Tuesday, April 10, 2012

Learning My Way Through Life - I Hope

Eugene Peterson’s book, The Pastor is a treasure. In a busy and often chaotic world, his memoirs offer peace and comfort.

My life - the good, the bad, the smart, the stupid stuff I do - all of my experiences have the potential to teach me something. Eugene said he was, “Hanging around this intersection between heaven and earth and seeing what there is to be done.” Well, he sure learned a lot hanging out, like this gem:
The cultural conditions in which I am immersed requires, at least for me, a kind of fierce vigilance to guard my vocation from these cultural pollutants so dangerously toxic to persons who want to follow Jesus in the way that he is Jesus. I wanted my life, both my personal and working life, to be shaped by God and the scriptures and prayer. The Pastor
Many times I have read a book or experienced something that is so exciting to me, so amazing that I share it with everyone I know, only to discover that they just don’t think it’s as fabulous as I do. Turns out Eugene experienced this too:
What I wasn't prepared for was the low level of interest that the men and women in my congregation had in God and the scriptures, prayer and their souls. Not that they didn't believe and value these things; they just weren't very interested. The Pastor 
I had assumed that the primary reason that Christians became part of a congregation had to do with God. They would come to church because they were interested in God and the scriptures, prayer and their souls. And I would be the person expected to give guidance and encouragement to matters of God and scripture, prayer and their souls.  It didn't happen. I couldn't have been farther off the mark. The Pastor
This was sad and startling to me until I realized for many years, that was me. It’s so easy to judge others, to point my finger like the Pharisee in the Bible praying, “Thank you that I’m not like that sinner.” I want so much to see each person as valuable, the way Jesus does – to recognize that Jesus didn’t die just for those people I’m comfortable with or approve of, but for everyone; but seeing others this ways requires that I stop judging them. Eugene knew that:
I was learning to not impose my expectations of what I hoped for them but rather let them reveal to me, as they were able, who they were. The Pastor
The people who made up my congregation had plenty of problems and more than enough inadequacies, but congregation is not defined by its collective problems. Congregation is a company of people who are defined by their creation in the image of God, living souls, whether they know it or not. They are not problems to be fixed, but mysteries to be honored and revered. The Pastor
We wanted to honor that more, to understand and treat our congregations not as a gathering of problems to be fixed but as souls being formed for salvation in a community of worship. Not men and women defined by what we could do for them but by what God was already doing for and in them. The Pastor
I want to have eyes to see and ears to hear what God is doing and saying in their lives. I don't want to judge them in terms of what I think they should be doing. I want to be a witness to what God is doing in their lives, not a schoolmistress handing out grades for how well they are doing something for God. The Pastor
Eugene also reminded me that life with Jesus is not passive:
We don't grow and mature into our Christian life by sitting in a classroom and library, listening to lectures and reading books, or going to church and singing hymns and listening to sermons. We do it by taking the stuff of our ordinary lives, our parents and children, our spouses and friends, our workplaces and fellow workers, our dreams and fantasies, our attachments, our easily accessible gratifications, our depersonalizing of intimate relations, our commodification of living truths into idolatries, taking all this and placing it on the alter of refining fire – our God is a consuming fire – and finding it all stuff redeemed for a life of holiness. The Pastor
Jesus told stories and taught and prayed, not to entertain us or inspire us but to draw us into a participating, believing, listening, loving way of life that was above all, local and personal: prayerful. I wanted to do that too. The Pastor
So do I Eugene. So do I.

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