RUN WITH THE HORSES by Eugene Peterson

Best Bible Character Study, 1983 - 5 stars

Like Jeremiah, We, Too, Can Run with the Horses

God said to Jeremiah, "If you have raced with men on foot, and they have wearied you, how will you compete with horses?" To put it in modern language, "If you can't pay your bills on time, how are you going to walk on water?" Okay, sort of modern. The point is, God wants us to walk on water, and we're still struggling to pay our bills on time. That was Jeremiah's problem, until he realized, "No, I won't be able to do that in my own strength; but I will in Yours." And that was when Jeremiah changed from being a spiritual workhorse to being a thoroughbred.

No one says it like Eugene Peterson. He's one of the most eloquent writers around, and what he says is loaded with meaning. In this case, no one says what's involved in the quest for life at it's best like he does. In chapter 8, "My Wound Incurable," in Run with the Horses, he describes a picture of prayer that looks very much like having dinner in a fine restaurant with the most important person in your life. It's private, intimate, conversational, meaningful, personal - in a word, special. Occasionally, the waiter shows up to take your order, bring your food or take the broccoli back because it was cold; but otherwise, it's just you and your special loved one.

Then he writes, "But there is a parody of prayer that we engage in all too often. The details are the same but with two differences: the person across the table is Self and the waiter is God. This waiter-God is essential but peripheral. You can't have the dinner without him, but he is not an intimate participant in it. He is someone to whom you give orders, make complaints, and maybe, at the end, give thanks. The person you are absorbed in is Self - your moods, your ideas, your interests, your satisfactions or lack of them. When you leave the restaurant you forget about the waiter until the next time. If it is a place to which you go regularly, you might even remember his name.

"The confessions of Jeremiah are no parody but the real thing - exclusive focus on God: intense, undivided preoccupation with God. This accounts for much that is powerful and attractive in Jeremiah. Here is the source of the personal intensity and incorruptible integrity that is so impressive in Jeremiah."

As Peterson unfolds the life of Jeremiah, you realize how distinguished it was for its lack of triviality, radical faith, unparalleled excellence, spiritual prowess, and risking of everything for God. But Jeremiah wasn't always like that. He had to start at square one like the rest of us. That is where he was when God asked, "What is it you really want, Jeremiah, do you want to shuffle along with the crowd, or run with the horses?" "The response when it came was not verbal, but biographical. His life became his answer, 'I'll run with the horses.'" So can we.


Waitsel Smith, September 17, 2005

Text © 2005 Waitsel Smith. Photo © 2002 All Rights Reserved.

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