THE GOD OF SHOW AND TELL
If you ever go to church, I wonder if you relate to this habit of mine.
When I’m listening to someone speaking or reading, on occasions I can find that a phrase triggers a whole chain of thoughts in my head - thoughts which may not be what the speaker expects me to be thinking.
This happened just last Sunday.
There I was in the morning service in the local Anglican Church.
I was listening to a man reading Psalm 19, and reading it really well too (he is an artistic and sensitive soul, so I wasn’t surprised).
He read, ‘the heavens declare the glory of God; and the firmament shows his handiwork’.
I’ll be honest.
I didn’t hear the rest of the chapter.
I was away in my head - swimming down a stream of consciousness which turned into a river of revelation (at least for me).
And here’s what tugged my attention.
I was pulled - no grabbed - by the thought that God is into showing and not just telling.
When it comes to communicating with his children, God is a Father who’s into ‘show and tell’.
Now why’s that important?
To me, it’s huge.
These days, I spend a lot of time writing stories.
One of the essential keys to composing a gripping story is the ability to know when to show and when to tell.
So what’s the difference?
Telling is when the storyteller reveals what a person is like through the direct description of their thoughts and personalities.
Showing is when the storyteller allows what the characters say and do to reveal who and what they really are.
What the experts say is this: if you’re writing fiction, don’t always reveal through direct description - through telling.
Reveal characters indirectly through what they say and what they do.
In other words, reveal primarily through showing and be visual (we live in a visual culture, after all).
In Psalm 19 God says that he reveals who he really is through showing.
As the divine storyteller, God does occasionally engage in telling.
He spoke from time to time though the prophets, after all.
And he has spoken uniquely through his Son - described as ‘the Word’.
But this all this is ‘special revelation’.
Much of the time God uses ‘general revelation’ - he reveals himself by showing.
The heavens declare who he is.
The firmament shows what he’s like.
So when we look up at the stars in the night sky
Or when we stare at a landscape of fields and forests
Or when we watch horses at the gallop or Meerkats at attention
The divine storyteller is showing us something.
And as readers of the world, it’s up to us to try and see.