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Most of the time, what we need to help us through the struggles in our lives is not the advice of an expert but the wisdom of a friend. Through this series of eloquent letters written to a life-long friend, author Eugene Peterson demonstrates friendship as a means to Christian maturity. The topics covered in this warm and highly personal ...
Most of the time, what we need to help us through the struggles in our lives is not the advice of an expert but the wisdom of a friend. Through this series of eloquent letters written to a life-long friend, author Eugene Peterson demonstrates friendship as a means to Christian maturity. The topics covered in this warm and highly personal correspondence are broad and varied, but one thing comes through with constancy and clarity: there is great value in a wise, experienced friend to help us see more clearly and to strengthen our growth in faith and godliness.
You are fortunate to have found a congregation of Christians to join up with. And so soon. Especially since you had such an accumulation of negative experiences of church early on. Wasn't that the primary factor in sending you off into your years of wilderness wandering? But you're quite right: you could be a solitary wanderer; you can't be a solitary Christian.
It amuses me to imagine the two of us, so different and yet so alike, you putting down new roots mid-continent, with me perched a little precariously on its western extremity, the taut forty-ninth parallel both separating and connecting us. I anticipate that we will find far more connection than separation.
The peace of the Lord, Eugene
Well, that didn't last long, did it? I mean your romance with the church. Did you so easily forget that it is sinners that God calls to repentance, and that a lot of them, having heard the call and decided that they like the sound of the good news of salvation, somewhere along the way ditch the repentance part? And now you find yourself involved in a company of friends to whom you are not feeling very friendly.
You say that you have almost nothing in common with these people. But isn't that just the point? You have nothing in common with them; but God does. This just happens to be the way that God goes about making a kingdom, pulling all sorts and conditions of people together and then patiently, mercifully, and graciously making something of them. What he obviously does not do is pre-select people who have an aptitude for getting along well and enjoying the same things. Of course you don't have much in common with them. The church is God's thing, not yours.
You told me earlier that your motive for returning to the Christian way was that you had tried being your own god all these years, 'gave it your best shot' you said, and made a thorough mess of it. And wasn't one of your primary strategies in that enterprise deliberately associating only with people with whom you had something in common? You said it was a matter of integrity. And look what happened you left your first wife because you no longer had anything in common with her; your second wife left you because she no longer had anything in common with you. And how many jobs have you abandoned because you had 'grown out of them'? Because of your extraordinary competence as a scientist you never had any trouble getting another, and usually better, post. But your insistence on emotional or intellectual or vocational camaraderie on your terms has left you today with neither family nor friends.
And now you are back at it, second-guessing God's way of being God. You have had a lot of arguments with God through the years and tell me that you have lost most of them. Why not give up on this one too and just let God do it his way? The church is not a natural community composed of people with common interests; it is a supernatural community. And the super in that word does not mean that it exceeds your expectations; it is other than your expectations, and much of the other is invisible to you as yet.
I'm sorry if I am sounding a bit sharp-tongued on this, but I don't want you getting off on the wrong foot in this church business. Trust me, there's a lot more going on than you will ever have in common with anyone there. Go back to the company of those seventy or eighty people on Sunday, listen believingly to the Scriptures read and preached, offer your prayers, receive Jesus in the sacrament, and bless your neighbors. And wait for the Kingdom. It's the Holy Spirit's style to fashion holy lives among the inept.