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Go Outside and Play: Andrew Peterson

with Andrew Peterson | July 5, 2024
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Feeling lost? Frustrated trying to have fun and find purpose? Andrew Peterson shares how he found God and blended creativity with Christianity. If you're seeking purpose and how to figure out what God wants for you and your life, Andrew says, "Just go outside and play."

  • Show Notes

  • About the Host

  • About the Guest

  • Shelby Abbott

    Shelby Abbott is an author, campus minister, and conference speaker on staff with the ministry of Cru. His passion for university students has led him to speak at college campuses all over the United States. Abbott is the author of Jacked and I Am a Tool (To Help with Your Dating Life), Pressure Points: A Guide to Navigating Student Stress and DoubtLess: Because Faith is Hard. He and his wife, Rachael, have two daughters and live in Downingtown, Pennsylvania.

Feeling lost? Frustrated trying to find fun and purpose? Andrew Peterson says, “Just go outside and play.”

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Go Outside and Play: Andrew Peterson

With Andrew Peterson
July 05, 2024
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Andrew: People want to know, What is God's will for my life? I think sometimes God's like, “Well, go do what you want. Go do the stuff that I made you to do.”

Shelby: What are you passionate about? Yes, what have you been gifted with?

Andrew: And if you fail miserably at it, then He'll redeem that, and that's okay. It doesn't mean that you're going to succeed in a worldly way with all that stuff. But it just means that you can't really mess it up, or you can mess it up, but the mess gets redeemed. So, it's okay to mess it up.

Shelby: Real help for relationships in your twenties, this is Real Life Loading…

I'm Shelby Abbott and I'm back again today with musical artist and author of The Wingfeather Saga, Andrew Peterson. Fun fact, in case you missed it, but Andrew got engaged when he was nineteen years old, and we talked about that on the last episode that you can check out if you want to.

But today, we're going to learn from Andrew's mistakes. He's going to talk about some errors that he's made in the past. But we're also going to possibly figure out how to balance our desire to know what God has planned for our lives alongside the reality that our Heavenly Father might just be calling us to go outside and play. What are we talking about? We'll get into it. We're dishing out pearls of wisdom here today, so I hope you enjoy part two of my time with Andrew Peterson.

I don't know if you dated much before Jamie, but did you make any, what you would call maybe, dating mistakes?

Andrew: Dating mistakes? Well, there was one person that I dated before Jamie, but everybody else was pre-my-relationship with Jesus. So, you name a mistake, and I made it, you know, like tons of mistakes. It was all just self-serving. I just was living a life that was confused. Once I understood what I was for, you know, and I don't mean like in a very specific, like I'm here to do be a songwriter, but like I think the way that I look back at my high school years, especially, it was just this like casting about looking for any reason to do anything at all.

It was like, it was a fairly meaningless life, because there had to be more than just like having fun or whatever. I was just hungry for meaning, and it didn't occur to me that I could find a meaningful life as an artist who was also a Christian. In the eighties, people didn't talk about art and faith, and how you could be a filmmaker and a Christian that just didn't come across anybody's mind.

Shelby: It didn’t exist.

Andrew: Yes. I just didn't know that my or any kind of real faith could live with the passions that I had. Once I knew who Jesus was, and I had this resounding “yes” from Him. Kind of like what you were saying the people I want to know what is God's will for my life. I think sometimes God's like, well go do what you want. Like go, go do the stuff that I made you do.

Shelby: --Very passionate about. Yes. What you’ve been gifted with. Yes.

Andrew: Follow your heart, and if you fail miserably at it, then He'll redeem that - and that's okay. It doesn't mean that you're going to succeed in a worldly way with all that stuff.

Shelby: Right. Yes.

Andrew: It just means that you can't, like you said, “You can't really mess it up or you can mess it up, but the mess gets redeemed.” So, it's okay. You know what I mean?

It's okay to mess it up. I think it's almost like we moved out here to the countryside when our kids were little. It's like we downsized our house so we could get this little farmy house in the country, which was a very unamerican thing to do.

Shelby: It feels very you though. Well come on, I have read about that.

Andrew: But we moved out to the countryside, and I remember kind of like the first week, our kids just went crazy, cutting trails in the woods, climbing trees, getting poison ivy, the whole thing.

Imagine if we moved here and I told the kids, “Go out and play. It's a beautiful day.” And they kept coming in and asking me what they could do. Like Papa, should I play on the slide? Or should I climb the tree? Or should I build a Fort or should I what?

I would just be like, do whatever, literally all that I have is yours. Go and enjoy this beautiful land that I have given you.

Shelby: Yes, yes, yes.

Andrew: And so, there are boundaries on that property that they shouldn't go past. But like, I delight in seeing them find their own way. I think that that is the way the Lord looks at us. We're always asking Him to tell us what You want me to do. He's just kind of like, man, go play. Of you skin your knee, you fall out of the tree, come find Me and I'll help. I think that's a better way to think about it.

Shelby: Yes. It's a great illustration too, and I think it's visceral. Everybody can kind of imagine that. Because we've all been in a scenario where we're at least visiting somebody's house, where it's like, there's so many--

Andrew: --possibilities--

Shelby: --to do here. I love that what you just said, “All that I have is yours.” And God gives us that freedom.

I was reading and talking with a friend, you know, Romans 8 28 is so famous and so popular. I think it can be a little bit not used well, if that makes sense, that “God works for the good of those who love Him and are called according to His purpose.” But the key word in that passage is good, and it's how you define the word good.

But if you read on to Romans 8 29 it says, “for those whom He foreknew, He also predestined to be conformed to the image of His Son.”

What if that's the good that He's talking about in the previous verse? Being conformed to the image of His Son. That's a good definition of good, biblically. But a lot of times we think God works for the good of those who love Him.

That means that things are going to work out the way that I would define the word good. A lot of times when you look at a relationship that falls through, a dating mistake that you make, you can go, “Well, is it going to turn out good for me?” And I think it's always wise to pause and go, “What do you mean by good?” I think God gives us plenty of definition of what that looks like in the Scriptures. Good is always going to be gooder in God's definition of good, as opposed to our definition of good. Yes. Well, it gives us a picture of that.

Andrew: Totally. I was going to say Jesus was perfectly obedient to the Father, and suffered tremendously. You know? So, obedience doesn't equal easy life, you know, like being conformed to Christ means suffering.

Shelby: Yes.

Andrew: Jesus also experienced all of those things and He was perfectly obedient.
A quick story that helped me understand that. When my son, Aedan - my oldest, was moving into college just twenty minutes down the road, I was a mess. Because I had so many regrets, I wished that I had spent more time with him instead of watching Netflix, whatever, all those things. It was a very self centered thing. I was just kind of like, but what about me and my feelings? You're, you're moving out and I'm sad, that’s just ridiculous.

And he kept saying, “You're a good dad. Don't worry.” He's a great kid. Anyway, nothing helped. Everybody who told me, “Oh, Andrew, you shouldn't have any regrets. You're, you're a good dad, whatever.” Until I bumped into this guy, Brown Bannister, who's a well known producer in Nashville, he teaches at my son's college where he went to school.

I saw him and he said, “Oh, Hey, Andrew, how's it going?” I was like, “Oh man, I'm just so full of regrets. I feel like I made so many mistakes. I did too many shows. You know, I missed too much, whatever”. And he laughed and said, “Oh man, I remember those feelings. It has been so fun to see the way God has redeemed all my mistakes over the years.”

Shelby: Oh, wow.

Andrew: He didn't say you're a good dad. He kind of was saying, “Well, of course you have regrets. Of course, like who here can get it perfect.” The great joy of what it means to walk in the way of Jesus is that we get to witness and then bear witness to the way He makes good of it. You know what I mean?

Shelby: Yes.

Andrew: And so, talking about getting married young. I mean, we were talking about storytelling earlier. I mean, as the writer of your character's story in the novel that you wrote, typically the author wishes the good of the person that they're writing. Right?

Shelby: Yes.

Andrew: But you also fill their story with conflict, and you allow this character to make the mistakes that they're going to make. Then you, you as the author, get the joy of surprising them with the way that they've grown, the way they're going to overcome the conflicts that you put in their path. So yes, it's just a great way to think about it. So, it just gives us the freedom to fail, which is nice.

Shelby: When you talked to that producer did that actually legitimately help you then? That was the first time you kind of felt like, “Oh my goodness, yes. I did make mistakes. I'm not perfect, but God can redeem those things.”

Andrew: Totally. It took the attention off of me and put it on His goodness. It is not about me getting it right. It's about Him making it right, you know, so yes.

Shelby: Yes. And I think that's important for young people to hear. That's one of the reasons I wanted to ask you about that song, Dancing In The Minefields. I tried to explain what that meant to my ten-year-old. I was like, well, a minefield is like this place that has bombs all under the ground, and you don't know where they're at, and you've got to make your way through this field, and you could step on a landmine, and it could explode, and it could be a tragedy.

But when you're dancing through them, it's like we could step on stuff. Yes, sure. But like, we're going to enjoy the journey together. God wants to do that through His relationship with you. Like, it's going to be messy sometimes. It's going to, you're going to experience suffering. “In this world, you will have trouble,” He says. “But take heart, I've overcome the world.”

It's okay to make mistakes. Like, it's okay to make mistakes. I think people are paralyzed with indecision, because they don't, don't want to make the wrong decision. As you've interacted with your kids and therefore interacted with young people, their age, would you say that that's been true as well, as you've asked those kinds of questions and dug into their relationships with friends and stuff like that?

Andrew: I think so. I think whenever I play at a university or something, or speak somewhere in a college context, I feel like when I'm on campus, I love that age. It's such a fun group of people to hang out with. It makes me feel younger.

Shelby: Me too. [Laughter]

Andrew: But I always can almost imagine that I can see a question mark hovering over everyone's head. Like everyone that is walking around with a question mark, because they're just like, what is my life going to be? I don't know. I'm in this in between stage between adolescence and adulthood, kind of. There's so many things coming and nobody knows what those things are. And, you know, as a fifty-year-old, I'm like, you're going to be fine. It's going to be fine. It's going to be hard. There's going to be stuff that's going to completely come out of left field and sideswipe you, but you're going to be fine.

I remember that feeling very clearly of just like this constant. We had kids really young too. You know, we had kids early and I have zero regrets about that either. You know, partly because I'm a grandpa and I'm forty-nine. You know, like I love the fact.

Shelby: You’re like, I got energy as a grandpa.

Andrew: Yes. We had all that hard stuff early and you know, a lot of people wait a long time to have kids. And we were just like, well, we don't have any money anyway let's just do this. [Laughter] Which isn't to say that I wasn't scared. I was plenty scared.
Right? But being afraid it's not a reason to not do something.

So, Jamie, I put that on her in a huge way. She is one of the most courageous human beings I've ever met. She just has this unshakable confidence that things are going to be okay. Like most of the scary decisions in our lives that we've made, whether it was buying our first house or moving to Nashville, I wanted to do some of these things, but a lot of it was her saying, “We're going to be fine.” You know? Like she's willing to take the plunge in some amazing ways.

Shelby: Yes, and when you're in Christ, that's always true. You're going to be fine, even if you suffer, even if you hurt, even if life smacks you on the side of the face, when life smacks you in the side of the face, you're going to be okay, because it's a part of God working, His sanctifying process in you.

One of the things that I've been discovering - like I'm in my dining room I'm usually in a podcast studio in my basement. Well, my basement flooded last week. We had like a ton of rain. Groundwater came up from underneath the earth and flooded my basement. And so, we don't have a lot of money. And so, I'm like, if the insurance doesn't come through, like I'm in a lot of trouble, but I'm like, this is okay.

God has been using this to actually refine me and draw the evil out of me, because God loves me so much that He wants to rescue me from the evil that's already inside of me. That's how much He cares about me.

So, He'll put me through and allow me to go through situations where I’d come to the end of myself, and I’m like I literally have no idea what to do except to pray right now and ahh that's a good spot to be in. Because God is always saying, Hey, come to me. Come to me. Come to me. Come to good times, hard times, mediocre times. Come to me, because I want to be in relationship with you.” He cares about me enough not to leave me alone. And sometimes I just want to be left alone. You know what I mean? But He loves me too much for that.

Andrew: Yes.

Shelby: So yes, being okay. It doesn't necessarily mean always good and easy and comfortable.

Andrew: Right. I was talking to my daughter last night, who's twenty-one and married, and just is amazing. A huge honor that my kids sometimes call me for advice on stuff. Like what's funny is it's tax day. It was a few days ago, as of the recording of this. And so, I've gotten calls about like, “Am I doing something wrong? Why am I like, is this?” [Laughter]

Shelby: Why is TurboTax® so hard?

Andrew: I was like, Oh my gosh, exactly. So, but no, we were having this great conversation and it reminded me of a conversation that I had with a guy named Michael Card, who's an old school singer-songwriter. I jokingly call him the Gandalf of Christian music.

Shelby: Yes, yes, yes.

Andrew: He's got this big epic beard and is just really wise, loves the Bible. I heard him teaching one time and he was talking about Solomon and how there's the story that God says, you know ask me for anything and Solomon says, “Give me wisdom.” [2 Chronicles 1:10] I was always taught that that was like a good answer. Like what a great request to ask God for wisdom. Wisdom is a good thing. I'm not saying wisdom is not a good thing. But there's also that verse that says, “with much wisdom comes much sorrow.” [Ecclesiastes 1:18]

Shelby: Yes.

Andrew: The way you gain wisdom is failure. The way you gain wisdom is life beats you up and you begin to understand how things really work in your own brokenness.
And so, if you read the Proverbs or you read Ecclesiastes, you can tell that Solomon made a ton of mistakes.

Shelby: Yes.

Andrew: He gained wisdom, because God was like, okay, if you want wisdom, here it comes. Buckle up. Right?

Shelby: Yes.

Andrew: Michael Card pointed out that Solomon missed a chance, because what he could have said is, “Give me You. I just want You Lord. I don't want these other things.” And God, again, will use those things. But it was the centering thing for me to remember, that of all the things that I could want, the most important thing we can want is God. Like His presence, Jesus's presence with us, which boils down to, “Seek first His Kingdom and righteousness.”

Shelby: Yes.

Andrew: “And all these things will be added unto you.” [Matthew 6:33] So, when you're asking all these questions, it doesn't really help with the specificities of: Do I take this job, or do I not take this job? Those are hard questions to answer. But the first question is, are you seeking first His kingdom and righteousness? And by doing that, you're asking Him to just give you more of Himself, and that is a refining process.

The other side of it is, if you still have questions about what you do, that's why God gave us community. That's why He gave us each other, like these Holy Spirit bearing pilgrims on the journey with you that you can turn to and ask advice from. So, if you still don't know. then go to your church.

Shelby: Yes. Go to your community.

Andrew: Yes, wiser older people than you. That's how I think you discern whether or not a roadblock is God saying, “Hey, this ain't the way to go, or kick down the door and keep fighting.”

Shelby: Yes.

Andrew: Your community is the one that tells you, “Oh, this is a bad idea. You shouldn't do this, or no, no, no that's the enemy kick through the door like a SWAT team and keep fighting.” You know what I mean?

Shelby: Yes, I love it.

Andrew: So, your community is the one that helps you to define between those. So, my community told me you should marry Jamie. Like I talked to older, wiser people. I had some friends that were my age that were like, you are crazy. But when I talked to older, wiser people that I have always valued, friendships with older people, they were like, “Oh man, you're going to be fine. She's great.”

Shelby: That's awesome. Yes. I love that. It's really the community is where you find that practical boots on the ground kind of advice of what do I do about this, and what do I do about that.

I've had older, wiser people speak into my life as well. I think it's one of those things that's necessary. It's not like, Oh, if I get it, that's helpful. It's necessary. You need to be involved in a community of believers. The body of Christ is there because you are blind to your own blindness, until someone points out to you that these are some areas where you need to grow and develop and learn and gain wisdom.

I'm glad you had that in your life, and I know when I think about those people in my life, I'm like, “Lord, thank you. What would I have done without them?” So, I think we can boil down our time today to just: go outside and play and have fun. [Laughter] That's right, go outside and play.

Andrew: That's good.

Shelby: Bro, I know you're a busy guy. I know that you do a lot of interviews, and you have a really busy schedule. You were just touring, you have grandkids, you have kids, you have a family, and you made time for me today, and I'm so grateful that you did. I love Jesus more because of what you have done for the Kingdom. So, that's probably the best compliment I could pay you, so thank you.

Andrew: That's very kind. Thank you, man.

Shelby: I appreciate you being here.

Andrew's perspective really does bring a sense of calm when it comes to decision making, doesn't it? I mean, get in community with some older, wiser people, walk with God, and make decisions.

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