What You Decide Today Has a Ripple Effect on World History
Perhaps you believe your life doesn’t have much effect on others because you think it’s ordinary. You may not be an activist or “influencer.” You may be a stay-at-home mom, someone who goes to work outside your home, or maybe you run a home business. Maybe you see few people outside of your home, workplace, or church. Wherever God put you, whichever people may be in your life, you have more influence than you may imagine. What you decide to say and do daily may change history in a way you cannot possibly foresee today.
I’m currently rereading The Tapestry by the late Edith Schaeffer, the wife of the late Francis Schaeffer. Together this couple decided, with God’s guidance, to leave a secure life in the United States and begin the L’Abri ministry in Switzerland. People all over the world who have sought to find answers to life began to visit the Schaeffers in their chalet.
The books the Schaeffers wrote inspired and taught those who never visited L’Abri or met either Edith or Francis. Sometimes what Francis wrote was over my head. His books usually dealt with intellectual issues I had already resolved.
I have read almost everything Edith wrote. I’m glad I was able meet her one day in California. I enjoyed her books, but they never could have survived the Hemingway app. They did give me a wider view of Christian ministry. Since I first read The Tapestry in the 1980s it has greatly influenced me. It showed me the importance of my daily decisions. They will affect history. So will your yours.
History as God’s Tapestry
The Tapestry is 650 pages long. One can’t distill its content into a blog post without losing important details. But Edith has put her most important message — the one I never forget — in the first chapter. God works out his plan through individuals. Isn’t the Bible itself a record of how God worked through individuals? Individual decisions count not only in our own lives, but in the lives that will come after our own. The decisions made by Adam and Eve at the beginning of recorded history still affect everyone in the world today. What you decide to do and say each day will also affect those who come after you.
God is still at work in the world’s history and in your history. Or to put it the way Edith Schaeffer did, “…all history is The Tapestry.”
Why Did Edith Schaeffer Decide to Write This Book?
Edith says she resisted writing a biography or autobiography. It was hard for her to separate one life from all the others that had influenced it for good or evil. She believed every life was intertwined with others. To tell one person’s story must also include telling the stories of others. As she said to her family, “I don’t want to write a biography. The thing that fascinates me really is the weaving of lives together, the fabulous way God works in history, while at the same time people’s choices cause changes in history, for good or bad.”
“I don’t want to write a biography. The thing that fascinates me really is the weaving of lives together, the fabulous way God works in history, while at the same time people’s choices cause changes in history, for good or bad.” (The Tapestry, p. 21)
Thus the idea for The Tapestry was born. She says the book’s title “applies to the togetherness of many lives woven together affecting each other.”
Edith saw each life that touched hers as a separate thread affecting the lives of others. We affect each other’s physical bodies, ideas, emotions, spirits, material possessions, and attitudes. A word from our lips may encourage someone to be more creative or squelch an idea that might change the world. Our morning mood may influence the kind of day everyone we live with has. In turn it may affect their students, teachers, coworkers and friends. Your actions and attitudes will help your children and theirs for generations to decide to value or despise what you value, to love God, hate him, or to just ignore him.
Only God Knows the Purpose of Your Thread in The Tapestry of History
Schaeffer spends a lot of time in Chapter 1 describing the Castle Chillon on Lake Geneva. She contrasts the way it is today with the way various people who lived in or near it saw it through the centuries. Events we deem important today as we look back in history went mostly unnoticed by those living those events. Here are some things going on in and around the Castle Chillon from 1530-1536 when the castle belonged to the Duke of Savoy.
Francois Bonivard was chained to a pillar at the castle from 1530-1536 for fighting the Duke of Savoy. John Calvin was writing Institutes of the Christian Religion not far away. In 1536 Erasmus, the great Dutch Christian Renaissance scholar, was dying 159 kilometers away in Basil. That same year Guillaume Farel was trying to convince John Calvin to help him spread the Reformation to Geneva. The Bernese captured the Castle that year from the House of Savoy.
During those years, many people went about their business in and near the castle. Do you suppose they grasped how what went on in the castle would affect the city’s future or history itself? How each of the figures mentioned in the last paragraph would affect the course of the Protestant Reformation? How those, in turn, would change Europe and also influence the founding of the United States of America? The ripples from their actions go on and on. Perhaps they affect the way you spend your Sundays now.
Two Things That “Astonished” Edith Schaeffer
- People with common interests who lived at the same time near the same location did not always meet each other.
- Those same people who had limited contacts during their lifetimes had a greater influence on those they never knew who came after them.
Johann Sebastian Bach, John Bunyan, and John Calvin influence more of us today than they did when they were alive. But times have changed.
The Tapestry was published in 1981 before the internet as we know it today was available. Social media now makes it easy for people living at the same time anywhere in the world to connect easily and communicate. Modern technology also spreads news of any kind throughout the world as it is made. Scientists can quickly begin work to improve on what others have discovered. That means that we are even more connected to and influenced by others than we were during Edith’s lifetime.
Some of My Favorite Schaeffer Books
Your Place in The Tapestry
Schaeffer’s aim is to help us see how God wove the threads of the lives of those in her family together to make things happen that would not have happened otherwise. She recognizes the mystery of God’s sovereignty interacting with human choices. The choices of others bring us into being and will continue to affect us as long as we live. Likewise, our own choices affect others and will continue to affect them as long as they live.
What you choose matters. Or as Edith says it, “People matter; people’s ideas and actions matter. The Tapestry of history is made up of people….History is going somewhere — The Tapestry will have a moment of being completed and taken off the loom altogether!” What you decide to do will continue to make ripples until that time.