Adorning the Dark | Book Review
Updated: Jan 22, 2020
Making something beautiful in a broken world can be harrowing work. And it can't be done alone.
Andrew Peterson believes that God calls us to proclaim the gospel and the coming kingdom using whatever gifts are at our disposal. He's stumbled along the way, made mistake after mistake, and yet has continually encountered the grace of God through an encouraging family, a Christ-centered community of artists in the church, and the power of truth, beauty, and goodness in Scripture and the arts.
At the intersection of songwriting, storytelling, and vocation, along with nuts-and-bolts exploration of the great mystery of creativity, Andrew describes six principles for the writing life:
Serving the work
Serving the audience
This book is both a memoir of Andrew's journey and a handbook for anyone interested in imitating the way the Creator interacts with his creation, written in the hope that his story will provide encouragement to others stumbling along in pursuit of a calling to adorn the dark with the light of Christ.
Well, my thoughts run along the track of, "just, wow" and "this couldn't have come at a better time for me".
But that won't do for a review, so I'll try to condense these thoughts of mine.
If you create anything, you need this book. And Andrew makes it very clear that while some people have very visible gifts for songwriting, painting, etc, there are no such things as "non-creatives". Adorning the Dark holds up a stained glass window to illuminate a sometimes vague calling to create life and beauty in the name of Christ. To be bold in combating a dark world with the light of the gospel. To create Christian art.
Andrew's writing style, like his songwriting, is brutally honest in sharing his own mistakes and lessons in a relatable way. He is enamored with the beauty of Christ and the wonder of creativity, and his writing shouts it over and over.
"As I've said, art shouldn't be about self-expression or self-indulgence. Art shouldn't be about self. The paradox is that art is necessarily created by a Self, and will necessarily draw some measure of attention or consideration to the artist. But the aim ought to be for the thing to draw attention, ultimately, to something other than the Self. For a Christian, that means accepting this paradox in the knowledge, or at least in the hope, that my expression, even if it is of the most intimate chambers of my heart, can lead the audience beyond me and to the Ultimate Self, the Word who made the world. In that grand chamber alone will art find its best end, as an avenue to lead the audience Home."
I particularly enjoyed the points he made about writing to impact just one person, not to please the masses; his thoughts on what it means to serve the work; and the emphasis on seeking excellence and filling your mind with excellent things. I also really needed to hear the chapter "Scared and Sacred", about finding our identity in being a beloved child of God and creating out of that mindset alone.
"[It is vital] that Christians bend low and speak tenderly to the children in our lives. ... Those of us who write, who sing, who paint, must remember that to a child a song may glow like a nightlight in a scary bedroom. It may be the only thing holding back the monsters. That story may be the only beautiful, true thing that makes it through all the ugliness of a little girl's world to rest in her secret heart."
This book is written by a songwriting and storytelling artist, so if you create art of any kind, you will probably identify with Andrew in a special way. But we are all called to be creative. Every calling can and should involve creativity, so even if it is but an inkling, a glimmer, a desire deep in your heart, go read this book.
"If you wait until the conditions are perfect, you'll never write a thing."
(applies to more than writing, gotta say!)
Andrew Peterson is an award-winning singer-songwriter and author of the Wingfeather Saga, including The Monster in the Hollows and The Warden and the Wolf King.
In 2008, driven by a desire to cultivate a strong Christian arts community, Andrew founded a ministry called The Rabbit Room, which led to a yearly conference, countless concerts and symposiums, and Rabbit Room Press, which has published thirty books to date.
He's been married for twenty-four years to his wife Jamie, with whom they have three creative children. In his spare time Andrew keeps bees, builds dry stack stone walls, gardens, draws, and sleeps.
*I am a B&HPublishing/Lifeway Blogger. I voluntarily reviewed a complimentary copy of this book. All opinions expressed here are my own.*