Tuesday, March 05, 2013

Review: Leap Over a Wall by Eugene Peterson

I had initially purchased this book in the summer of 2005 with the best of intentions for reading it. I had grown fond of Eugene Peterson after one of my longtime friends and another mentor of sorts, Pavi Thomas had recommended that I read the book UnderThe Unpredictable Plant. I was in Orlando, Florida helping to run a summer long character based leadership program for college students and I found the book for three dollars in a used book store.

Yet another close friend, Doug Scott, had told me about how the book was shaping him as he read it during winter 2011. That, in turn, led me to making this book among the first I read after getting married to my wonderful wife Jamie. It isn’t a book about marriage but rather a book to encourage finding God in the daily experience of life. Because of my respect for both Doug and Pavi, and my growing enjoyment of Peterson’s writings, I thought it might be a good way to enter into this new phase of my life.

The book is a series of reflections on the life of David taken from 1 Samuel, 2 Samuel, and 1 Kings as well as snippets of the book of Psalms. It carries the subtitle of Earthly Spirituality For Everyday Christians.  I think that is a great outline of this book as well as virtually any that Peterson writes. One of his great strengths as a writer is that he insists that if anything, our approach to the biblical text should be rooted in the world in which we live and not in some form of ethereal other-worldliness. Leap Over A Wall, is a series of reminders that our life in God should be rooted in the world in which we live. It should be rooted in marriages, funerals, birthdays, as well as our daily experience in the office, in traffic, and in encounters with others on the journey of life.

Peterson, as much as he is a respected theologian, is also a gifted story-teller. In my opinion, our contemporary world has lost a knack of telling good stories. And Leap Over A Wall serves as a tribute to the power of story. The stories of the life of David are filled with earthly realities lived out in light of eternal truths. God meets David in the wilderness, in giant-slaying, and even in David’s sin, and God engages with David in each of these environments partially because David stays rooted in the reality of the every day while at the same time seeing the realities of God breaking through into these environments.

If you have never read a book by Eugene Peterson (or even if you have read several), I highly recommend leap over a wall. The book takes the spiritual and places is square in the middle of our human existence by looking through the lens of David’s life.  It is not so much a book about David and God as it is a book about you and I and God. It’s a book about how one person’s life has much to say about our own lives and our own stories that are forming as we go through the daily exercise of our own earthly spirituality rooted in loving God and others.

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