Long Obedience in the Same Direction

eugene peterson giftedness influence mentors spiritual formation Oct 30, 2018

Many of you have heard about the passing of Eugene Peterson last week. Such a loss for us. Our heartfelt prayers go out to his family and friends. In case you missed the news, go ahead and take the time to read more about this influential man.

I have trusted Peterson and his team to give me a refreshed take on scripture for many years now. The Message breathed new life into verses that had become rote for me. I was able to enjoy nuances of phrase, and gained a deeper appreciation for long worn passages.

One of my favorite book titles of his is, A Long Obedience in the Same Direction. I realize that Peterson borrowed that phrase from Friedrich Nietzsche, however, I use that phrase at least once a week as I am describing to people the transformative nature of the Christian life.

Peterson was a pastor and a wordsmith, a potent combination that broke open my heart to truth many a time. He mentored me from afar and I am truly grateful.

Over the last number of years, I have lost quite a few mentors as each succumbed to old age or illness. I list a few here in memoriam:

Wayne Anderson
Abbot David Geraets
Dallas Willard
Chuck Miller
Sister Ann Cic

Each one of these people have made an indelible mark on my life by being who they were called to be. None of them were perfect. And each one who have told you that with their own lips.

But the potency of who they were, the depth of their love and message, and their unwavering faith have marked me for life.

Alan and I often recount how we are now about the age Chuck Miller was when we met him. We were in our late twenties and he was in his mid fifties. He seemed so old to us back then! And now, here we are, in the glorious position of paying it forward in the same way he gave to us.

As I continue to watch the greats pass from this life, I am compelled to ask myself if I will take up the mantle. I don’t, in any way, purport to be able to fill their shoes. Who could? But am I willing to be who I am called to be? Am I willing to influence people by the depth of my love and message? Am I willing to continue on in unwavering faith?

My current answer is a resounding yes! And I encourage you to answer these questions for yourself. I encourage each of us to think of ourselves as mentors because we all have people in our lives who need someone who is ahead of them. Someone who will call out and say, “Come on in, the water is fine!”

And the good news is that you don’t have to be a Peterson or a Willard to do this. You get to be yourself, as God created you. He has gifted you and placed you within your current context. You have a reach to people that no one else may have a reach to.

If you sense a fire lit under me, then you are very perceptive. The death of Peterson has fanned the flame within me that there is still work to do. These faithful men and women have moved on and it is our turn to shine a light in this hurried, wounded and sometimes contemptuous culture.

Although I never met Eugene Peterson in person, he joins those who have gone before him who will continue to teach me for years to come. Will you pick up the mantle in your own life and your own context? I hope so. Let’s continue together in this long obedience in the same direction.


  • You have your own list of mentors. What is it about them that you most appreciate?
  • How might you become a mentor or influencer in the lives of those around you?
  • How has God gifted you to be an influential light in your context? Remember, it’s not about size, it’s about love.