Eugene Peterson is dead.
I was reading his book, The Pastor, as possible replacement for an out of date text for the School of Ministry for New Horizons Ministries, of which I am the Director.
I had just finished reading the section where Peterson recalls his mother being scolded by a man from their church for telling the men who came to their house stories from the Bible. The man silenced her but stirred in Peterson’s soul, a step towards whet he would ultimately become: a pastor.
For me, this experience is full of tension: while I am reading the book, the author dies. As I grow to know this man through his reflections and summation of his life, his life ends.
I feel as though I have lost a great friend I’m just now getting to know.
However, I know of many who he touched: either in his literary works, his ministry, ministers who talked about him as if they knew him just by reading his material. It’s as if I am finally meeting the man who I only knew through others for the first time. And now that I have just now shook his hand and introduced myself, just as his lips had parted, before the breath leaves his lungs, his grip slips through my hand. The man I had started to know is gone.
I’m only fifty pages into The Pastor, and already, it has changed my life. His insight and humor is alien in this atmosphere of political chaos, moral collapse, and marketable minsters and their churches. And yet, his words bring comfort, solace, encouragement, just what a minister’s words should do.
I am writing this upon just hearing of Peterson’s death so that the emotion and immediacy of my feelings can come through this glimpse of how much a man I never met has changed me, has made me a better man, has helped me love God and my neighbor more truly than I had before our brief encounter.
I look forward to truly meeting him, to complete our introduction, and rejoice in Paradise at the Great Things our mutual Triune God has done.
Now that Eugene Peterson is dead, I shall finally meet him.