David, my husband, asked me a question earlier this week that caused me to sit and think for a good long while. Why do you write?
I’m sure it seems like a rather innocuous question. But I honestly never really thought about it before. Writing has become so much a part of me that asking me why I write felt a little like, “Why do you exist?” It really threw me off and I had to sit and think for a while.
That question turned into a video, partially to give David a chance to work on his video stuff, but also to help me cast a vision. What is the point of sitting down at the computer day after weary day to write if I have no purpose, no vision?
So, why do I write? I write because I absolutely love stories. I love how a simple story a child can understand can also teach us as adults very deep truths. I love the parables in the Bible. I love reading the Old Testament narratives. I glean so very much from hearing and reading stories. I communicate best through story, which has been something of a controversial thing in my life. Many a person has told me that I needed to learn to tell others how I was feeling in very direct, spoken words.
You know what I have discovered? That’s a very western mindset. Western Europeans and North Americans, primarily of European decent, speak their thoughts and feelings very directly. This, believe it or not, is a cultural construct, not a biblical one. I don’t think there is anything biblically wrong with being very clear; we certainly shouldn’t manipulate others. I do think, though, that we have done a very bad job of acknowledging that this blunt, straightforward form of communication is not the only way.
I mentioned parables. Take a look at those parables, and then take a look at the Pharisees response to those parables. How often did they try to catch Jesus up in something only to hear a parable and become so enraged they wanted to kill Him? They took up stones. They plotted. They finally stirred up the crowds against Him so that He was crucified.
Those parables were not a blunt, direct way of dealing with the sin of the Pharisees, yet they saw themselves in those stories and knew exactly what Jesus was saying: “You are not what you claim to be.” If they didn’t know exactly what Jesus was saying, then there is absolutely no reason whatsoever why those stories made them angry enough to desire to kill Him. Even the most horribly done movie you have ever seen probably hasn’t upset you so much you wanted to murder the storyteller responsible for it. Why? Because any truth to it was not cutting you to the quick the way Jesus’ parables did.
Now, before you go explaining that away as the power of God (which is absolutely still at play), let’s take a look at cultures other than our own. I would specify Middle Eastern, but this is actually true of a lot more cultures than we think. Direct, blunt communication is not acceptable. In those cultures, to talk around an issue, to tell a parable, is to pinpoint a necessary truth to someone without calling them out. This is extremely important in a shame-based culture. To save face is everything, unlike our culture where to get to someone’s heart, we need often to make them feel guilty. This is why “guilt trips” are used and work in this country. Make someone feel bad about themselves and they will do anything they can to make themselves feel better.
Not so in many cultures. In a shame-based culture, to make someone an outcast, to point them out in front of others, to be direct with them makes them not feel they have dishonored their community, their family, their good name. Their reputation is severely hurt. So, to address an error, one must use story or at the very least talk around the issue. This is visible all throughout Scripture. For example, when King David committed adultery with Bathsheba and killed Uriah, Nathan the prophet came to him and told him a story. David knew the story had truth in it and so he was outraged at the actions of the villain in the story. When Nathan replied with, “You are that man,” David was absolutely devastated because the story showed him the impact of his actions.
Ok, well, this is all well and good, but that’s other cultures. You live, work, and write in the US. So, be more blunt…? No. I can be very direct and open; ask any of my good friends. But I still LOVE story. As high and mighty as we are in our guilt-based, “highly evolved” mindset, the truth is, we still love stories too. Why are movies, TV, YouTube videos so very popular? We can get into the many answers some other time, but at the heart of them is the fact that we like stories. Stories, even fiction stories with more fluff than reality, help us connect to truth in a way that speaks very deeply into our hearts. We want connection. We want fellowship. We want to know we aren’t alone and that we have a purpose.
Story helps us gain those things. It helps us see we aren’t really all that different from each other, that people all throughout the ages have seen and experienced and dealt with the same things we do. It helps us connect to truth in a way that direct teaching just doesn’t. And I love direct teaching too. I don’t have three college degrees because I hate direct teaching. But …
Have you ever connected with a story meant for kids? That’s not childish. It’s not something to be ashamed of. That’s exactly what I am trying to share; story speaks to us in a way no other form of communication does. That’s why I write. That’s why it’s a part of me so deeply I don’t remember a time when it wasn’t important and I have discovered I don’t know how to be myself without it. I write because it is how I communicate best, and that’s not a cop out. It’s an honest understanding of how God designed me.