Friday, August 28, 2009

A Long Obedience in the Same Direction by Eugene Peterson (Review)

The full title of Eugene Peterson’s classic on spiritual formation is a small book review in itself, and sheds some light on his thesis—namely that to doggedly follow Jesus is to defy the conventions of our society. Check out the complete tagline:

A Long Obedience in the Same Direction: Discipleship in an Instant Society

You just scan the book’s spine, and Peterson is already up in your face, softly but sternly suggesting, You’re probably going about this “spirituality” thing in the wrong way. You smile pleasantly and nod. Then you get past the introduction, and feel his fingers on your jugular. If you’re serious about this, some things will need to change; otherwise, just shut the book, ok?

Admittedly, I’m overstating the polemical tone of Peterson’s writing, but I’m doing so to mirror the book’s fundamental message: Slow down, forget religion-in-a-box (1.5 hours, once a week), and start plodding. Excellence is never quick and dirty.

Sometimes you read a book so needed, so deliciously counter-cultural, it makes you want to jettison everything else on the topic in your library—is there really anything left to say? For anyone consumed by doing everything yesterday—including learning how to act like Jesus, which I should have mastered last year—this may well be one of those books.

Peterson paints a picture of what Jesus-discipleship could really look like, and the travelogue is enough to make an explorer out of you. He fleshes out the panorama with contemplative writings on the “Songs of Ascents” (Psalms 120-134 in the Bible), which form a handbook for life on the road, the road toward Jesus.

The spirituality Peterson espouses is dynamic, straightforward and refreshingly “un-produced.” Combine this direct approach with a highly perceptive mind and you have a classic. Initially rejected by 17 publishers, this was Peterson’s first published work: a bracing discipleship text I would recommend to anyone.

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Culture. Photos. Life's nagging questions. - BitterSweetLife