Some books take a long time to get through because they're..... well - just hard reads, but some books take a long time to read because you want to savor them - you simply don't want them to end. What is a Family? by Edith Schaeffer was that kind of book to me over the past year.
Since I've entered the inevitable season where my children aren't so young anymore, I really thought much of this book would be irrelevant to me, but because I love Edith Schaeffer's style of writing and her ideas, I decided to read this book anyway. I'm so glad I did! From the first chapter to the last this awesome lady challenged me to consider how I impact my family every day and how I will continue to impact our sons when they've left our daily care, and how my influence (whether or not anyone gives it a second thought) will have its effect in the lives of grandchildren and great grandchildren when I'm long gone from this earth.
The Schaeffers lived a unique lifestyle of ministry - rubbing shoulders with the world in a way that many of us are tempted to glamorize or think idyllic, but Edith writes honestly and sometimes humorously about their struggles and relates to things we all experience in our immediate and extended families. There is so much meat to savor and ponder in this book. It could be read very quickly, I have no doubt, but reading it slowly gave me the opportunity to relate her teaching to different seasons and crises that occurred in our extended family over the past year. It was like having an understanding and like-minded friend come alongside me as our family encountered uncomfortable issues. What an encouragement she was to me!
I was convicted, blessed, strengthened, and encouraged to be a better mom - not because I've been such a lousy one up to this point (okay, sometimes I have been, but that's not the point.) The point is that the Lord always wants us to reach for His holiness and at the same time live in humility - understanding what we're really made of. He wants us to be witnesses of the redeeming work He does in the lives of all His people. He wants our families to love each other and to mean something in a godless culture. Did I mention that I was convicted by this book? The ways we do that will happen in our relationships with each other and in the traditions we create and in the way those things flow out from our families to touch the world. And it will be different for each one of our families. That's what's so wonderful about this book. It doesn't contain a formula for creating a perfect family - never mind that the perfect family doesn't exist. It's simply an encouragement to live humble and meaningful lives in the context of family to the glory of God.
I have no doubt that others will glean different things from this book than I did. If you haven't read What is a Family, I encourage you to put it on your list of must reads. If you're like me, you'll probably want to read it several times to gather the many jewels it possesses that are relevant to the different stages of life we experience as women and mothers.