Just How Beautiful Beauty Can Be: An Interview with Andrew Peterson
Here’s an excerpt from Just How Beautiful Beauty Can Be: An Interview with Andrew Peterson in the October issue of Tabletalk.
Tabletalk: Please describe your conversion briefly, and tell us how you got into writing music and literature.
Andrew Peterson: I grew up in the church, the second son of a preacher man. That implies a lot, and most of what it implies is true. I was a rascal with a heart of coal, but I could flash a Sunday morning smile and impress the little old ladies in their flower hats. I was born in Illinois, but when I was seven our family moved to north Florida, also known as the “Deep South,” where your Christianity was defined by how guilty you felt or by what vices you didn’t have—or at least those vices you kept under control whenever the ladies with the flower hats were watching. When I was nine (I think), I walked the aisle and wept into my dad’s hip in response to his preacherly invitation. If you had asked me then what I was doing, I would’ve said that I wanted to get baptized because I was afraid of hell. In the simplest terms, I knew that I was broken, and Jesus was the only one who could fix me. I called myself a Christian from there on out, though my Christianity felt more like a nuisance during my extra-rascally high school years. But it just wouldn’t leave me alone. It wasn’t until I was nineteen, a year after graduation, that I encountered the music of Rich Mullins and began to understand how deeply broken I was, and more than that, how vast and beautiful is God’s grace.
All that time, music, art, and stories were what moved me the most. My older brother (also an author) and I were obsessed with books, movies, and bands, always looking for some emotional high that, at the time, only rock and roll or adventure stories could provoke. After I heard Mullins’ music, I woke to the real power of a finely crafted lyric; my eyes were open to just how beautiful beauty could be. At the center of it all was Jesus, spilling that light out from every pore, every gesture, every word. The rest of my life has been in service of the Source of all that light.
I remember telling the Lord back when I was nineteen that if I could ever make someone feel the way Rich’s music made me feel, then that’s what I wanted to use my music for. After I read the Narnia books to my boys, I wished the same thing for the stories I wrote. I should make the disclaimer that I realize my work is a far cry from Mullins or C.S. Lewis. This isn’t me being falsely humble. But if I can even get close to what those guys were doing with words and music and stories, if I can approach the foothills of those mountains, I’m wildly grateful.
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