Originally published Wednesday, 20 August 2014.
“Show, don’t tell,” the composition teacher had written at the top of my essay.
I skimmed the red pen markings, bewildered. I had no idea what she was talking about.
Over the next ten years, through my advance composition and literary analysis classes, I would learn what it means to create three-dimensional characters who engage the reader with their actions rather than having a narrator interfere in the story. I would learn to show the values of a protagonist by the choices they make and the places they go. I would learn to say as little as possible and let their actions do all the talking.
But real life—that’s a different story.
Of course there are important things we must tell.
We must tell of God’s mighty works in our lives and dance the happy dance when He acts in awesome ways.
We ought to tell our hearts the truth when the enemy invades our soul with lies.
And we should tell each other words of life and blessing that give way to the best God has for them.
But there are many times in life when I find I tell too much and show too little.
Like when I drum my fingers impatiently at the store clerk moving incredibly s-l-o-w while the children chase each other around the cart in the checkout line.
Or when I hit snooze instead of getting up to read the Bible even though I write posts about spending time with Jesus.
“By this all men will know you are my disciples,” Jesus said, “if you have love for one another.” ~John 13:35
It seems Jesus knew the bent of our hearts to tell rather than show. To proclaim loudly our undying love and devotion for God. To make the best hand-held signs and argue the most persuasively the pro-life cause. To proudly display stickers on our cars and verses on our Facebook walls. While all along our actions tell another story.
It’s easy to tell. To live, to act, to show love—that’s the hard work of a Christ-follower.
But if we take Jesus at His Word, that’s how people will know the real-life characters from the flat ones: by the love we show.
And in this we are blessed, that we have Love Himself living in us so His love can pulse out of us and shape us into the characters He wants us to be.
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