Posts Tagged ‘Eugene Peterson’

Hope. The famous agnostic Ingersoll called hope “a universal liar” and Nietzsche considered it “the worst of all evils, because it prolongs man’s torments.” They echo the voice of Good Friday. Engulfed by present circumstances, unprepared by our past, and uncertain of our future. Death, despair, and shattered dreams are presented as the final answer.

But those who follow Christ are not a people of Good Friday. We are an Easter people. Good Friday is part of our past, but it is not our present!! Jesus Christ is risen from the dead. He is alive forevermore! The Risen Lord is our present reality and future hope. Because we live in Easter, our Good Friday moments have meaning.

Adolescents are not naturally a people of hope. Idealism, yes. Dreams and fantasies about the future, absolutely. But not mature hope.

The ‘future’ is a new experience for adolescents. Infants and young children live in the present. They have almost no historical sense. They are absorbed in what is. That is, in fact, one of the attractions of childhood – the capacity to lose oneself completely in the now. But in adolescence the capacity to imagine forward, to plan ahead, to anticipate, awakens…the ‘future‘ is no longer dreams and wishes to be indulged, but a spectrum of possibilities that must be planned for. (p. 71)

The kind of robust hope that inhabits the Christian faith is the very context adolescents need to process and sift through “this sudden inrush of future.” The Christian doctrine of hope allows us to move beyond the shallow impotency of wishing and paralyzing fretfulness of anxiety. These emotional red herrings allow us to project our own fears and our own hopes into the future, while avoiding grappling with life in the present.

Between this Scylla and Charybdis the Christian church teaches hope. Hope is a response to the future which has its foundation in the promises of God. It looks to the future as time for the completion of God’s promise. It refuses to extrapolate either desire or anxiety in to the future, but instead believes that God’s prmisse gives the proper content to it. But hope is not a doctrine about the future: it is a grace cultivated in the present, it is a stance in the present which deals with the future…Christian hope alerts us to the possibilities of the future with the promises of God, opens up the future as a field or action, and as a consequence fills the present with energy.” (p. 73 emphasis added)

As Peterson points out, there is a group of people who need hope even more than adolescents. Parents of adolescents!

Peterson names acedia (a spiritual sloth or indifference) and tristesse (a sadness and melancholy) as two afflictions of the middle aged. He points out that our whole culture in North America functions to manipulate and make a profit out of the faded hopes as well as the fears of a population whose present feels unfulfilled and whose future seems no longer to hold as much promise.

Our Hope is a person, not a projection of our own inadequacy. The Risen Jesus Christ. He knows our past better than we. He is our future. He gives us power and purpose to live in the present.

What does that look like for you today to say no to sloth….to melancholy….to indifference…to wishful thinking….to procrastination….to anxiety and say YES to Jesus?

What does that look like for you to walk that out in the living laboratory with your teen as you talk about money…the opposite sex…house rules…grades….failure…idealism…faded hopes…and Good Friday?

I’m looking forward to hearing your story.

“May the God of hope fill you with all joy and peace in believing, so that by the power of the Holy Spirit you may abound in hope.” Romans 15:13

(This post is inspired by chapter 9 of Like Dew Your Youth: Growing Up With Your Teenager by Eugene Peterson. Get a copy of this great little book and check back each Thursday for the next 4 weeks to become part of the discussion).

But of course. Guilty as charged. But with a caveat. I’m a hypocrite, to be sure. (Along with the rest of the human race.I haven’t managed to get an exclusive market on that from the rest of the sons of Adam and daughters of Eve). But I am more than a hypocrite. For one thing, I am a hypocrite in transition. (Colossians 1:9 -14) I used to have a boss who would say, “You’re a good man, Hal.” And he was partly right. But the rest of the truth and the much deeper reality was in my standard response “The nearness of God is my good!” (Psalm 73:28)

I have been rescued and given the freedom to be more than a hypocrite….and in fact to grow into a wholeness of integrity and purity and kindness and grace that is nothing at all like who I was. But I am in transition. And I need to stay near my God in every way. And I forget. And so God blessed me with five children and a wife to help me grow.

Does that feel like a gift? Are you kidding? I’m a third generation PK (preacher’s kid). I’ve been doing youth ministry for over 25 years. I have been in the limelight and in some precious hidden places. I have seen God use me. Consistency and integrity are a really big deal to me. Do I want to be reminded that I can be a hypocrite? Well, do you?

Robert Burns wrote these words in his Scottish dialect: “O wad some Power the giftie gie us To see oursels as ithers see us!” Peterson suggests that the gift, the power, is the adolescent in our home. Although the words that adolescent speaks are often painful and often accusatory, Peterson puts it like this: “I can’t help but believe that this is one of the most useful and timely things our youths do for us.” (p. 69)

What about you? Has our Father blessed you enough, shown His love to you enough, to put someone in your life…an adolescent even…who will point out your inconsistencies and hypocrisies?

By the way, for my regular readers, I am sorry again for a post a whole week late. My intent was good, but reality crashed in. Our youth ministry hosted the Tulsa After Party for the WinterJam tour last weekend while getting ready for next week’s mission trip and vacating our old offices. It was a little much. Thank you for your patience!

(This post is inspired by chapter 8 of Like Dew Your Youth: Growing Up With Your Teenager by Eugene Peterson. Get a copy of this great little book and check back each Thursday for the next 5 weeks to become part of the discussion).

Well, I found my book. That makes it easier to blog. Let me explain. My house is for sale (I may do a separate entry later on just that topic) and so we try to keep the house clean. In the first eight days we have had nine showings with one scheduled for tomorrow. That’s good news….but keeping up with bills, homework, and books that you are blogging on while trying to keep the house “staged” is a fun challenge.

Apparently I must have thought the challenge was too easy because I attempted to move offices at work as well. The key is to sort and integrate as you go! You can see how well that has been going in this snapshot with about 75% of the move completed.

I will post on chapter 8 tomorrow. I have a post or two I would still like to do on chapter 7.

One of the great insights of this 7th chapter is that of the confusion that parents and youth have in the adolescent years as they try to understand the giving, expressing and receiving of love. Both kids and parents tend to look at the ways that love worked for them in childhood.

Parental love (as it was expressed in childhood) used to satisfy…now it does not. This is confusing, frustrating and the cause of no small amount of anxiety. What happens when comforting, “fixing/making it better,” anticipating, planning are no longer enough? What happens when the needs of identity, autonomy and belonging…for personal expression, identification, decision-making, and the exercise of the will are added to the young person’s life…..and therefore to the dynamic of the relationship?

And if we dare admit it to ourselves, what happens when the needs for love that our child used to meet in us are no longer satisfied as neatly….or perhaps at all?

As Peterson points out, Christian parents are at a distinct advantage in wrestling with this question. As the expression of childhood affection and friendship disappear, and as society pushes our child toward eros in all things, we understand and are called to the very love that an adolescent needs. It is the love that a mature adult can provide. That love is agape. Peterson writes:

Without it (agape) love between a parent and an adolescent becomes either desiccated and dry, there being no healthy growth to feed maturity, or bitter and resentful, as expectations are continually disappointed. (Agape) sees the nature of the other person and acts freely to do those things which suit that nature. It is not first of all a feeling, or an experience, or a need, but a decision. It wills the fulfillment of the other. It is the love that is demonstrated by God for His people. It is a love that neither exploits nor demands gifts. It seeks to enjoy what is there in the other person and to share what one has. It is the love that Jesus exhibited in every word and act: His love freed others to be themselves in a way they could never have been without Him and allowed them to respond with a love for God which no sense of dependence or realization of duty could have created.”

Moms and dads, you and I have been given the gift to love with agape love….and in so doing, set our children free to be themselves in ways they could never be otherwise…and to respond with love for God free from any encumbrance of our own needs or desires. What a privilege!

(This post is inspired by chapter 7 of Like Dew Your Youth: Growing Up With Your Teenager by Eugene Peterson. Get a copy of this great little book and check back each Thursday for the next 6 weeks to become part of the discussion).

To be trusted is a greater compliment than being loved.” George MacDonald.

It’s almost too simple. We learn caring by being cared for. We learn to trust by being trusted. And to teach others, we need to extend trust and care to them.

This creates a real bind, doesn’t it? Many of us have been around long enough to put great stock in sayings like “Fool me once, shame on you. Fool me twice, shame on me” or to “know” from experience that a person who lets you down once will do it again…and again…and again. We want people to earn our trust, to show us beyond risk that they are worthy of whatever we give to them.

But adolescence is a time of great insecurity. Teens are learning to make decisions. The learning curve is steep. And the result is not always trustworthy behavior, but inconsistency and greater insecurity.

Peterson uses the image of a young child learning to walk. The parents are cheerleaders, encouraging risk and overlooking failure as they celebrate the success that will be. Is that a good image for teaching adolescents to be trustworthy? Why or why not?

Who trusted you? Had you earned it…or was it a gift you grew into?

(This post is inspired by chapter 6 of Like Dew Your Youth: Growing Up With Your Teenager by Eugene Peterson. Get a copy of this great little book and check back each Thursday for the next 7 weeks to become part of the discussion).

The capacity to relate to another person in a caring way is an achievement of maturity.” BOOM!

This isn’t Peterson’s point, but here is a great gut-check. Am I mature? Well, do I relate to others in a caring way? He goes on:

Young people have moments when they care, but it is not characteristic among them to have the sustained strength and emotional stability for the faithful caring of another.” (p. 43)

According to Peterson, you learn caring by being cared for. So what happens when a generation reaches “adulthood” without having been cared for in such a way that they are capable of caring for others? (That is a lot of uses of the word “care!” I typed it and I had to reread it!) Unfortunately, Peterson doesn’t weigh in on this one. But we are there in North America, aren’t we?

Dr. Chap Clark and Fuller Youth Institute have both done a great job of chronicling what Chap calls “generations of systemic abandonment.” Where have you seen the effects of systemic abandonment in adults?

Peterson does not worry about the greater culture here, but engages us as individuals to remind us that differences are an occasion for an exchange of personal love, faith and hope.

What a great reminder! How would it change the lives of those around us if we used words like surprise, delight, interesting, joy, admiration, affection, expectation and exciting to characterize generational differences in our minds and to set our expectations for encounters with others of a different age….especially with those who are 10 to 30 years old?

(This post is inspired by chapter 5 of Like Dew Your Youth: Growing Up With Your Teenager by Eugene Peterson. Get a copy of this great little book and check back each Thursday for the next 7 weeks to become part of the discussion).

Authority loses its moral force and spiritual energy when it becomes authoritarian.” (Peterson, p.36)

A dictator in a home or in a nation chooses the way of quick returns…There can be a subtle parental pride in exactuing obedience, much like bringing a dog to heel. ‘Good’ children can be displayed, to the parent’s advantage.” (Lionel Whiston, quoted in Peterson, p. 38)

When I graduated from college I moved hundreds of miles from home for my first full-time job. I was engaged, but not yet married. I knew only one other person in the city. So I bought myself a puppy and began to teach him with my spare time. It quickly occured to me that if I trained him to be obedient, he could come with me to the YMCA where I was a volunteer soccer coach. It was rewarding to me to see how quickly he learned and how consistently he obeyed. As a result of significant and consistent attention for those first six months we were together before the wedding, I received praise for the rest of his life for how well mannered and well trained he was. I honestly enjoyed that and began to take some pride in what I good parent I would “obviously” be someday.

The Lord had to humble me after I had my first two children. One day He pulled back a veil from my eyes and let me see my pride and my foolishness. I was not training puppies, I was raising children. I had to weep and repent! He was the primary parent, not me. It was my privilege to join Him. I suddenly saw parenting in terms of stewardship and hospitality, not behavioral outcomes!

Peterson gets at this same issue, I think, when he quotes John Updike on the importance of seeing our children “not as our creations, but our guests, people who enter the world at our invitation…”

Do you agree? When we see parenting in terms of stewardship and hospitality instead of behavioral outcomes, how does that change things? Does that impact decision-making within the family? Does this mean we have to be willing to be embarrassed at times? What does this mean for allowing disagreement? How will parenting like this increase our own discipleship?

Erik Erikson suggests that the problem with forcing obedient behavior is that the parent does not have to become an adult to do so. You don’t have to grow up. You don’t have to learn courtesy or deference or understanding. You are in fact authorized to remain arbitrary and inconsistent. It seems to me that if authority is framed by “because I said so!” then the world view being taught is that whoever is the strongest wins. That may be practical in politics, but it is not a Kingdom worldview. And it is destructive to discipleship.

Peterson uses Luke 2:41-51 to demonstrate that authority when challenged does not bluster, is courteous and is not coercive. He also encourages us to meditate on the authority of our Heavenly Father. He disciplines, but He does not push His children around. How do you understand the discipline of the Lord from Scripture? Is the model craftsman with an apprentice a good model? What is the role of training and instruction? Do you agree with Peterson that “the heart of discipline, and the most biblical expression of authority, is careful attention that guides growth“?

(This post is inspired by chapter 4 of Like Dew Your Youth: Growing Up With Your Teenager by Eugene Peterson. Get a copy of this great little book and check back each Thursday for the next 8 weeks to become part of the discussion).

“But once the child reaches adolescence the parents must spend much more time and attention on the way they exercise authority and correspondingly less on worrying whether obedience is forthcoming.
(p. 31 emphasis added)

I love this chapter. It challenges me, it encourages me and it invites me to be transformed! Here is one of Peterson’s great paragraphs:

“Challenges to personal authority – commonplace in adolescence – cannot be settled simply by quoting Saint Paul: ‘Children, obey your parents in the Lord, for this is right.’ Adolescents are quite likely to have read the letter to the Ephesians, too, and able to do some quoting of their own: ‘Fathers, do not provoke your children to anger, but bring them up in the discipline and instruction of the Lord.'” (Ephesians 6:1, 4)

I believe that we teach much about reality…and do much to shape worldview in the way we handle power and authority. I believe our internal hard-wiring to ask “Why?” at an early age is a gift that is foundational to the discipleship of both the child and the parent. Take your own experience out of the equation for a few minutes and think with me:

* What does the answer “because I said so!” or “because I am the parent?” communicate about authority….about power?
* What does it teach about who (or Who) is in control?
* How important is it for the young child to hear an answer that reveals that we are under authority…that we ourselves are accountable….that we are stewards…that God is love and we are His imperfect agents?
* Have you ever thought about the question “why?” (in all its forms) as a gift from God to your own sanctification?

When a young person moves into early adolescence they begin to attempt to appropriate for him or herself what they have learned. As they seek a healthy level of autonomy, how do we best teach about authority and power? Is it helping them to act in the role of a child….or an adult?

Like a belayer letting out more rope for the climb and yet holding the climber secure, how do we do navigate this adventure?

The One who belays us is LOVE. And He calls us to be like Him. So perhaps the critical question is “What does LOVE do with power? What is the source of His authority?

Andrew Murray talks about Revelation 7:17 being the most important verse in literature anywhere in all of history.

For the Lamb at the center of the throne
will be their shepherd;
‘he will lead them to springs of living water.’
‘And God will wipe away every tear from their eyes.’”

What this verse reveals is absolutely unthinkable, unknowable aside from Divine Revelation. And it is central to understanding reality. Authority is not about raw exercise of power, position, popularity, who you know, how much money you have, whether others like you, or any such thing. Power itself is not what holds the universe together.

The Pantocrator, the One who rules all things, is revealed as LOVE – both in who He is and what He does. At the center of the throne is a lamb who is a shepherd. Are you shouting praises, reader!? This is amazing revelation! The result of wrestling with that verse and all of its implications years ago forever changed me, my worldview, my parenting and my ministry.

Adolescence provides a wonderful opportunity for us to examine afresh if our practice of power and authority is harsh, crushing, demonic, positional, etc or if it is the often messy, always nurturing and sometimes painful surrender to LOVE.

Tell me what you think. And get a book. 🙂 This is good stuff!

(This post is inspired by chapter 4 of Like Dew Your Youth: Growing Up With Your Teenager by Eugene Peterson. Get a copy of this great little book and check back each Thursday for the next 8 weeks to become part of the discussion).