The other day I was singing O Come All Ye Faithful during church and began to ask myself what does it mean for me to adore Christ?
Webster defines adore three ways:
It was easy for me to connect deeply with the content of Schaeffer’s letters. There were a number of elements that stood out to me in it, the first of which was the response he took towards the struggle in his involvement with the spiritual coldness of the separatist movement. He says, “I really feel lighter than I have for years. I do not know what this all means in my relationship with the movement, but I have come to this conclusion – that, God willing, I do not want to lose this joy that I have before the Lord” (p. 33). This “True Spirituality” that he later poured into his book of the same title seemed to characterize him from then on. This joy Schaeffer describes in his walk with God is one that is only borne through learning to live well in the face of adversity. We often want to simply fight against the hardships in life and decry the pain they bring - however we must not give in to such temptations. The fruit of joining in the sufferings of Christ, even while in ministry, always yields such glorious joy that it cannot be discounted. This is a point I feel I can always learn more from.
Secondly, the way the Schaeffer depended on God for their finances was incredible! To not actively seek to raise support for what they did, but to wait patiently on God instead was something that sticks firmly in my mind. As Linds and I are currently engaged in the support raising process for our work with Mission to the World the query quoted from Amy Carmichael was particularly inspiring: “Why not ask God to make those who love Him want to help the little children whom He loves, instead of asking help from those who perhaps don’t love him” (p.79). It is hard to imagine living this way practically. Having to wait, trusting in God’s provision when I have not specifically asked for it from any particular individual or organization is something that I struggle to imagine. Even though we have only begun our support raising efforts, the burden of this seems so heavy. Waiting on God’s providence even in the anxious moments is something Linds and I are beginning to learn much more of.
Finally, it was amazing to see the theme of dependence on prayer woven so thoroughly throughout the decades of his letter writing. This was not so much a point of intentional discussion in his letters, but was instead a peripheral atmosphere that all of his words seemed to swim within. Often the letters opened by recording that Schaeffer had already been praying for the recipients and finish with a request that his readers be praying for him as well. The heavy consciousness of their dependency on Christ’s work in response to their prayers seemed to be the driving force behind all of their interactions. It was a blessing and encouragement to see this played out over the Schaeffers' many years of personal correspondences.
In these areas in particular and many others as well, The Letters of Francis Schaeffer did much to provide an inspiring example of what it means to be a person of meekness, boldly committed to the God’s Word, passionate for God’s Truth, and, regardless of who they are, sincerely delighting in the people God has made. The example of Francis Schaeffer's passions is well displayed in his statement that his "joy is in seeing many who have such little hope come to the place of not only of being saved for eternity, but of being more human in the present life” (p. 103, italics mine).
It didn’t take long for me to get sucked into this book. That’s not to say it was a pleasant read, rather it was an interesting combination of unpleasantly, yet compellingly, true. My heart resonated pretty closely with Nouwen’s portrayal of his life orientation. He had accomplished many things, worked extremely hard, and even found himself working in Boston on the beautiful campus of Harvard as a priest in their divinity school! In this he does not present some image of himself being prideful or arrogant in his position, he simply hadn’t been too stretched in his experiences. That said, his work at L’Arch, a home for mentally handicapped adults, opened him up to so much more, and his words in this book have opened me as well.
I struggled to understand what he meant about not seeking relevance. I work in youth ministry, and with students, if you are not relevant then you are nothing - at least so I thought. Then Nouwen broke my heart. He says that his experience at L’Arch forced him to “let go of my relevant self - the self that can do things, show things, prove things, build things - and forced me to reclaim that unadorned self in which I am completely vulnerable, open to receive and give love regardless of any accomplishments” (p. 28). Wow, I still find myself reeling and even wincing a little as I type that. There is a part of me that doesn't like it. There is beloved sin at risk in admitting it, but I don’t think this way. I can think of a thousand “but"s to insert, and even more correctives about what it actually takes to cross over into youth culture, but those are all simply stylistic points and miss the foundational idea entirely. As Nouwen says in the conclusion of his first chapter, “The leaders of the future will be those who dare to claim their irrelevance in the contemporary world as a divine vocation that allows them to enter into a deep solidarity with the anguish underlying all the glitter of success, and to bring the light of Jesus there” (p. 35). Wow.