I hope I’m as vital at 80 as Eugene Peterson is. I’ve been enjoying the two interviews which Gabe Lyons had with him on qIdeas this past week. One is on the discipline of Sabbath and the other is on immersing ourselves in Scripture.
During these rich, insightful conversations, Peterson shared the process he went through in writing his paraphrase of the Bible, The Message, and explained how intimidated he was at the beginning of his work, starting with the book of Psalms. Two other men in the 20th century who wrote paraphrases, J.B. Phillips and Ken Taylor, were criticized–even vilified–for their efforts to translate Scripture into everyday colloquial English–so much so that Phillips never finished more than the New Testament.
Peterson went on to say that, without much intense criticism like these men, he went on to translate the whole Bible at the slow and steady pace of
five pages a day for twelve years!
It’s in light of Peterson’s “long obedience in the same direction” that I consider my own journey with Christ as His follower today. Unlike Eugene, I readily recognize my fits and starts, my unpredictable lurching toward maturity in Christ. Still, whether I wait for Him or not, the Holy Spirit will not be denied His work in me–He has promised to make me more like Christ–even if He’s just writing a sentence or two in the book of my spiritual journey.
I’m instructed by Eugene Peterson’s steadfast, steady discipline to complete the pastoral work of finishing the Message, page by page over twelve years. I need lessons from my elders like Eugene because, unlike him, I’m often in too much of a hurry for God. My hurry leads to impatience. My impatience certainly leads me to miss the proverbial “Samaritan on the roadside” whom God puts in my path to slow me down, steady my pace and recognize His faithful, daily empowerment to lead and guide me where I need to go. But the apostolic in me–the urgency of my self-imposed burden to equip the Church to be more matureinstantly (let alone within me as Christ’s disciple…)–tends to push me too far out in front of God’s good people.
I can tell the Holy Spirit has been speaking to me about being patient with his process of perfecting me because I got irritated when I first listened to Audrey Assad’s new song, “Slow”, on her lovely new album, “Heart”. “Why can’t my faith just grow faster?” I gripe subconsciously. “Get me to the head of the pack!”, I mentally push people aside as Audrey sweetly sings in the background…
You’ve drawn so close
That it’s hard to see you
And you speak so softly
That it’s hard to hear you
And I guess that’s what I get
For inviting you in
Because you took me at my word
And now I know
Faith is not a fire
As much as it’s a glow
A quiet lovely burning
Underneath the snow
And it’s not too much
It’s just enough to get me home
I heard that faith moves mountains
I know it moves my feet
To follow you
And maybe I’m a mountain
Because it’s moving me
To follow you.”
So, in the hurry of your life, I encourage you to slow down and savor the good conversation between Peterson and Lyons in the next couple of days. It’s so rich, I actually created a file for all the memorable quotes shared.
Maybe you’d like to note some of your own and add them as a comment to this post?
So let’s slow down today and, like Peterson, savor the goodness and the favor of Christ as he graciously makes us more and more like Himself.