In his theological writing, C.S. Lewis described an inconsolable longing, sehnsucht, and pointed to it as proof for the existence of God. In his fiction, Lewis’s characters vividly enfleshed that longing in their pursuit of mystery and their yearning for adventure. Unless we have fully anesthetized ourselves with Netflix and Amazon Prime, we all experience that sense of pining for something “other,” and in Adorning the Dark: Thoughts on Community, Calling, and the Mystery of Making, Andrew Peterson shouts a heartfelt admonition to pay attention to that longing.
The glorious creation narrative found in Scripture begins in Genesis, but it keeps cycling round: a world, a nation, a church, and the pattern continues into present day living whenever believers take the risk and explore the mystery of making. Creativity comes in a multitude of forms comprising anything from artistic design to the creation of the perfect sandwich for a toddler’s lunch:
Since we were made to glorify God, worship happens when someone is doing exactly what he or she was made to do.” (11)
Peterson asserts that “intention trumps execution,” and this is good news, for just as it has been true in the gradual development of his own musical and writing career, we, too, will find that stepping out in faith unleashes an opportunity to “join with all nature in manifold witness to God’s great faithfulness.”
Enneagram Fours will feel seen and known as they read about a life characterized by big feelings and creative work as a matter of urgency. Peterson understands what it is to live by words, and with this in mind, I carried away three big picture principles for those who long to add their own melody and lyrics to God’s great love song of life:
1. Resist Resistance
Perfectionism and fear, comparison and the powers of darkness all war against beauty. They are the enemy of the creative process for the glory of God.
Die to self. Live to God. Let your words and music be more beautiful by their death in the soil of worship, that the husk of your own imperfection might fall away and germinate into some bright eternal song only God could have written.” (45)
2. Boil It Down
Just as one gallon of maple syrup is the product of forty gallons of boiled down sap, usually the creative process is more sap than syrup at first. We write 1,000 words but only 550 survive the cut. Peterson calls this “selectivity”:
“Selectivity means choosing what not to say. It means aiming at the bull’s-eye. It means making sure the song is about one specific thing so that when folks are driving home from the show, they can say, ‘Remember the one he wrote for his son?'” (113)
3. Trust for the Next
Whether I am preparing to teach or pulling together a manuscript for consideration by an editorial team, it feels monumental and risky. I wonder if I can really pull it off, and waves of self-doubt threaten to come trickling under the door and into the room. Then I remember that God has led me over this ground before–maybe not the exact same process, but his faithful fingerprints are all over my story.
Peterson’s testimony is vivid on this point:
“Every song is an Ebenezer stone, evidence of God’s faithfulness. I just need to remember. Trust is crucial.” (128)
Adorning the Dark is a memoir of one artist’s journey as well as a handbook, written along the way and then handed off to others who long to be good servants of our work, attentive hosts to our readers or listeners, and diligent explorers and trail blazers in the mystery of making.
Many thanks to B&H Publishing for providing a copy of this book to facilitate my review, which, of course, is offered freely and with honesty.
Grateful for courageous makers who have blazed the trail ahead of me,
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