Self-Deception

Working the Angles
Eugene Peterson

All of us, physicians included, want coddling, not healing.  We prefer comfort to wholeness.  And we can deceive ourselves about ourselves endlessly.

The greatest errors in the spiritual life are not committed by the novices but by the adepts.  The greatest capacity for self-deceit in prayer comes not in the early years but in the middle and later years.

It is difficult to retain an awareness of [our] ignorance.

We go to sleep, and God begins his work.

Working the Angles
Eugene Peterson

Sometimes, still in a stupor, I blunder into the middle of something that is nearly done, and go to work thinking that I am starting it.  But when I do I interfere with what is already far along on its way to completion.  My sincere intentions and cheerful whistle while I work make it no less a blunder and an aggravation.  The sensible thing is to ask, “Where do I fit?  Where do you need an extra hand?  What still needs to be done?”

The Hebrew evening/morning sequence conditions us to the rhythms of grace.  We go to sleep, and God begins his work.  As we sleep he develops his covenant.  We wake and are called out to participate in God’s creative action.  We respond in faith, in work.  But always grace is previous.  Grace is primary.  We wake into a world we didn’t make, into a salvation we didn’t earn.  Evening: God begins, without our help, his creative day.  Morning: God calls us to enjoy and share and develop the work he initiated.

As this biblical genesis rhythm works in me, I also discover something else: when I quit my day’s work, nothing essential stops.  I prepare for sleep not with a feeling of exhausted frustration because there is so much yet undone and unfinished, but with expectancy.  The day is about to begin!  God’s genesis words are about to be spoken again.

I go to sleep to get out of the way for awhile.

Be Slow to Pray

Working the Angles
Eugene Peterson

The Greeks were experts on understanding existence from a human point of view; the Hebrews were experts in setting human existence in response to God.  Whereas the Greeks had a story for every occasion, the Hebrews had a prayer for every occasion.  For [Christians], the Greek stories are useful, but the Hebrew prayers are essential.  Prayer means that we deal first with God and then with the world.  Or, that we experience the world first not as a problem to be solved but as a reality in which God is acting.

We want life on our conditions, not on God’s conditions.  Praying puts us at risk of getting involved in God’s conditions.  Be slow to pray.  Praying most often doesn’t get us what we want but what God wants, something quite at variance with what we conceive to be in our best interests.  And when we realize what is going on, it is often too late to go back.  Be slow to pray.

Technology Will Save the World

Working the Angles
Eugene Peterson

Technology makes things happen and promises to eliminate poverty, pain, boredom.  When someone raises the point that there is more poverty, pain, and boredom today than our planet has ever known, the speech is interrupted within five minutes by the breathless announcement of some incredible technological breakthrough, and we are so dazzled by the achievement that we are distracted from noticing the consequences.