Eugene Peterson, The Wisdom of Each Other: A Conversation Between Spiritual Friends
You know that guy who wrote the Bible? The version that some folks loved and others think is birthed from the imagination of Beelzebub herself? So that guy rules. A few years back one of my mentors opened the Peterson door for me by giving me an audio version of his memoir, The Pastor, and since then, Eugene has become a spiritual mentor of mine through his writings.
The Wisdom of Each Other is a short read which is structured simply as letters from Eugene to an old friend who was new to spirituality, specifically the kind oriented around a poor first-century, seemingly socialist, Jewish, vagabond-teacher.
I’m currently involved in a private writing project with the same mentor who turned me on to Peterson, and this book was loaned to be as an example of what our correspondences might look like. At times you can feel Eugene’s frustration with American religion and all it’s adventures in missing the point, choosing to focus on keeping the busyness and business of church going. But even more apparent throughout his letters you’ll notice Eugene’s deep affections and weathered faithfulness to Christ in all his mysteries. Over the past few months I’ve read a couple Peterson books, and each one is a profoundly refreshing reminder of what church could be, and what it means to be a Pastor. If you know me, both of those things hit close to home.
Before I share some of my favorite quotes, I’d just like to encourage my friends. Anyone who’s involved in church, anyone who’s curious about all the fuss and chaos around Jesus, anyone who is new to the faith, anyone who is walking with some one else who is new to the faith, or anyone who just wants to read some of the other books that the author of the Bible has penned- do yourself a favor and read some of this man’s writing. My suggestion: start with The Pastor and then find your way through some of his other literary musings.
So here are a few of my favorite nuggets of ideas/thoughts/exhortations from The Wisdom of Each other, mostly written here so I can reference them later.
“Every call to worship is a call to the Real World. You’d think by this time in my life I wouldn’t need to be called anymore. But I do. I encounter such constant and widespread lying about reality each day and meet with such skilled and systematic distortion of the truth that I’m always in danger of losing my grip on reality. The reality, of course, is that God is sovereign and Christ is savor. The reality is that prayer is my mother tongue and the Eucharist my basic food. The reality is that baptism, not the Myers-Briggs, defines who I am. The reality is, as Leon Bloy so poignantly put it, that “the only sadness is not to be a saint.”
“I’ve seen too many of my friends lives impoverished by a big salary.”
On direction in prayer from scripture:
“The Psalms give range and variety: The Lord’s prayer gives brevity and focus.”
“Any place is the right place to start for God.”
“My own practice has been to keep my involvement in religion to a responsible minimum- my participation in spirituality (in the Spirit) extravagantly maximal.”
“One of the things that I have reflected upon recently is how biblical the feeling of godforesakeness is…”
“Do you realize how much of Jesus’ ministry took place around cooking and eating?”
“…true hospitality is when an onlooker can’t distinguish between the host and the guest.”
“We’re not in charge of publicity for the Almighty.”
Story of St. Teresa of Avila:
“The Spanish saint was in the outhouse one day, reading her prayers and eating a muffin. The Devil appeared and scolded her: “How unspiritual! How abominably sacrilegious!” Teresa shot back, “The prayer is for God, the muffin is for me, and the rest is for you.”
“Wisdom is not a matter of expertise.”
“Conferences on the spiritual life are wonderful- occasionally. I think very occasionally. They do not provide the substance for a life of obedient faith. They contribute almost nothing, maybe even less than nothing, to a life of spiritual maturity. They are stimulus. Appetizer. They are not nutritious. High in fat, low in protein…….
Authentic spirituality is not transferable. It is not a franchise- some of those people seem to think you can set up it’s golden arches any old place they target a market for it.”