Matthew 13:10,13 Jesus' disciples came to him and asked, "Why do you use nothing but stories when you speak to the people?"
[Jesus replied] "I use stories when I speak to them because when they look, they cannot see, and when they listen, they cannot hear or understand."
When our youngest went to school, my husband and I attended the first Parent Teacher Association (PTA) meeting with his teacher. I was amazed when he said, "If your child only wants to read comics, let him. At least he's reading." It was the first time I'd heard a teacher make such a recommendation.
By the time of this meeting, our oldest child had graduated to reading books without pictures, while the middle one enjoyed a book with the occasional illustration.The youngest still loved books with big, colourful drawings that he could examine while I read the words. All three loved story-time in the evenings. Their dad or I would sit on the bed and read them the story, while they clustered around on the bed or on the floor, listening intently. Whenever we came to a picture, we would stop to show it to them. Yet they all enjoyed comics, with their constant stream of elaborate pictures.
Today more and more churches use projectors to show pictures or even media-clips to help their congregations understand what the message is about. The illustrations hold their attention. They help the people understand what the speaker is saying.
How well Jesus knew his audience all those years ago. When he taught the crowds or even the disciples, He didn't have large pictures to hold up to illustrate his message. He didn't have PowerPoint. He had to rely on the power of words. And so he spoke in parables. He told stories that illustrated the points he wanted to make.
As writers we are encouraged to "Show, don't tell." Instead of saying, "The stove plate was hot," we show with our words: "Jenny yelped and jerked her hand away from the plate." Whether we write fiction or non-fiction, we are wise to make use of the power of story. We want to paint a picture in the minds of our readers, pictures so clear they will understand what we say.
Unfortunately, those around us are often like the crowds in Jesus' day. They "cannot hear or understand". So perhaps we need to take a lesson from Jesus. We need to show instead of telling.
As writers, we need to tell them stories they can visualise and use illustrations from modern-day society.
Yet surely the best picture of all can come from the way we live our lives. People close to us may not hear our words, but they will see the pictures we create from the way we behave, the things we say, and the example we set.
What is so fascinating about the comic book? Surely it's the continuous strip of pictures. Whether we like it or not, our lives are continuous strips of pictures. We show the world, one picture after another, what it's like to live as Christians. Will our life's comic book be one that the Greatest Teacher of all time wants people to read? Will He say, "If you don't want to read the Bible, watch that child of mine. At least you'll then you'll learn about the Christian life."
Prayer: Lord Jesus, please help us to live our lives like a comic book, one clear picture after another. Help us to show those who read us some of the fabulous truths in Your Word. Help us to be living stories to a world which often doesn't want to listen.
We ask this in Your Holy Name. Amen.
SHIRLEY CORDER is an RN, a pastor’s wife and a mother who has read far more comics than her kids, but then she started before them. You can contact Shirley through her website or follow her on Twitter.