Adorning the Dark Book Review

Wednesday, May 13, 2020
Adorning the Dark by Andrew Peterson is an excellent and encouraging book. Learn what Adorning the Dark taught me about community, art, longing, and stewardship. 

woman holding the book Adorning the Dark

*This post contains affiliate links

If you follow me on Instagram or you've been reading my blog for a while, you've probably heard me talk about my love of the beach. I love the way the waves spray water across my cheeks when they crash. I love the way the sun seems to kiss my skin differently there than anywhere else. I love the salty smell on a windy beach morning. And I love diving under the waves and coming back up feeling like a mermaid. 

When I go to the beach, swim in the sea, and soak up the sunshine I feel alive. No other location makes me feel quite like that, which is why I make such a big deal about it when I get to go.

I've been slowly (emphasis on slowly) reading through Andrew Peterson's "Adorning the Dark" for book club. Granted, book club was in early March, but like I said, my journey through this book has been very slow. I did still attend book club though, since it's a tight-knit group that doesn't mind laggers like me. 

While I was there a friend asked me how I felt about the book. I told her that Andrew Peterson's writing style makes me feel oddly alive. It's similar to how I feel at the beach, it's like I'm happy and free, yet longing for something at the same time. That last part I didn't think of to tell her at the time, but it is something I would add if she were asking me now. Because that's exactly what Adorning the Dark evoked in me -- longing and freedom at the same time.

I loved this book. I love that it convicted me and brought me to repentance multiple times, yet it also consistently reminded me of God's love and grace and acceptance of me. It reminded me of why I should work hard at what I do and use the talents God has given me for His glory. It reminded me of why community is important. It reminded me of the innate longing that Christians have for Home, even when we don't realize that's what we are longing for.

I don't do very many book reviews here at The Peculiar Treasure, but I wanted to highlight this beautifully written, quirky, and honest memoir/creativity handbook hybrid. So if you want to know more about what Andrew Peterson taught me about creativity, community, stewardship, and longing, keep reading.

Woman holding the book Adorning the Dark by Andrew Peterson

What Is Adorning the Dark About?

Adorning the Dark is an interesting read right off the bat because it doesn't exactly fit into one genre. In some ways it would be considered a memoir or autobiographical. In other ways, it would be considered a handbook on creativity and writing. And still in other ways, it could be considered a Christian inspiration book of sorts. But regardless of what category it should fall under, I can't recommend this book enough.

It is also hard to tell you exactly what it's about, because it's about several different things. It's about how to be a good steward as a creative person (I use that loosely because even though Andrew is a pretty artsy guy, he says everyone is creative in one way or another). It's about our need for community in order to succeed and thrive. It's about how God uses the arts to bless people and even draw his people to Himself. It's about how to humble ourselves and serve others. But if you want to know a little more clearly what this book is about, here's a snippet from the back of the book:

"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."
While this book isn't just for writers, it is written from a professional singer/song-writer's point of view, so there are plenty of tips for writers and other people who have a career in the arts. For those people, Andrew describes six principles for the writing life:
  • Serving the work
  • Serving the audience
  • Selectivity 
  • Discernment
  • Discipline
  • Community
While these tips do especially apply to writers, I feel that there are truths nestled in there for everyone who wants to live a faithful, well-stewarded life for Christ. Whether you are a writer, an artist in another craft, or a Christian just hoping to glean something helpful from Andrew Peterson, I recommend Adorning the Dark. 

What I Learned from Andrew Peterson's Adorning the Dark

1. Dedicate Everything to God

In chapter 3 of Adorning the Dark (ATD), Andrew Peterson says "As surely as your dedicate your heart to [God], dedicate your front porch. Daily pledge every atom of every tool at your disposal to his good pleasure" (pg. 18). I found that quote a little odd at first. Having been previously unfamiliar with Peterson's work, I was skeptical about some kooky guy telling me to dedicate my saw blade (if I had one of those) to God.

But Peterson is a pretty normal dude and I began to realize what he meant: give everything to the Lord. Let every single thing I do be for the glory of God. Let my work and my leisure both proclaim the truths of God through the way I live. As Peterson puts it:
"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." (pg. 18)

This idea of dedicating everything to God looks a lot like being a good steward, and being intentional with the life and gifts that God has given us.

2. Longing Isn't Always Bad

Longing can be done poorly, for sure. We can long for things from a victim-mindset, or we can long for things we wish we had, throwing ourselves a pity-party in the process. But properly done, longing can be a beautiful thing. This is something I hadn't thought much about before reading ATD. In chapter 7 of ATD, Peterson describes how he used to gobble up fantasy novels when he was a boy. They were a form of escape for him. He longed to jump into the stories themselves and stay a while. When they were over, he craved more -- he longed for more.

Later, Andrew discovered stories from authors like C.S. Lewis and J.R.R. Tolkien. These stories evoked longing in him as well, but in a way that caused him to hope expectantly for both the eternal life to come, and the potential and hope that is in this current life.

Longing in the right way makes us hungry for God, hungry for eternal life, and hungry to live with purpose while we are on this earth. Longing in this context is a gift from God.

3. God-Given Gifts are Meant for Service

I like attention. I'm not proud of it, but it's the truth. I want people to notice my talents and I want them to tell me that they notice. But the truth is, when God gives us a gift, it's purpose is to bring glory to God and to serve others. Andrew Peterson does a great job of detailing how God has humbled him in his career as a singer/songwriter and author.

Andrew Dedicates two full chapters to the concept of "serving the work" and "serving the audience"; both of which require humility. Here he explains that when we are creating art (or doing whatever God has called us to do), it can't be about us, but about those who will be affected by it. If we don't go in with that mindset, we will end up serving ourselves instead of God. But if we look at those who will be affected by our art or work as people we are serving, we become much more missional and God-honoring in our mission to do excellent work with the gifts God has given us.

4. Community Really Does Matter. Really.

Andrew Peterson has had a lot of ups and downs in his career, and he tells us about some of them. But in his description of his highs and lows, he isn't really telling us about himself, so much as painting us a picture of how his community pointed him to Christ in both the hills and the valleys. 
"That's community. They look you in the eye and remind you who you are in Christ. They reiterate your calling when you forget what it is. They step into the garden and help you weed it, help you grow something beautiful." (pg. 159)
 Community can be beautiful. It can be messy and difficult and complicated at times, but beautiful nonetheless. And this beauty is particularly real in a community of believers with the same primary passion and focus: to serve the Lord with all of their hearts, through the gifts and abilities that He has given them.

Community is meant to be a place where we encourage one another towards Christ. It's meant to be a place where we can speak truth to one another in love. And it's meant to be a place where we lift our brothers and sisters back up when they have fallen down. That's the kind of community member I want to be to others, and that's the kind of community I want to be immersed in. Because it matters and we need it.

But one caution: Peterson is also very clear that we need to be faithful to cultivate the community that is in front of us. Sitting around wishing we had a better community or wishing we had the same community that Peterson has is pointless. Look at the people in front of you -- the broken, flawed individuals in your circle -- and be the community member to them that you wish you had. Serve them, love them, point them to Christ, build them up in their relationship with God. Center around the word of God and be a community of believers that functions as it should. 

"I happen to think that if you start doing the work of joyfully, diligently speaking light into your community with your gifting, people will show up...So keep your eyes peeled. People will surprise you with their gifts. And you'll see how the friendships are augmenting everyone's talent in one way or another." (pg. 172)

Read good books!

I'm thankful for this book. I'm thankful to be in a world where quality, God-honoring books not only exist, but are in plenty. I'm thankful for authors who take the time to write books that point me to Christ and encourage me to use the gifts He has given me for His glory. Choose good books, friends. Be intentional about the works that you read. 

Did you enjoy this post? Save it on Pinterest!

woman holding the book Adorning the Dark by Andrew Peterson

No comments