Guest Post: 3 Compelling Reasons to Rewrite Your Favorite Bible Story by Joy Caroline
Y'all, before we jump in, I just want to say that you're about to hear from one of the most fantastic people on the face of the earth. Joy Caroline is so sweet and full of the Holy Spirit! She is wise beyond her years and is going to impart some of that wisdom to you! I am so honored to have her on my blog, giving you three reasons to rewrite your favorite Bible story!
I have a bit of a history with biblical fiction, but (as you can probably tell, since you haven't heard a peep out of me) I've never written anything more than a short scene for a biblical novel. I've just never found the courage, I guess, to do anything more--but Joy has inspired me and I hope she'll inspire you!
Now, enough of me! Let's give Joy a big round of applause, sit back, and read her fantabulous post!
First, thank you so much to Grace for having me! I’m honored that she asked me to guest post. The girl is an AMAZING writer, guys! So thank you again, Grace.
And now, hello to Grace’s awesome blog! I hope everyone is having an amazing day and will enjoy this post.
Image Credit – Desiring God
For those of you who don’t know, I am a Biblical fiction writer. I love this genre because it really helps us relate to our favorite Bible figures and realize that they too had feelings just like ours. And in turn, this helps us in our relationship with God: we realize that if ordinary people can do incredible things for him, then we can, too.
I have two Biblical fiction WIPs: The Apostle’s Sister and The Anointed. They’re both about St. Paul the apostle. TAS is from the perspective of his younger sister, and The Anointed from the perspective of his youngest nephew. You can read the back-cover
summaries and some in-depth explanation over here on my blog.(Grace herself designed the book covers for both my WIPs, and they are so beautiful!)
As a Biblical fiction writer, I often get questions about the genre I write. And there’s a trend I notice in nearly every question I am asked. It’s this: Lots of authors tell me they would love to write a Biblical fiction novel, but they don’t think they can take on the project. And I totally understand. I was terrified when I first began writing TAS, and being honest, that fear does still come back to me. That’s the life of a writer. It’s scary to write a novel, y’all!
But although I feel scared and unworthy to write about the Bible, I have learned to listen to God’s voice. And I hear him telling me that he will help me through all my anxieties, and he will use my love for writing to bring glory to himself. I hear him telling me what I’m doing is worth it.
So today I want to share some encouragement with all of you. If you’ve been thinking about starting a Biblical fiction project, but are afraid to begin, I’m here to help you out! Here are 3 compelling reasons to rewrite your favorite Bible story – right now.
1. No one can write the story except you.
Image Credit – Desiring God
This is always my first response whenever I’m asked for writing advice. Maybe I repeat it a bit too often… LOL. But if I do, that’s because it’s incredibly important!
It’s very true that NO ONE can write the story except you. If you’ve got a Biblical fiction story in your heart, no one else can write it. Why? Because it wasn’t planted in THEIR heart. It isn’t a flaming passion within THEIR being. Even if they did try to write your story, it would not even read like the same story. You’re the one with the passion. And it’s incredibly sad to dismiss passion.
Think of your favorite book. Now think of the author of that book. Chances are, as soon as you think of the book you immediately think of the author. Can you imagine anyone but that person being the writer of that book?
My favorite book is To Kill a Mockingbird by Harper Lee. And as soon as I think of TKAM, I think of Harper Lee and how much I love and admire her. Her tone shines beautifully and passionately through the story. She writes tenderly and wisely about her subject and her characters. In every word I can see how inspired she was while writing. And I’m not the only one who sees all this. Lee has been presented with multiple awards and has been widely praised for writing TKAM. She is still honored for her passion, although she passed away in 2016. Ask anyone, and they won’t be able to imagine her not being the author of that novel. I know I cannot imagine anyone writing TKAM except Lee. Take Lee out of the equation, and the book loses everything, because she was the only one inspired to write it. And not just inspired. Inspired by God.
The point is this: You are the only one inspired by God to write your story. You are the only one called to write it. I repeat this advice so often because as soon as I believed it, it changed everything for me.
2. You will expose lies about God and lead your readers to divine truth.
Image Credit – Desiring God
As Christians, we naturally wish more would read the Bible. We naturally wish more would know that God is kind and loving and precious, and wants everyone to be saved. We wonder, “Why can’t people see that God loves them?”
Of course, I do not know for sure why some would rather not believe in Jesus. But I have a theory. Some might disagree, and that’s okay. But here’s my idea:
I believe it is really Christians who drive people away from Christ and his word. It’s not unbelievers. It’s Christians – Christians who paint a picture of an angry God that brings judgment as soon as anyone steps out of line. Christians who fail to recognize the truth of Romans 8:1– “There is therefore now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus.”
My Bible teacher once showed us a video of an atheist talking about why he doesn’t believe in God. And what he said was very eye-opening for me. He said: “God is there to keep tabs on your every little mistake, and if you don’t obey him he casts fire from heaven on you. And we’re supposed to love this tyrant?”
Now, where did he get this idea? My suspicion is he got it from Christians themselves.
This is why many are not attracted to the Bible or to God. Christians have given them the impression that the Bible is full of God’s judgment, while it is really the story of his great love.
There are many terrible interpretations of the Bible out there – by Christians. I won’t name names, but I recently read a book by a theologian who claims God is only judging the world right now and we will not see his grace until heaven. No. God has grace for the world now! Again, I won’t name names, but I’ve read “Christian” fiction and “Biblical” fiction that doesn’t align at all with God’s love. It seems the authors only wrote the books to let others know how sinful they are, not how wonderfully God’s grace reigns above sin.
As children of the Light, it is our responsibility and our mission to tell of God’s love in every way we can. We must expose these lies about God and show others the divine truth – that God is indeed love. We must fill the world with books and novels that bear witness to the tenderness of Christ. People need to hear that real truth, and if we know it but don’t tell it, how will they come to Christ?
This story has been placed in your heart by God because you know the truth, and he is calling you to tell it. He believes in you!
3. You will know on a deeper level what it is to follow Christ.
Image Credit – Desiring God
Writing the first draft of The Apostle’s Sister was a humbling experience for me – an incredibly humbling experience. With each word I wrote, God was speaking to me, teaching me what it is to follow Christ.
Before I began writing TAS, I was a Christian. But I didn’t understand fully what it really means to be a follower of Jesus. I was a newly born-again Christian (it hadn’t even been a year since my conversion),and there was still much I didn’t understand. (And there still is – a Christian is always learning!)
Right after becoming a born-again Christian, I had the idea that everything would be perfect in my life from the moment of conversion on. I believed in Jesus. I cut off the sins that had been plaguing me. Wouldn’t everything be perfect? As a result of this mindset, I became very frustrated when things didn’t go perfectly. I hated myself when I stumbled and did something I knew wasn’t acceptable with my new faith. When hard times struck, I was confused and grieved. Where was God?
When I felt called to write TAS and began the first draft, I was amazed to find just how much I really did grow in my faith. I had begun writing from the perspective of St. Paul’s younger sister, named Temira in my novels. Now Temira is a devoted little sister. She loves Paul. If you’ve got siblings, think about them right now. I’ll bet anything that you love them (even if they do annoy you sometimes, LOL). I have an older brother, and on my blog I’ve discussed how he served as inspiration for Temira’s story. That’s part of the reason I chose to write the novel through the eyes of a loving sister. Another reason is that Jesus and Paul both taught love for family, and all Christians should indeed beloving to their families. So Paul would have loved his. Writing TAS made Paul and his family so real to me. I saw them as actual people just like me. I felt their pain.
When I’m asked about the main themes of TAS, the two words that immediately come to my mind are:
Don’t get me wrong, TAS is a joyful story! Paul himself commanded that we “rejoice in the Lord always” (Philippians 4:4). Although the novel is bittersweet, there is always a theme of joy. Because Jesus does want to bring us joy, and he is the definition of joy. Christian stories should be joyful. Why, then, do I not immediately think of joy as one of my main themes? Or at least something more cheerful than suffering and sacrifice?
TAS is not a gloomy story, and again, joy is one of its themes. But I’ve chosen suffering and sacrifice as the two main themes, because during the writing I learned those things are the reality of following Jesus. Without being willing to suffer for Christ, and without being willing to sacrifice even your life out of love for him, you cannot follow Jesus. It’s just the truth, and I’m so thankful I learned it. And if I hadn’t answered the call to write TAS, I wouldn’t have learned it. And I wouldn’t have grown in my relationship with Christ.
To wrap up my point, I’m coming back to Temira. The Apostle’s Sister, as denoted by the title, has its main focus on the love of Paul’s sister for him. While writing, I had to take a moment to step into her place. These are the questions that occurred to me right away: What is it like to watch someone you deeply love – your brother – suffer so much? Paul was such a fierce follower of Jesus that he was willing to suffer countless bloody lashings, imprison-ments, cold, hunger and thirst, nakedness, shipwrecks… the list goes on. Read 2 Corinthians 11:23-28 for all the details. In other words, he sacrificed literally everything, much more than most Christians are asked to sacrifice. And it’s preposterous to think that in all this, Temira was perfectly calm. She was not. I think it’s needless to say her brother’s sufferings caused her pain. She loved him. Let that sink in. She was asked to sacrifice him, and did she enjoy it? No. Did Paul enjoy all his sufferings? No.
But through it all, Paul remained faithful his whole life, and his sacrificial love for Jesus was so great that he was willing to subject his own family to pain (Luke 14:26-28). He had brought Temira to Christ, and in her own love for Christ she was willing to make great sacrifices. She was willing to suffer. Both Paul and Temira were incredible examples to me of suffering, sacrificial Christians who were true followers of Jesus. Writing their story taught me that suffering and sacrifice is what it takes, as Jesus says in Luke 14:26-28.
TAS taught me to know on a deeper level what it is to follow Christ. Now, my “deeper level” was learning about suffering and sacrifice. Yours might be something else. Yours might be learning to be thankful, to love neighbors who are hard to love, to study the Bible with a different mindset, etc. Your “deeper level” will most likely be different from mine, and that’s a beautiful thing. God has a different lesson to teach each of us, because he knows what every individual needs. Trust him to show you.
Image Credit – Desiring God
I want to leave you guys with this last word.
Writing Biblical fiction is not easy. The Apostle’s Sister and The Anointed still have long roads ahead of them. There’s much work to be done, and a lot of studying and praying. And editing, editing, EDITING!
Seriously, “writing” a book is more editing than actually writing. XD So a Biblical fiction project takes a lot of dedication. It’s something you must be willing to stay with for at least a year, probably longer.
Rewriting a Bible story is a serious calling – not something to be taken lightly.
It’s not easy.
But it is rewarding. It is worth it.
Patience. The Lord’s own good timing and purpose. That’s what it involves. And when the Lord calls, he does not let any work go for nothing. Your story WILL impact someone in a very powerful way. And the first person it will impact is… you.
You’ll grow close to your favorite Bible characters. You’ll become strongly connected to them. You’ll love, admire, and emulate them even more. Ever since I typed the first word of TAS, I’ve received all this and more. I’ve talked a lot on my blog about how aside from Jesus himself, no one has changed my life more than St. Paul. Now he has changed it even more and brought me even closer to the God he loves – because I answered the call to write TAS.
You have a calling.
Will you answer it?
I hope so, and I am praying for you!
Thank you all for reading this post. I really hope you enjoyed it and were blessed by it in some way!
Thank you again, Grace, for this amazing opportunity. I loved every minute of it.
See y’all later!
-- Joy Caroline