I just spent 3 days up north on a personal retreat – alone. Well, not alone. I carefully chose my weekend companion and mentor. His name is Eugene Peterson. More than just the translator of the well-known The Message Bible, he’s truly “a pastor’s pastor” par excellent, and has finally set down his own spiritual pilgrimage through the peeks and valleys of pastoral ministry in his latest book “The Pastor: A Memoir.”
In devouring this book these past days in a quiet cabin all to myself in northern Minnesota, I have found the friend and mentor I’ve always been looking for. I can’t even begin to put words to the effect these past 3 days with Peterson have had on me, and have a hunch that I will spend the rest of my life trying to fully live into and come to grips with what God awakened in me these past days.
To speak prematurely and try to explain this encounter is to cheapen it. For now, like Mary, I’m wise to just “treasure all these things and ponder them in my heart.” For these are not things to be described or explained, but rather new realities, perspectives, and practices to be lived. More than anything else, this weekend has been for me a time of wrestling with God, wrestling over the core of my identity and vocation. Jacob was lucky to come away with only a wrenched hip; my very soul seems to have been touched in a way that will never be the same again. But for my own good.
I told Keri upon my return that I feel like I’ve come down the mountain, face glowing and carrying these stone tablets filled with God-messages. But it’ll take a life time to sort through all that’s written on them. While I make sense of this encounter, please go read this book. Here’s an overview. And then read everything else by Eugene Peterson, my dear pastor and mentor.