Wednesday, January 25, 2006

Earth & Altar

Wow. What an amazing book; very challenging. I finished reading it tonight as I sipped a hot chocolate at Starbucks all by myself, which is worth italicizing. I really like Eugene Peterson, and would like to buy about a half dozen more of his titles. Maybe I can get my parents to bring them when they come.

Earth & Altar covers eleven Psalms and shows how praying them will help release us from the self-centeredness that not only stunts our own growth but damages society as well. Lots of good stuff, but the last chapter was particularly relevant. Here's a bit of it, as Peterson delves into Ps. 45, a wedding song. He is describing the bride, a princess marrying a king in another land:
She is in a strange country. She is in unfamiliar territory, addressed in strangely accented speech, away from the cozy securities of friends and family. She is full of longings for what she has left. As long as she is attached to her childhood and her family and her customs (that is, the things that certified her acceptance and significance), she is incapable of a new venture in love.
He goes on to say:
Love launches us into new territory. To explore the new, the old must be left. It means leaving earlier levels of accomplishment and relationship and growing into new ones. Every act of love is a risk of the self. There are no guarantees in love. Much can go wrong: we can get hurt; we can be rejected; we can be deceived. But without risking these perils there can only be a repetition of old patterns, the routinization of old comforts.
And then he addresses the self:
The self cannot be itself if it does not grow, and for a creature made in the image of God to grow is to love. No living being can be static.... Self love is obsessed with keeping what it has and adding a little more of the same. That is why it is so boring. There is never anything new to say, nothing new to discover. Self-love assesses its position by what is has and is panicked at the thought of losing any of it. Forced into new relationships, into new situations, its first consideration is not of the new fields for love but of the appalling prospects of loss. So it clings. It holds. And it whines.
This has been my struggle over the last five years, knowing that great possibilities lie before me if I will only let go of the familiar. Easier said than done, although I'd like to think I've made some progress.

The book has been republished under the title, "Where Your Treasure Is." I recommend it highly.

1 comment:

Lowa said...

Cool! I will look into it.