Monday, October 24, 2011

Writing as Spiritual Discipline


I can't remember the first time I wrote something creative, but I know I've always wanted to write. During my sophomore year of high school, I took my first creative writing class. I was obsessed with horror movies at the time, and I cared nothing for Jesus. Naturally, horror stories were my genre of choice because I loved the darkness more than the light. Then, into the darkness shined a powerful and intoxicating light known as Jesus, and writing took a completely different direction for me. Suddenly, writing became a way to process my thoughts about the world in light of my new faith.

• Journaling as I studied the Bible became integral to my spiritual growth as I worked through what God was trying to communicate to me.

• I began creating stories to make some of the abstract concepts in Scripture more concrete in my mind like Jesus did with the parables.

• When I began teaching the Bible to students in church on a weekly basis, I worked through what I was going to teach from the Bible through writing.

• Throughout the course of our relationship, I've written letters to my wife Lindsey to capture and express exactly how I feel about her.

• Soon, I'll begin writing children's stories for my children just to capture their imagination with who Jesus is and why knowing him should move them to pursue him relentlessly.

Writing gives me hope because it intensively refocuses my attention and, by extension, my heart's affections back on Jesus as he truly is, and I see how his story is written on the hearts of humanity, waiting to be revealed and given the space to transform the hearts of the people who genuinely see it.

Ted Dekker is a New York Times best-selling author and my favorite writer. He has written nearly thirty stories that explore the nature of good and evil, as well as illustrate through creative storytelling the ultimate triumph of Jesus to win over human hearts. In his novel Showdown, Dekker outlines four very profound writing rules:
1. Write to discover
2. There is no greater discovery than love
3. All love comes from the Creator
4. Write what you will

Paul tells believers to be "renewed in the spirit of your minds," (Eph 4:23) and to "present yourselves to God as those who have been brought from death to life, and your members to God as instruments for righteousness" (Rom 6:13).

Paul is describing a general practice that followers of Jesus are to take to keep themselves in a position of continuing to grow closer to the heart of God. People have often prescribed practices known as spiritual disciplines that help an individual to influence their own hearts toward Jesus. It is specific acts in which we present our bodies to God as instruments of righteousness. Examples include meditation on Scripture, prayer, and fasting, among others.

But there's a specific practice that many in the Bible used to both draw closer to the heart of God through intentional thought and emotion processing and to help others to draw close to God's heart as well. David wrote psalms that spanned the emotional spectrum as they sought to express a man's thoughts in light of pursuing God. Solomon wrote thoughts of wisdom to relate to his children on how to live a life that finds its satisfaction in God alone. Matthew, Mark, Luke, and John wrote to process who Jesus was and the implications of his life and teachings on the entire world. Paul wrote letters in which he processed what it would mean to live life as a follower of Jesus.

Finally, there's Jesus. He wasn't a writer in the traditional sense of the word, yet he did create stories and the gospel writers wrote down those stories, as well as his teachings. In this way, I think Jesus qualifies as a write. Jesus wrote stories to describe by comparison what living with God in his eternal kingdom would be like.

Writing as spiritual discipline produced the Bible that reveals the heart of God to us. Of course, we can't write anything inspired like the Bible, but we can write to process who Jesus is and the implications of his life and teachings and his death and resurrection have on our lives.

As Ted Dekker outlines, we write to discover, and there is no greater discovery than love, which is bound up in who Jesus. John, who spent three years walking with Jesus, tells us that God is love. This progression should lead us to write freely what is trying to burst out of our hearts because of Jesus.

For me, writing acts as a spiritual discipline that helps me to draw closer to God, but it can only do so if I have some of the most important spiritual disciplines such as Bible study and prayer already part of my day.

Even if you're not a writer, keeping a journal is a great practice to help process what you're studying in Scripture, as well as keep prayer requests and answers recorded for future reference.

How has writing impacted your spiritual journey?

Photo Credit: gregoryhogan at Flickr Creative Commons

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