Tuesday, May 24, 2005

Eugene Peterson's First Convert

In Christ Plays in Ten Thousand Places Eugene Peterson (a man now in his 70s) tells how in his first year in shcool a boy, a year older than himself, would beat him up everyday after school and call him a Jesus-sissy. His mother told him that was the way it was for Christians so he'd better get used to it. The bullying went on from Sept till March when something unexpected happened.

Something snapped withing me. Tottally uncalculated. Totally out of character. For just a moment the Bible verses disappeared from my consciousness and I grabbed Garrison. To my suprise, and his, I realized that I was stronger than he. I wrestled him to the ground, sat on his chest and pinned his arms to the ground with my knees. I couldn't believe it -- he was helpless under me. At my mercy. It was too good to be true. I hit him in the face with my fists. It felt good and I hit him again -- blood spurted from his nose, a lovely crimson on the snow. By this time the other children were cheering, egging me on. "Black his eyes! Bust his teeth." A torrent of vengeful invective poured from them, although nothing nothing compared with what I would. later in my life, read in the Psalms. I said to Garrison, "Say 'Uncle.'" He wouldn't say it. I hit him again. More blood. More cheering. Now the audience was bringing the best out of me. And then my Christian training reasserted itself. I said, "Say 'I believe in Jesus Christ as my Lord and Savior.'"

And he said it. Garrison Johns was my first Christian convert.

That's the funniest thing I've read in a long time. I just lost it at the line 'a lovely crimson on the snow', he's just so poetic. I also love the way he works in a reference to the Psalms, a signature of his style. Peterson is clearly mocking himself in this paragrah, absolutly brilliant.

- Peace


kris said...

I'm going to have to start working out so I can become an evangelist.

Richard said...

Reminds me of the day in grade 9 when I fought back against my own bully. I should have fought back before I got braces, I ate with a straw for a week. Figured it was still worth it because no one bullied me again after that day.

Years later, after becoming a Christian, that whole incident began to haunt my memories. Is violence the only way to escape a bully? And if so, are Christians called to helplessly endure it? Is that what Christ's passion teaches us?

In many ways, the thought of trying to live a Christian life as a teen-ager or schoolboy still makes my heart tremble - even a little glad that I only found Jesus after the awkward teen years. What a horrible thing for me to say...