carefully answered, many came to know the Lord through this first L’Abri community, which was founded in 1955. The Tapestry tells of dozens – maybe hundreds – of stories of men and women who came to L’Abri, and left changed. That Schaeffer can recall the names and stories of so many individuals who came through her door so many years ago is a testimony to her value of each person. This is a tremendous challenge to me. What does it look like to minister to “the individual?” What does it look like to meet each person where they are at, answer their questions, and pray fervently that they might come to know the Lord? This can be a difficult task if only a handful of individuals are brought into our lives – imagine encountering hundreds of individuals each month, as the Schaeffers did, both through opening their home, speaking engagements, and the seminars that their books and movies initiated!

While The Tapestry is a long read, I would definitely recommend it. It is a fascinating and challenging autobiography/biography of a couple and of a family that have had tremendous influence, leading many to the Lord, whether in person, or through their well-read books and films.

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