Hidden Art by Edith Schaeffer (the wife of theologian Francis Schaeffer) is one of my newest favorite books. I’d love to buy a copy for every newly wed bride I know…and then some. I don’t even remember how I stumbled across the book, but I ordered it in the early months of this year and have read it twice and been blessed by it so much that I’d like to share a bit of it with you.
The primary message of the book is that God has gifted every individual with a capacity to be creative in various ways that can enrich the lives of all those around them and can be a ministry to their own soul and to God. The book encourages living a meaningful, artistic life full of appreciation for the beauty God has infused in the world around us and the world to come.
Schaeffer opens with a chapter called “The First Artist” which tells of God’s marvelous creativity. Creator God made man in His own image, in the likeness of a Creator. This, she asserts, is grounds for each Christian taking the time to develop their talents as an expression of this likeness. In the following chapter she defines what she calls “hidden art,” as “the art which is found in the ‘minor’ areas of life. By ‘minor’ I mean what is involved in the ‘everyday’ of anyone’s life, rather than his career or profession. Each person, I believe, has some talent which is unfulfilled in some ‘hidden area’ of his being, and which could be expressed and developed.”
Subsequent chapters inspire creativity and give practical ideas for incorporating “hidden art” into the common things of daily life. Topics include: music, painting/sketching/sculpturing, interior decorating, gardens and gardening, flower arrangements, food, writing – prose and poetry, drama, creative recreation and clothing. She offers fun ideas for spicing up the everyday by learning to arrange flowers and adorning your home with something fresh, to writing or painting and decorating menus for special meals, to taking time to read good literature to children.
Here are a few excerpts from the book:
“…living with what you have made or restored will help you to express something which is you, living with an originality which speaks of the diversity of human personality as against the machine. Creativity is a part of personality.”
“…surely his home should reflect something of the artistry, the beauty and order of the One whom he is representing, and in whose image he has been made!”
“A Christian, who realizes he has been made in the image of the Creator and is therefore meant to be creative on a finite level, should certainly have more understanding of his responsibility to treat God’s creation with sensitivity, and should develop his talents to do something to beautify his little spot on the world’s surface.”
“Is it a waste of time to bring forth this sort of beauty, to fulfil your artistic talents in this sort of way? Is it more important to use that time talking about the living God? It seems to me the beauty which causes strangers passing by to stop and enjoy a garden, provides a background and already ‘says something’ which gives an emphasis to what it is important to say. Of course one must speak of the historic and prophetic facts which people need to hear, the truth about God and the universe. But this makes much more sense in a setting which shows that action on the basis of truth really does fit in with the universe as it is, and was created. Certainly we who have a logical base for beauty, as well as morals, should be the ones to be fitting our landscape gardening into artistically beautiful and ecologically ‘sound’ treatment of land and plants.”
“Children growing up in an atmosphere where beauty is considered an important part of daily life cannot help being inspired to develop their own original ideas in these areas, nor can they help being prepared to live aesthetically themselves. There is a ‘togetherness’ in sharing a prepared table that even very small children feel, although they cannot express it verbally.”
“Imagination not only provides a background of beauty to daily life, but also a realization that love, thought and preparation has been given to the ‘together’ time of eating.”
“If you feel you have an unrecognized talent for writing, or if you simply love to write and want to do it, my advice is to write. But write without ambitious pride which makes you feel it is a ‘waste’ to write what will never be published. Write to communicate with someone…it is not a waste to write beautiful prose or poetry for one person’s eyes alone!”
All of it can be a little overwhelming, but throughout the book Schaeffer encourages readers not to be discouraged by minimal monetary resources, lack of time, or perfectionism:
“Of course you cannot do everything…of course we are limited by time, and by talents – but everyone can do something original, something creative, in the spot where they live. Start somewhere. Start where you can…”
This book is made even more enjoyable and inspiring by the whimsical illustrations of Deirdre Ducker…like these:
The closing chapters of the book are titled “Integration” and “Environment.” They are helpful chapters that sort of pull all the loose ends together and emphasize the importance of allowing yourself and your home to be a godly environment, having the aroma of Christ.
Reading this book has been an important part of my growth as a wife, mother and homemaker. I feel like it has given me “permission” to allow myself time for creative endeavors and to consider efforts at artistry worthwhile. I have often struggled mentally with balancing giving to the poor and missions work, and also pouring time and money and love into our home and family. With God’s grace I am finding that both are important, and He is so gracious to lead me by His Holy Spirit in balancing my life. It has also been a freeing realization to know that part of my ministry for the kingdom is providing a restful, renewing, Spirit-filled home for my husband that will fuel his ministry through the National Guard, our church and school. I pray that my daughter will also be blessed to grow up knowing her mommy took time to make her little room beautiful, to think of creative ways to teach her about God’s amazing handiwork and to spend time loving her, showing her ways to add color to the otherwise mundane tasks of life.
In conclusion, no, beauty is not the most important thing. But it was important enough to God to create tremendous variety in nature in sound, plants, humanity, colors, etc. It enriches our lives. Take a moment today to appreciate the beauty around you, allow yourself a moment to create a little something beautiful (a sweet note for a friend, a pretty table setting, thoughtfully putting together a relaxing iTunes playlist?? lol), and maybe check out this book or ask me and you can borrow it!
View a preview of this book here.