Eugene Peterson has for a while been a spiritual guide for me. Reading first his book of meditations on the Psalms of Ascent, I found someone whose writings uniquely spoke to me. Peterson was not only highly studied, immensely rich, and full of depth, he also managed to write in a way that was undeniably pertinent and freshly creative. When I recently learned that Peterson put together a book of memoirs on becoming and envisioning what it means to be a pastor, I knew that for me this was a must read.
I thought I would share my favorite bit of the book up until this point. In the passage below Peterson is contrasting his experience of being a professor in a classroom to being a pastor in a congregation. While Peterson’s thoughts here certainly resonate with me, why I have come to love being a pastor, I imagine its descriptions will trace the greater experience of any of us who have gotten our hands grimy in the dirt of living life as God’s people, furthering God’s kingdom.
“….the classroom was too tidy. I missed the texture of the weather, the smell of cooking, the jostle of shoulders and elbows on a crowded sidewalk. In the congregation, by contrast, everything was going on at once, random, unscheduled, accompanied too much of the time by undisciplined and trivializing small talk. Babies born squalling, people dying neglected, and in between the parenthesis of birth and death, lifetimes of ambiguity: adolescents making an unholy mess of growing up and their parents muddling through as guilty bystanders. Also, of course, heroic holiness, stunningly beautiful prayers, sacrificial love surfacing from the tangled emotions in a difficult family, a song in the night, glimpses of glory, the sullen betrayal of a bored spouse quietly redeemed from years of self-imprisoned, self-worship by forgiveness and grace: Father, Son, and Holy Ghost.”