Perhaps unsurprisingly for a volume containing 1189 chapters, the Bible has much to say about writing. The words write, wrote and writing occur 185 times in the King James Version, and there are 120 references to scribes. My own personal mandate is from Revelation 14.13 – “I heard a voice from heaven saying, ‘Write.’”
Allusions to writing vary from the mundane (“See with what large letters I am writing to you with my own hand” – Galatians 6.11) to the melodramatic (“Suddenly the fingers of a man’s hand emerged and began writing opposite the lampstand on the plaster of the wall of the king’s palace, and the king saw the back of the hand that did the writing.” – Daniel 5. 5) to a curious verse in a minor prophet which puzzled me as a child. Habakkuk 2.2 says, “Then the Lord answered me and said, ‘Record the vision and write it on tablets, that the one who reads it may run.’”
That sounds fairly straightforward, so why did it mystify me? The main reason was that, in assembly at school, we often sang a hymn by John Keble which begins with the line, “There is a book who runs may read”. I wondered what was meant by “who runs may read”. Once I had got my head round the unfamiliar word order, I pictured an enormous book, standing open, with pages and text so large that a sprinter could read it on their way past!
So when I came to that verse in Habakkuk, it was hard to shake off the mental image I had been carrying. But a browse through different translations shows that they are united in carrying the sense of a vision that is written so that the one who reads it may run. I find that a satisfying idea for those of us who are writers.
Sprinter at the starting block by tableatny [CC BY 2.0 (https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/2.0)], via Wikimedia Commons
It’s a truism that you can’t be a writer unless you have something to say. Different types of writers have different messages to convey, and various motivations. Thus it’s possible to write, for example, crime fiction that is inexorably dark and disturbing, or crime fiction that is ultimately uplifting and satisfying.
As Christians, we carry a vision of the world that has both a humbling and a reassuring ring to it. We live at the mercy of a Power that is infinite, the one who created all that is, and who sustains it by the word of His power, and that allows no room for pride or overestimating our importance. But the wonderful news is that this Power is infinite Love, and so we need not fear.
We may not set out this vision expressly in our writing, though some of us will because that is the nature of what we write. But even for those of us who write on other topics, that vision is at the heart of our world, and is there between the lines. Our task, then is to write it in such a way that (s)he who reads may run.
The readers who come to our work disillusioned, disheartened, in pain, or simply trudging on with the ordinariness of it all should catch a glimpse of something that gives them fresh impetus and a sense that, after all, it’s worth being humane and compassionate and just. They should see afresh that although their own contribution may be just a drop in the ocean, it is one of those essential drops which together make up the ocean, and they should be encouraged to go on running and not give up on the adventure.
Ros Bayes has 10 published and 4 self-published books, as well as some 3 dozen magazine articles. She is the mother of 3 daughters, one of whom has multiple complex disabilities, and she currently works for Through the Roof (www.throughtheroof.org) as their Training Resources Developer, and loves getting paid to write about disability all day. You can find her blog at http://rosbunneywriting.wordpress.com and her author page at http://www.amazon.co.uk/Ros-Bayes/e/B00JLRTNVA/. Follow her on Twitter: @rosbwriting