The stories of the Bible are basic and life-changing, whether parable or true account. They are short and to the point, imparting truth and morals without preaching. I don't remember being dissatisfied with a lack of details as a child. Indeed, we were discouraged from what was considered 'embellishing' scripture. As a fiction writer, my curiosity now pricks at familiar stories that raise more questions for me than they answer. I find myself applying story-developing techniques, not to embellish, but to glean the most from the story. I speculate as to what the character felt, saw, imagined or concluded.
When we read (and write) fiction, we practice putting ourselves in another's shoes. We develop empathy for characters, whether fictional or true to life. This makes the stories of the Bible come alive as it did for me recently as I read again the familiar account of Saul's conversion.
Then, on the road to Damascus, he is plunged into darkness. He hears a voice, but it's not saying God approves of him. Quite the opposite. Self doubt and confusion bring him to his knees. Is everything he's worked and devoted his life to a sham, or is the evil one trifling with him? How could he be so wrong? It's not fair. Fear sets in. He has enemies in the church and he is at his most vulnerable. In his tortured, confused mind, he imagines the friends and family of those he imprisoned and killed to be close and plotting for his blood, or at least, celebrating his downfall. What if his companions abandon him now? He would be left at their mercy. He grows despondent suffering from severe depression and doesn't eat or drink for 3 days. A once-great man, he is now completely humbled and degraded. Life doesn't make sense anymore. His future is gone. He gives up.
Ananias hears about Saul's condition and perhaps he revels in it. News travels like wildfire. It's payback time. God is faithful. He has our back! But when God tells him to go to Saul to heal him, Ananias reminds God who he's dealing with. Are you sure you want to do that? Since God told Saul that Ananias was on his way, it would be like walking into a trap, and Ananias isn't exactly known for his guts. Perhaps he second-guesses the vision. Was it really from God, or just a figment of his imagination? Eventually he realizes that it's too true to doubt. Since God has never actually spoken directly to Ananias in this manner before, he has no choice but to obey. Ananias kisses his wife and children (for the last time, he wonders?) and heads out without telling them where he is going. He feels a measure of peace in obedience which is better than defying God. As he nears the street where Saul awaits, Ananias wonders whether his fellow Christians, especially those who have had loved ones imprisoned, will consider him a traitor and doubt his love of Jesus when Saul is back on his feel again.
Anyway, you get the picture. This is the way my mind works, sticking to the scripture and putting flesh onto the characters. Reading and writing fiction makes them come alive, and this is why the novel matters to me.
Do you feel that reading (and writing) impacts your understanding and appreciation of stories in scripture? We'd love to hear.