What A Friend

Why do I refer to Y’shua Hamashiach as “my possibly imaginary Friend?”

Well, for one thing, it made Genie Schaeffer laugh once. But before I’d made Genie laugh, I’d been in email conversations with her husband Frank, who is quite disdainful of people who are “certain” about things. Oddly enough, Frank is, himself, adamantly “certain” about this . . . but not all the time.

You can see now why Genie laughed.

Frank is the only son of Francis and Edith Schaeffer, two people whose many books I’d read in the days and years following my misspent youth which came crashing to an end for me at age twenty when I ran smack dab HARD into the Rock of “my possibly imaginary Friend,” Jesus Christ.

I’ve never met Frank Schaeffer, in the flesh, that is, but I do believe that he exists. We’ve talked on the phone and corresponded via email, but I’ve never yet had the privilege to shake his hand, but I still call him my “friend.” Similarly, I’ve never yet shaken Jesus’ Hand, but I do believe that I will one Day, and I call him my “Friend,” with a capital “F” to profess my faith in Him, albeit I also include the honest phrase “my possibly imaginary,” out of respect for my merely human friends like Frank who are put off when others are so damned “certain” about such things.

Frank and I began our relationship when I emailed him to say that “I don’t hate your guts.”

I felt the need to email Frank Schaeffer that because I’d read in his book, “Sex, Mom, and God,” that he’d told his aged mother that “All the evangelicals hate my guts.” I consider myself an “evangelical,” even though I know that term carries so much baggage, as it always has, but I only mean it as someone who loves to spread “good news.” I knew for “certain,” that I didn’t hate Frank Schaeffer’s guts. Maybe if I didn’t have a “possibly imaginary Friend” I might, but I do, so I don’t, and, in fact, I don’t even think that I can now that I do.

I also wrote in my email about the great respect that I had and still have for Frank’s late father, Francis Schaeffer, who wrote about Christian theology, as well as the love I had for Frank’s mother, Edith, who wrote about Christian living and who was then still living in a care facility in her beloved Switzerland where most of her amazing life’s adventures, sorrows, joys, and triumphs had occurred. I also noted how both of our mothers were devout lovers of Jesus Christ and were the ones who first told each of us about Him.

I included in my email a memory of mine from childhood that I thought Frank would enjoy reading given the title of his autobiographical work. My included story was about when I had asked my own Mom “What’s sex?” when I was in the fifth grade, and the sweetly humorous but very hurried yet simply Biblical answer that my mother gave me that night as I lay in my bed with her sitting next to me having just kissed me goodnight right before I had popped this startling question that she never saw coming!

Frank was very kind and wrote me back to say “thank you,” and he included an encouraging comment, “I see that you’re a writer . . . or should be.” Frank Schaeffer was the first actual writer who’d ever said something like that to me.

I’ll write more about “my possibly imaginary Friend” and me and others too this week, but I’ll end this post here on Mothers Day in a tribute to all mothers who tell their sons and daughters about Jesus Christ with the email that I once sent to Frank Schaeffer that began our long-distance friendship of now many years.

Mr. Schaeffer,

You and I almost met once many decades ago after I had gotten myself “saved” as a twenty year old while living in New England, thousands of miles from my Arizona home.  I had just converted from my childhood Roman Catholicism turned adolescent New Age Mysticism and a somewhat misspent youth focused on sex, drugs, and rock & roll.  Blossom, the Jamaican lady who first told me about Jesus, encouraged me to go visit a place called L’Abri in the Swiss Alps where I could meet other young “Christians” like myself.  I almost took Blossom’s advice, but instead went home to tell everyone what had happened to me and to find the life God provided me, including Karen, “the wife of my youth,” whom I love like you do your Genie, our children, John and Julia, each of whom I am so proud like you are yours, and a grandson, Aron, who loves me unconditionally, like your Lucy loves you.  But had I gone to Europe, instead, none of that would have happened, and maybe we’d have become friends.

I loved your father and mother, and I was encouraged by their writings and films.  Although, I confess that I found your mother a more readable writer than I did your father.  And I grieved along with so many around the world when your Dad died so young in his life.  The chapter in “Crazy for God” that describes your last visit with him always makes me cry.  I lost my Dad too soon also.  I’m happy to read that your mother is still as well as she is at her age, and she reminds me of my own mother who lived to 87 and was so full of life for so long.  Just as in my life, your mother was the biggest influence on you, and her passing will be hard for you to bear, as was the loss of my mother hard for me, but easier to accept than was the shock of our fathers’ early deaths.

When I was young, you were the voice for all of us young men who were heeding what we thought was a call to engage the world not just evangelically but also politically, something we believed was a Christian duty for Americans blessed with such liberties, and . . . yada, yada, yada . . .  well, I guess you know the drill.  Hell, you practically invented it!  Then life kinda just happened.  You disappeared from my radar.  And I noticed you again when I saw the joyous face of your young father as he lifted high one of his children on the cover of a book with your name on it.  In the last few years, I’ve not only read “Crazy for God,” but also “Patience with God,” and, of course, “Sex, Mom & God,” as well as “Portofino,” “Zermatt,” and “Saving Grandma!”  What’s more, I’ve purchased each and every one.  So you can buy me a drink, if we ever do meet, for helping to put food on your table! 

Here’s a story you might like.  

When I was in the fifth grade and coming new to a school in the middle of the year, all the boys hustled me out to a corner of the playground at recess and demanded to know if I knew “where babies come from.”  Intimidated and nervous, as I was, I silently gestured something I must have learned from somewhere but can’t remember where.  Inserting my extended right index finger into the circled index finger and thumb on my left hand, I formed an universally-recognizable symbol for sexual intercourse.  Instantly, the crowd of boys surrounding me burst into shouts of loud and sustained jubilation.  I had never before, nor since, felt such acclaim and affirmation as I did that day!

Nonetheless, I was unsettled in my heart because I did not at that time believe what I had just then professed.  Therefore, I decided to ask my Mom.  I could have asked my father, I suppose, but I knew that the chances were good that had I asked my Dad, he’d have erupted in shock with a loud shout of, “What the Hell are you asking about that for!”  So in the darkness of my bedroom that night after my mother had tucked me into bed, us having said our prayers and me having received on my forehead from her hand the sign of the cross, I asked, “Mom, what’s sex?”  There followed a long, uncomfortable pause before my mother sufficiently recovered her composure and stated simply, “When a man and woman love each other . . . they get married . . . and they hold each other close . . . and they press their bodies together.”  Young as I was, I could tell that if I asked for more detail than that, my mother might either die or at least faint right there in my room.  So I said, “Thanks, Mom,” and left it at that.   My mother quickly kissed me and hurried out of the room . . . but the feeling of relief that she left behind hung thick in the air above me until I fell asleep.  

That’s probably all the sex education a kid really needs, I guess.  I never suffered at any rate.  And as I look back over a life that’s nearing it’s closing chapters, I think that my Mom described things as well and as beautifully as it can be described.  Her explanation doesn’t account for all the human variations on the theme, but it has the virtue of Biblical authority.  And on that topic, I can’t say as how I agree with your take on the Bible, but that’s between you and God, and I think that He likes it when we wrestle with Him.  Good luck!

Your friend,


PS:  I later realized that the “first person who ever told me about Jesus” was my Mom.  You and I have that in common too!

“Jesus With A Gospel Book”
– Lucy & Frank Schaeffer

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