Doctor of Leadership in Global Perspectives: Crafting Ministry in an Interconnected World

Pondering At Leisure

Written by: on November 9, 2023

In a conversation with my dad this week, he asked what we were reading in our DLPG class.  “Maps of Meaning, by Jordan Peterson,” I replied. He said he was familiar with the title, as it is one of his grandsons Nic’s favorite books.  Nic was a philosophy major and often could be found in a coffee shop with his professors, enjoying conversation about the class readings and pondering the writings of authors such as clinical psychologist and professor, Jordan Peterson.  My dad said he enjoys talking to Nic about his various readings, because then he doesn’t have to read the books.  Nic can summarize them and also deliver concise reviews and assessments. I found myself wishing Nic had time to meet with me this week, as, similar to my dad, I would appreciate a summary and concise review of Peterson’s Maps of Meaning: The Architecture of Belief.

Maps of Meaning

Jordan Peterson, in his book, Maps of Meaning, has tried to create a detailed, all-encompassing manual to describe how people make meaning in their lives. He draws upon psychology, mythology, religion, and philosophy and some of his main themes touch on chaos and order, archetypes, religion and belief, the hero’s journey, and the power of language and communication.[1] Peterson’s motivation for writing can be seen in roots reaching back to the collapse of his ideals as a youth. Describing this time, he said, “All my beliefs – which had lent order to the chaos of my existence, at least temporarily – had proved illusory; I could no longer see the sense in things. I was cast adrift; I did not know what to do or what to think.”[2]

In response to this original collapse, Peterson has delved into an extremely descriptive and thorough discussion of human morals and belief, political insanity and the human capacity for evil, and human fear of the unknown and the lengths we will go to maintain our sense of order.[3] Maps of Meaning is lengthy and not easily summed up and described. One reviewer noted, “This is not a book to be abstracted and summarized.” The reviewer went on to “express the hope that curious souls would nevertheless discover this curious book and savor it ’at leisure.’”[4]

Thoughts upon Encountering Peterson’s Writings

Engaging Peterson’s book launched me into my own train of thought regarding how we as human beings create meaning in our lives. Sometimes we grasp desperately for meaning, fearful of losing our perception of stability and control. Other times, we strive to create meaning, confident in our individual and communal “map making” skills. I wondered, “Has God wired us to seek meaning?” And if so, how do we know where to seek? Could it be that God has also wired into us the answers to our quest for meaning?

I think we are created to find meaning in God.  But I do wonder, if this is true, why do so many people seek meaning elsewhere? I’ll leave this topic for a future blog, but at the moment I’m curious and I wonder, given our human desire to seek meaning, what opportunities exist for the church to offer relevant experiences for people in which they can encounter the One who wired them for meaning?

An Opportunity for the Church?

In our current postmodern context, many of our traditional structures for understanding the world and our place in it have been deconstructed, causing us to desperately seek meaning in a variety of explored and unexplored territories.[5] What role might the church currently play in offering maps for humans desperate to know the Creator of all meaning? In his book, The Power of Ritual: Turning Everyday Activities into Soulful Practices, Casper Ter Kuile discusses the importance of establishing routines and rituals that give our lives significance.[6] Could this idea provide the church with valuable fodder as we rethink ways to build new and relevant ministry models for experiencing and knowing God?

I wonder if, in listening carefully and creatively to God, we in the church could offer both new and traditional models of spiritual practices, everyday routines, rituals, and rhythms to nurture deep relationship with God and one another? How might we create a compelling invitation to find rootedness in our Creator and understand our place in God’s creation.[7]

These are things I would like to give more thought to, as our world seems hungry not only for meaning, but for guideposts to hold that meaning, peace to assure us we don’t have to understand all meaning, and love to secure us in the one who creates meaning.


Jordan Peterson’s Maps of Meaning initially caused me some anxiety, as the thick volume sat on my desk and as I began to break open the cover. However, after some thought, I’ve changed my mind on the book and my approach to it. I plan to continue pondering Peterson’s ideas, as well as the ideas he spurred in me, well into the future and at a very slow pace, perhaps even over a cup of coffee with my nephew Nic, for these are topics to enjoy, explore, and prayerfully ponder, “at leisure.”


[1] ChatGPT, OpenAI, https://chat.openai.com/, “Generate a summary of the themes of the book Maps of Meaning, by Jordan Peterson.”

[2] Jordan B. Peterson, Maps of Meaning: The Architecture of Belief (New York, NY: Routledge, 1999), xiv.

[3] Peterson, ix-xxi.

[4] Kelefa Sanneh. “Sort Yourself Out, Bucko.” The New Yorker, vol. 94, no. 3, 5 Mar. 2018, p. 70. Gale Academic OneFile, link.gale.com/apps/doc/A529962013/AONE?u=newb64238&sid=bookmark-AONE&xid=3a6ec059. Accessed 8 Nov. 2023.

[5] Stephen R. C. Hicks, Explaining Postmodernism: Skepticism and Socialism from Rousseau to Foucault (Redland Bay, QLD: Connor Court Publishing Pty Ltd, 2004), 188.

[6] Casper Ter Kuile, The Power of Ritual: Turning Everyday Activities into Soulful Practices (New York, NY: HarperOne, 2020).

[7] I recognize that churches across the globe are following God well in offering spiritual nurture and guidance to people seeking God. I also recognize the need for new ways of thinking about and developing ministry opportunities in the current context of our Western world.

About the Author

Jenny Steinbrenner Hale

10 responses to “Pondering At Leisure”

  1. mm David Beavis says:

    Hey Jenny,

    I find the idea of meaning fascinating in our postmodern world. When there is no grand narrative, meaning is to be extracted from within. We all live our own individualized stories. But there is still a sense that this is not enough. What do you think are some of the consequences we are seeing with the lack of meaning within society due to the influence of postmodern intellectuals?

    • Jenny Steinbrenner Hale says:

      Hi David, Thanks for your comments and question. That is a very good question. I think we are seeing many consequences as a result of a the postmodern trend to deconstruct traditional sources of meaning. I wonder if we will eventually swing toward finding meaning in common sources again, as people become more and more uncomfortable with a lack of anchoring in our society. One consequence, in my opinion, is a lack of support and direction for young people in their preteens, teens, and twenties, discovering who they are and where they fit in the world. There is a lot of talk about being free to be yourself, but when they set out on that free path to be themselves, it appears to me that there isn’t as much support as they expected. This isn’t true for everyone, but it seems true for some who I have had the privilege of knowing.

      Also, we have someone on our team at work who desired to “deconstruct” everything for a couple years. That caused a lot of stress for everyone on the team for awhile, until he was asked to contribute to the “reconstruction” of everything he felt he needed to deconstruct.

  2. Caleb Lu says:

    Jenny, I love the invitation to “ponder at leisure”. I found this week’s task to write a blog daunting and the mountain of reading and grasping the book in a few days impossible.

    “I think we are created to find meaning in God. But I do wonder, if this is true, why do so many people seek meaning elsewhere?”

    What a question you pose! I think I’m going to be chewing on this in the coming weeks. Your introduction of rituals and practices reminded me of a story. At the church I attend, all the kids usually start in the main sanctuary and stay for musical worship and communion. One week, as we were taking communion (during the silent reflection time), a 4 year old who was sitting next to me loudly asked, “Who’s God?” immediately followed by “Why is there a cross?”. Luckily a 5 year old bailed me out and answered “God is big, so big he’s even bigger than a house.”

    It was a fun reminder that rituals and routines have a way of at least bringing up questions of meaning in those that have no idea why they exist.

    Thanks for your post!

    • Jenny Steinbrenner Hale says:

      Hi Caleb, Thanks so much for your thoughts and comments. That is such a funny story about the kids in your congregation! I’m going to remember that. 🙂 Kids are so amazing and refreshing.

  3. Kristy Newport says:

    I like your questions
    “I wondered, “Has God wired us to seek meaning?” And if so, how do we know where to seek? Could it be that God has also wired into us the answers to our quest for meaning?”
    These are so good to ponder! I think Peterson would like that these questions surfaced for your while reading his book!
    Ilike this common sense:
    “we don’t have to understand all meaning”
    We will not have full meaning until Jesus returns. There is some comfort in this as we strive to know and learn so much.
    I enjoyed your post!!
    I am curious where you will continue to think on the topics Peterson provides…while at leisure. 🙂

    • Jenny Steinbrenner Hale says:

      Hi Kristy, Thanks for your comments and thoughts. I think one thing I’m interesting in enjoying at leisure, when I return to Peterson’s book, is his approach to the Hero’s Journey.

      Hope you had a good weekend! See you tomorrow.

  4. Jenny,

    Great post and summary. I had some struggles with Petersons work. I really enjoyed your responses to peoples questions. You are a gift Jenny, I am excited for you.

  5. Alana Hayes says:

    I wonder what Nic would say about this book! I hope you get to talk to him soon about it!

Leave a Reply