I’m not sure the impact of the Schaeffer family on my life can be overestimated. As a young Christian, reading the writings of Francis Schaeffer inspired me to believe that it was possible to be an intellectual and an evangelical, that I didn’t have to “check my brain at the door” to follow this Jesus way.
Francis Schaeffer’s work led me to the work of his wife Edith Schaeffer and his son Frank Schaeffer. Francis Schaeffer also inspired me to grow out a goatee in high school, as soon as I could grow facial hair. I had that same goatee up until last year. The highlight was finally meeting and getting to know Frank Schaeffer through our mutual participation in the Wild Goose Festival.
At the planning retreat for last year’s festival, I got up the courage to finally tell Frank that his father had been the inspiration for me to grow the beard I’d had for nearly 20 years. Frank said the kindest thing he could’ve possibly said, “You should keep it! It looks good on you.” (Of course, I ended up growing out a depression beard shortly after that, but that’s another story.)
So, I’m reflecting on the impact of the Schaeffers on my life, because Edith Schaeffer died today at the age of 99. I met her in 1996 (when she was a spry 82-year-old and I was an ambitious 20-year-old) and interviewed her for my underground magazine, Kamikaze. In that interview, she told me something I’ve always hung onto: “You’re never educated. You’re never through. You never are finished being educated in the arts.”
I had read her autobiography, The Tapestry, and just pictured in my mind this adventurous family, traveling all over the world, appreciating the beauty of nature and the arts in cities all over the world. I realize now it was an idyllic picture, but it gave me something to aspire to — to reach for intellectual vigor and to be a global Christian, visiting places all over the world, savoring God-given life, and appreciating beauty.
That day, she also gave me a copy of her book Forever Music: A Tribute to the Gift of Creativity and signed it for me, doodling mountains and birds on it too. It was an afternoon of conversation and storytelling I hope I never forget.
My thoughts and prayers are with Frank and his family today as they grieve their loss. I am eternally grateful for his mom, Edith Schaeffer.