Adorning the Dark (A Review)
By Kyle Rapinchuk
I can’t recall the first time I heard the name Andrew Peterson. I’m pretty sure it was from my friends Rusty and Sara Osborne who were already huge fans of his music and fantasy books. It was some time later before I ever listened to one of his songs. I didn’t like it. (Sorry Andrew, if I ever get the honor of meeting you, please don’t hold that moment against me). It was a while before I listened to Andrew Peterson again, and it was an altogether different experience. His voice became more inviting, more sincere, more pleasant with every verse, with each new song. I found, moreover, that his lyrics were some of the most thoughtful, most poetic, and most beautiful words I had heard in my life. After a lengthy repeat cycle of his Resurrection Letters: Prologue, Resurrection Letters: Vol. 1, and Resurrection Letters: Vol. 2this spring, I finally started moving on to some of his other music, and I’m hooked. I bought the Wingfeather Saga for my children and am preparing to read it soon. And last Friday I received his newest book, Adorning the Dark. I finished it on Saturday because I simply didn’t want to stop reading it.
Much like Peterson’s music, I wasn’t really sure what to expect from this book. The subtitle, “Thoughts on Community, Calling, and the Mystery of Making,” seemed an awfully big goal for a short book. Likewise, the Amazon summary had a significant emphasis on the writing process, which although fitting under the category of “the Mystery of Making,” nevertheless increased both my interest and my skepticism that someone could pull off so much in such a short span of pages. I was wrong. Again. Perhaps I should have expected this success from one who can pack so much truth, goodness, and beauty into a three-minute song. Moreover, when I began reading the book, I found that Peterson also tells a lot of personal stories as a way of elucidating his points. I found his transparent, sincere, and humble approach both helpful and inspiring.
My short review is that writers of all kinds (not just songwriters) and Christians with all kinds of gifts (not just writers) should read this book, as it brings valuable insight into the Christian life, the human condition, the value of community, and the beauty and power of words. My long review, well, I don’t really want to write that one. It couldn’t do this book justice anyway. So instead, here’s my “medium-length” review, and in the style of Peterson’s book, it’s more personal than it is academic (hence my intentional use of contractions, which I normally loathe).
Peterson’s book was the exact book I needed at the exact time in my life that I needed it. God often does these kinds of things. With my ever-growing reading list, I often really don’t know why I pick up a certain book and not another to read. Sometimes it’s perhaps coincidence, but I have no doubt that this time it was Providence. God knew I needed this book at this time. Of the many valuable insights in this book, a couple stand out as most notable, primarily because the margin of my book reads, “Wow! I needed to hear this!” and “I needed to hear this, too!”
First, Peterson writes: “Wrench your heart away from all the things you think you need for your supposed financial security, your social status. Set fire to your expectations, your rights, and even your dreams. When all that is gone, it will be clear that the only thing you ever really had was this wild and Holy Spirit that whirls about inside you, urging you to follow where his wind blows” (2-3). I find myself in a difficult stage of life, and my wife and I have been deeply, frequently, and fervently praying for the Lord’s guidance. My own fear is that He has answered time and again, but my own fear of financial security has deafened my ears to His voice. As I read Peterson’s words, tears filled my eyes as I asked God again to speak, and I’m starting to hear whispers.
Second, Peterson writes: “You can’t blame your equipment. You can’t blame your lack of time. You can’t blame your upbringing. Either you’re willing to steward the gift God gave you by stepping into the ring and fighting for it, or you spend your life in training, cashing in excuse after excuse until there’s no time left, no fight left, no song, no story” (125). Conviction isn’t a strong enough word for my feelings in this respect. My lack of time has been a constant excuse to hide the gifts God has given me under a basket and shove it under a bed. I won’t do it any longer. I’m ready to fight. I ready to get out of training and into the game. I ready for the story to get out of my head and onto the page. And I have Andrew Peterson to thank for that.
To be honest, the first time I heard Shane and Shane I didn’t like them either, and they have been one of my favorites now for more than a decade—maybe this is a pattern I should pay attention to.