Show, Don’t Tell

Mike Duran

The old fiction writing adage “Show, don’t tell,” applies to a lot more than crafting novels or short stories.

Experienced writers will tell you that actions paint a character better than any grocery list of description or any clever narrative. Readers will understand the list or the explanation, but they will see and feel the actions. They will also have to wrestle with the meaning and try to understand on their own. Consequently, they will internalize more about a character.

It dawned on me as I read Mike Duran’s recent post about church youth groups that we all behave in this way. Someone can tell us what to believe, for example, but it is more powerful to see another person living out their faith. It’s easier to internalize the truth.

For example, I’ve heard countless sermons about forgiveness, but reading Corrie ten Boom’s experience of forgiving one of her German concentration camp guards showed the truth and power of forgiveness in a way I’ll never forget.

George Muller

In the same way, Elisabeth Elliot showed what it meant not to return evil for evil but to give a blessing instead, and her husband Jim showed what it meant to love someone to the point of laying down your life.

George Müller, the 19th century evangelist who started a number of orphanages, caring for over 10,000 children, because he believed God would provide, showed what living by faith and trusting God for daily provision really looks like.

William Henry Harding said, ‘The world, dull of understanding, has even yet not really grasped the mighty principle upon which he [Müller] acted, but is inclined to think of him merely as a nice old gentleman who loved children, a sort of glorified guardian of the poor, who with the passing of the years may safely be spoken of, in the language of newspaper headlines, as a “prophet of philanthropy.” To describe him thus, however, is to degrade his memory, is to miss the high spiritual aim and the wonderful spiritual lesson of his life. It is because the carnal mind is incapable of apprehending spiritual truth that the world regards the orphan Houses only with the languid interest of mere humanitarianism, and remains oblivious of their extraordinary witness to the faithfulness of God.'[42]

I wonder, then, who the heroes of the faith are for this generation.

We have some good talkers. I mean that seriously. I’ve been blessed to sit under some great preaching. In SoCal Christian radio makes other great pastors or apologists available, so I have heard from time to time men like Alistair Begg, R. C. Sproul, Dr. David Jeremiah, Philip DeCourcy, and Ravi Zacharias.

Others write. My book shelf is crammed with non-fiction from which I’ve been taught. A. W. Tozier, John MacArthur, Philip Yancy, and on and on.

Yet … I can’t help but think none of those speakers or writers would have had much of an impact if I didn’t have people in my life living out the gospel. And heroes of the faith who showed more than they told.

Who today is doing the dramatic things like Corrie ten Boom, Elisabeth Elliot, or George Müller? I can think of one, but I’m sure there are more. I’d love to hear their stories.

Published in: on November 16, 2012 at 5:34 pm  Comments (2)  
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