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Andrew Peterson: The Resurrection Letters

Family Life Today / Dave & Ann Wilson, Bob Lepine
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April 13, 2022 2:02 am

Andrew Peterson: The Resurrection Letters

Family Life Today / Dave & Ann Wilson, Bob Lepine

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April 13, 2022 2:02 am

Can seasons of darkness help us see more clearly than ever? Singer & author Andrew Peterson describes his path through depression to resurrection.

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Andrew Peterson's 3 Albums for Resurrection Letters

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I didn't grow up in a church that did this, but later in life we ended up in a more liturgical church that celebrates Holy Week, like to the nines, starting with Palm Sunday. It's like, okay, here we go. We're about to walk through the story in a pretty intense way. And on Wednesday of Holy Week, we would have a tenebrae service.

It was done in a way that ended with darkness. It's like you blow out a candle, you read a scripture, you remember how broken the world is, but you don't provide the answer yet. And so learning to sit in the grief of the brokenness of the world makes Easter morning all the more precious, doesn't it? Welcome to Family Life Today, where we want to help you pursue the relationships that matter most. I'm Ann Wilson. And I'm Dave Wilson, and you can find us at or on our Family Life app. This is Family Life Today. Well, we've got Andrew Peterson back in the studio. Andrew, welcome back to Family Life Today. Hey, thanks for having me. We are coming up on the critical historical moment in the whole Christian faith.

The most wonderful. Everything hinges and rises and falls on this one moment in history, the resurrection of Jesus Christ. Obviously, that's something that you believe in and have written songs about, the resurrection letters. You know, so talk about resurrection and why. I mean, not too many people have written three different albums on that one topic, but you did. And the question is why. So there's this book called Surprised by Hope by N.T.

Wright. I don't know if you guys have read it. You know, some people don't agree with everything he says, but this book in particular, I haven't really talked to anybody who said he's wrong about it. And it's this book about the resurrection and what it really meant to the early church and what it means for us now. And somehow I missed it growing up in the church. I just didn't really understand the significance of what it was that Jesus did and what that means for us. This idea that we also have this bodily resurrection that has been promised to us, that he's the first fruits of that whole thing. And man, I just, I love Easter. I love it because in the northern hemisphere, at least, we get to see all of creation resurrect, you know. It's one of the coolest things to me that we get to celebrate Lent and Easter in this season where the earth is going from very dead looking to daffodils poking up out of the ground and these little trumpets of the resurrection. It's like all of creation is preaching this sermon to us. And I just want to embrace that wholeheartedly.

And it's one of the great joys of my life is that I think this is our fourth year now that we're touring around and proclaiming that truth and saying, hey, keep your eyes peeled. Because the thing that's happening all around you, the way there's a song my friend wrote that says the hills remember green again. And as that happens, it's this great reminder that Christ conquered death and that we also will through his power. So all that is like, the centrality of it was something that I missed.

And, you know, I've read plenty of, C.S. Lewis talked about, you know, every sermon in the book of Acts mentions the resurrection as like the centerpiece of the thing. Like if that thing didn't happen, why are we even here?

And so I, the short version of the story is like maybe 12 years ago, 13 years ago. I wrote an album and usually you put the songs together and I kind of look for some connecting thread, like what's the theme? And I noticed that all the songs in one way or another were about the coming resurrection or this idea that the resurrection of Jesus kind of sent these shockwaves into creation.

And we're experiencing those and those songs were about that. So I went to the label and I was like, I want to call it Resurrection Letters. But I realized that I think I should have written an album about Jesus's resurrection, that this would be the answer. So I want to call this one Resurrection Letters Volume 2.

And they were like, what are you talking about? I was like, Star Wars, man, we're just going to go do the prequel later. And so I called it, called it Resurrection Letters 2. And 10 years later was when I finally had the guts to try to write the songs about Jesus's resurrection. It was this huge, scary project, but eventually, you know, we finished writing Resurrection Letters Volume 1. And then I was like, well, that opens with Jesus's heart beating in the tomb. And I feel like we need to at least acknowledge the crucifixion. So we went and wrote Resurrection Letters prologue.

So the whole thing holds together as the crucifixion, followed by the resurrection of Jesus, followed by kind of glorying in what is coming to us. Take us back. Like you said that you never really got it growing up.

Talk about when you first got it and what happened. I keep talking about C.S. Lewis. It was like reading the Narnia books and The Great Divorce.

I don't know if you guys know The Great Divorce. Great, great book. It kind of began the process of making me realize that I think Lewis said that the people who did the most in God's name for this world were the people who were thinking the most about the next one. This idea that keeping your eyes fixed on what is to come kind of changes the way you behave now. And I love that idea, but even when I listen to my older records, I can hear this kind of like, I'll fly away kind of theology, you know, that still was missing the puzzle piece that the New Jerusalem descends. And God makes his home with us again, you know. That's what Revelation tells us. And man, it's like the good news is better than I thought it was. It isn't just that Jesus died for us, paid for our sin, conquered death so that we could be in heaven. And there was almost this like, what for kind of elephant in the room as a kid.

I was like, but why? Why would he do all of these things? And slowly realizing that the answer is because he loves this world. He loves his creation and he made us to be stewards over it. To rule over it and to take care of it in a proper way.

And so that was the puzzle piece that clicked into place and made me so excited about what's to come. Like I talk to kids who sometimes are terrified of eternity. I don't know if you guys have ever talked to people like that. The idea that we're just going to be like in this disembodied state floating around forever.

Who wants to do that? I heard a theologian talk about how in John 3.16 when it says, For God so loved the world, I'm no Greek scholar. But the idea was that the word for the world, I always assumed that meant the people in the world. But it actually could be translated for God so loved his creation, which includes us. But it's all of his creation that he gave his only begotten son.

So he's in the process of redeeming creation and us. I'm thrilled. You can see that I'm excited right now. I get so worked up.

I love it. Because it just feels so, it's like I just want to go back in time and tell 12, 13 year old Andrew that all that stuff that he aches to be true is more true than he can believe. And it just fills in the blanks that were left in that kind of typical cultural southern Christianity that I grew up in. So talk about, I mean, if you're thinking about telling 12 and 13 year old Andrew, a lot of our listeners are parents like us who have experienced the radical transformation of the resurrection, not only of Christ, but of our own lives. How do we teach that, translate that, pass that on? How did you try to do that with your own kids? Besides having them listen to your albums. Making them listen to my albums. I can tell you one of the ways that I have tried to help my kids see it is through gardening.

I went through depression when I was like 40 and it lasted a few years and it was a really tough, confusing season for me. And it happened to coincide with this awakening to my love for taking care of the property where we live. Like I started keeping bees and trying to grow flowers and we have this cottage garden out front. And a friend of mine gave us this 30 year garden plan. She's an English gardener who gave us this really elaborate plan for our property that she was like, don't try to do this all now.

It'll cost you a fortune. Just pick a little section and work on it every year. And so I was doing all of that work. And at some point I began to realize that I don't know if you've ever struggled with depression, but it doesn't really have a hard end date. I realized one day that I was talking about it in the past tense.

And I was like, oh, I guess whatever the thing was is kind of over now. And I realized that the gardening, that putting things in the ground embodied the metaphor for me. It was like I spent a lot of time feeling like God was mad at me, that he was pushing my face into the dirt, that he was punishing me for something I didn't even know I'd done wrong, whatever it was. And I remember vividly going out into the garden with my daughter and taking a little seed and saying, hey, it's spring, we're going to plant some seeds. And I took the seed and I pushed its face into the dirt. And I kind of wounded the earth in the process.

I cut a hole in it and covered it over like a death. And we would go out every day to wait for that new life to come breaking through. That was when the light bulb kind of began to come on for me, how much it means that the earth is the Lord's in the fullness thereof, that the heavens declare his handiwork and his praise, whatever, that Paul talks about in Romans, that we're without excuse, because if you've got your eyes peeled, you can see this truth showing up all the time. And so that to me was like, if God didn't intend for our bodies to be resurrected one day, then why would he give us such a perfect metaphor for it?

You asked about how I impressed those things on my kids. I think trying to help them to live close to the earth and in a way that pays attention to God's creation, to the fact that it is preaching to us, kind of lays the groundwork for this widened imagination for what it means for us to one day die and be resurrected. Yeah, and there is that picture in the garden, and I'm not a big garden guy, but man, I could see the image, and it made me think more of death than resurrection, but there is no resurrection without death, and we run from pain. We run from anything that feels like it's dying, and yet talk about that a little bit, because you have to embrace a little bit the death of the crucifixion before you can have resurrection.

As a mom, as a dad, as a person, how does that impact? A lot of us aren't super good at dwelling on the dark parts, right? At church, we tend to brush over that, and there's a whole theology of suffering and of lament in Scripture. Lament needs a place in our worship services, I really think, and silence needs a place.

But also, celebration and rejoicing, it's all part of the deal. I didn't grow up in a church that did this, but later in life, we ended up in a more liturgical church that celebrates Holy Week to the nines. I love starting with Palm Sunday, it's like, okay, here we go. We're about to walk through the story in a pretty intense way. And on Wednesday of Holy Week, we would have a tenebrae service.

Have you guys ever heard of this? We've done it at our church. Yeah, and so there's a zillion ways to do it, but at this church, it was done in a way that ended with darkness. It's like you blow out a candle, you read a Scripture, you remember how broken the world is. But you don't provide the answer yet, because we're experiencing it in the wider context of this week. And so learning to sit in the grief of the brokenness of the world makes Easter morning all the more precious, doesn't it?

Yes. And I think that's part of it, is like teaching our kids that we don't have to be afraid to lean in to lament and into darkness. Let the suffering do its work in us. The fact that you're suffering doesn't mean that you're doing anything wrong, necessarily.

It could mean that you're in the cave because God loves you, not because He doesn't. Go back to that, even Andrew, talking about that two-year time of depression, because a lot of us, a lot of our listeners have gone through that. How has it marked you? How has it changed you? I feel a lot of empathy with people who are going through that. Quite a few people came out of the woodwork when I wrote about it. And the God of the Garden, people I knew and some people who I didn't, who have said, thank you for expressing this.

It's not often that Christians talk a whole lot about that. And so, yeah, I've made some good friends out of the process. But really it's given me a better relationship to time.

And what I mean by that is that I'm a very impatient person. But gardening, like when I plant a tree now, I plant the tree and I'm better at imagining what it's going to look like in 15 years. Now I do work in the garden that I go, okay, this isn't going to look great for a while. But I'm going to do the work now and I'm going to trust that this plan is going to come to fruition.

Ha ha, pun intended. And so what I mean by that is that when I am in those seasons of suffering, I'm better now at holding on to the fact that this is not going to be forever. That's the great lie of depression, I think, is that this is your life and it will always be this way.

And that's despair. It's a lack of imagination that one day some great good thing could fall into your lap. It's trusting that the author of the story has good intentions for you. And so for me it's like reading our kids' stories when they were little, talking, listening to music, great music by people sometimes who aren't even Christians, to like understand better what it feels like to really ache and then to show them that Jesus is stronger than all of that. That they don't have to be afraid to engage with it because there is a good coming.

So anyway, I could talk about this for days, but one of the last things I would say about that is that I saw this theologian talking about the Lord of the Rings one time. He talked about how one of the main themes is the triumph of hope over despair in that story. And some of the characters despair. And one of them, Denethor, actually commits suicide because he thinks, how can we ever defeat the orcs?

Like there's no way, there's too much darkness. And then Sam and Frodo find their way, and I'm going to spoil the ending for people, but the ring ends up getting destroyed in a way that nobody could foresee. Like if you've read that story for the first time you would never guess that that's how it happens. And what I love about it is that Frodo is not the hero of the Lord of the Rings. And Sam is not the hero of the Lord of the Rings. The author of the story is the hero of the Lord of the Rings. Because providence is the thing that ended up working all of these threads together and allowed the ring to be destroyed in a way that the characters were unable to do on their own. And so in that context, if we think of our own lives that way, we don't have to be the hero of our story.

It's not our job to destroy the ring. It's our job to be obedient, walk into the darkness trusting that the author of the story is good. Yeah, and I think it's important what you've actually modeled for our listeners, especially for parents, is talking about the darkness. Not hiding that, not pretending you didn't struggle. But actually, if we as parents could talk about that in our family room with our kids, I think we're afraid to do that. I know that when we would do a Good Friday service, and we did it for 30 years, we would walk out of Good Friday like you talked about the Tenebrae darkness.

And I always, I was in the planning of those services. I'm like, what? We're going to walk out?

No, no, no, no. Everything in me is like, yeah, everything in me. We can't let people walk out.

But because we did, and people are quiet, there's no talking. It's just like, it's dark. And then you walk in Sunday and the resurrection story has so much more power because you've experienced the darkness. And I think as parents, tell me if you agree, Andrew, we need to talk about the darkness and the struggle so that when we talk about the power of the resurrection, they feel it, we feel it. Our family feels it in a way that's powerful because we've experienced both extremes.

Yeah, I completely agree. And I think, I hope we haven't done it. I feel like we've always erred Jamie and I on the side of being open with our kids about what we're dealing with at whatever time. We've had a few times when we've let our friends in on some crisis that we're going through and we'll mention in passing that our kids know about it. And they would be like, you told your kids about this? And it's like, well, yeah, we would talk about it over dinner.

And so especially that season when I was in that depression, I couldn't hide it. They knew something was wrong. The worst thing would have been for me to just pretend. And so instead they would say, what's going on? And I would say, I don't know.

I'm just really sad. And that went on for about two years. But they would also see mom and dad get up in the morning and go to church. And sometimes stand there unable to sing, you know, when the songs were too happy. Which, by the way, as a person who has led music before, I remember in that moment whenever people would say like, now sing, let me hear you sing louder. I wanted to be like, isn't it enough that I'm here, man? Like I showed up. Like, let me off the hook.

Maybe the people in the audience need to just be silent and to listen and to be present. And so I'm kind of bouncing all over the place, but I was just thinking about how when somebody's in real crisis, it doesn't do a whole lot of good to tell them everything's going to be okay. What they need is somebody to just feel the pain with them, right? And to just say, I'm so sorry. And to weep with them. And we get to do that. We get to grieve like those who have hope, right?

I don't know exactly. I messed up that quote, but you know what I mean. But we don't have to be afraid of grieving.

You know, we don't have to be afraid of trying to fix it all today. And that goes for when you're trying to lead somebody to Jesus. Sometimes we feel this great pressure to like, this is the conversation. You know, I've got this one chance. And it's like, man, it's going to be a thousand conversations and it's going to be a thousand meals together and walking together.

So anyway, so that's kind of what I'm getting at when I talk about my relationship to time. Like I'm learning to be patient with the suffering, you know, and like really give that seed time to germinate. And the good news is that Easter is just around the corner and that is our hope. The resurrection of Christ is always our hope as we keep our eyes on Him.

Whether we're in a good place or a bad place to have Him at the center. So we're just wondering, Andrew, could you pray for our listeners, for all of us as we close and as Easter is approaching. Can you just pray for us?

Sure. Most merciful God, we give you thanks and praise that when we were still far off, you met us and your son and brought us home. Thank you so much for giving us such a good story. We pray that you would please come back soon. In Christ's name, Amen.

Amen. You've been listening to Dave and Anne Wilson with Andrew Peterson on Family Life Today. You'll find links to his album, The Resurrection Letters in today's show notes and at And if you know of anyone who could benefit from today's conversation, we'd love it if you'd share this podcast wherever you get your podcast.

And while you're there, it really help us out if you'd rate and review us. Family Life Today is a listener supported ministry. And this week, with your donation of any amount, we'd love to send you a copy of the children's book, God Made Me in His Image by Justin and Lindsay Holcomb, who we had on earlier this week.

This is a great resource for parents helping children through issues of body image and the beauty of God's design. It's our gift to you when you make a one-time or recurring donation at or you can give by picking up the phone and calling us at 1-800-358-6329. That's 1-800-F as in family, L as in life, and then the word today. Tomorrow, we're going to hear from two more musicians, Keith and Kristen Getty. They helped write the modern hymn, In Christ Alone, which, of course, if you've heard it, you know it's a beautiful and theologically rich song. You'll see that's something they're very, very passionate about when you hear from them tomorrow. On behalf of David Ann Wilson, I'm Shelby Abbott. We'll see you back next time for another edition of Family Life Today. Family Life Today is a production of Family Life, a crew ministry helping you pursue the relationships that matter most.
Whisper: medium.en / 2023-01-09 12:53:16 / 2023-01-09 13:02:34 / 9

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