Dedicate Your World, Make Some Beauty

Andrew Peterson challenges us to be more creative.

Andrew Peterson’s book, Adorning the Dark, offers a curious blend of autobiography and reflection on the creative process. The singer-song-writer looks back on his own development as an artist, and offers helpful suggestions and encouragement to all believers, especially those who are committed to working in the arts.

Peterson describes his commitment to the arts and community as expressing his desire “to use whatever gifts I’ve been given to tell the truth as beautifully as I can.” He encourages each of us to “stay where you are, play wherever you can, and keep your eyes peeled.” Making art is hard work and requires discipline, and the same is true for anyone in any endeavor in the Christian life.

We glorify God and worship Him by “doing exactly” whatever God has given us to do, “dedicating to God the world within our reach.” He writes, “The Christian’s calling, in part, is to proclaim God’s dominion in every corner of the world—in every corner of our hearts, too. It isn’t that we’re fighting a battle in which we must win ground from the forces of evil; the ground is already won. Satan is just an outlaw. And we have the pleasure of declaring God’s Kingdom with love, service, and peace in our homes and communities.” We find our true identity by looking to Jesus, and then we express that in creative ways in all our work.

As for those seeking to labor in the arts, Peterson counsels us to get busy. Don’t spend too much find thinking and planning. Just get to work. Find a community to encourage you and whom you can serve. And just get busy making art, good and bad: “If you wait until the conditions are perfect, you’ll never write a thing.” That’s sound advice for writers in every genre.

Satan does not want us to create beauty, so we can expect him to oppose us at every turn: “If you’re called to speak light into the darkness, believe this: the darkness wants to shut you up.” Creating beauty is thus a spiritual warfare, and we need to prepare and attack it accordingly: “We must resist Resistance.”

He calls us to serve the people for whom we hope to create: “If you want to communicate an idea, pique some longing or joy or gratitude in the listener, then consider your words.” His advice on learning to discern excellence and beauty, on the hard work and discipline – even sacrifice – needed to create, and on finding a community to nurture and be nurtured by is helpful. He concludes, “I want you, dear reader, o remember that the one holy way of mending the world is to sing, to write, to paint, to weave new worlds.” To which I say, Yes, and amen.

I found the autobiographical thread of this book to be at times a little self-serving and distracting. To the extent that this part of the book actually supported his teaching about making beauty and creating new worlds, Andrew Peterson’s story is instructive and encouraging. I would have preferred more of the latter and less of the former

All in all, though, Adorning the Dark is an encouraging and helpful read for all who take seriously Jesus’ call to seek the Kingdom of God and His righteousness.

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