My favourite Saturday afternoon haunt was cafes in Colaba in Mumbai. When I went down the tiny lanes of Kala Ghoda or even the slightly darker alleyways off Colaba Causeway, I would settle down with my laptop to people-watch, write “letters to Jesus,” and begin “rehearsing the gospel.”
Little did I know I was planting the gospel deep into my heart in one of the most ancient, beautiful ways of expressing ourselves—the gift of writing.
I grew up with the idea of God being distant and elusive. But on those afternoons I was discovering how far it was from the truth. I was finding my faith and grappling with the rollercoaster experience of life in a new city.
My greatest moments of clarity were found while writing about the truth I was only beginning to understand. The Holy Spirit was using the gift of writing to help me behold the gospel—understand it, appreciate it, admire it, and apply it deeply into my own heart. God no longer felt distant to me. I knew the Lord is near.
I do not think I wrote with much thought or knew that my letters—peppered with modern-day slang and numerous typos—were helping me rehearse the gospel.
Writing helped me tear myself away from the million ways the world was pulling me away from God. If the world was trying to distract me from the gospel, writing was drawing me back to it. Since then I have come to understand how writing can be a life-giving spiritual rhythm.
The Gift of Writing
During one of my first “letters to Jesus,” I remember tears rolling down my face, interspersed with light, uncontrollable chuckling. I was writing at a Starbucks outlet, drawing several odd glances to myself. I do not think I wrote with much thought or knew that my letters—peppered with modern-day slang and numerous typos—were helping me rehearse the gospel.
Recently my pastor gifted my husband and me a book called The Valley of Vision. It is a collection of written prayers and meditations in the Puritan tradition.
Flipping through the book idly one evening, I found myself entirely caught up by their words. Their prayers were so beautifully written. They seemed to give voice to the feeling and movements of my own heart. The Puritans had no way of knowing how—a few hundred years later in India—their words would touch my soul and reverberate in my heart.
I think of C.S. Lewis imaginatively retelling the gospel story in The Chronicles of Narnia or powerfully portraying the cosmic battle for our souls in The Screwtape Letters, and I often wonder about the impact of the written word. It transcends time, culture, and language.
Often I find myself surprised to see the truth of Jesus shining through my own words in my real struggles.
Most of all, I marvel at the writing in the Bible. As I first read the early books of the Old Testament, the words of the prophets during the reign of the kings of Israel, the apostle Paul writing his epistles to newly formed churches in the Roman empire, I saw the gospel looming large over every word.
The Power of Rehearsing the Gospel
As I now read the ancient words of Scripture every morning, they awake my own will to write. The church I belong to reads the same chapters of the Bible together and we record our reflections in our Community Bible Reading journal.
There are several mornings when I wake up disgruntled from a disturbing dream or with the hangover of an unresolved issue. As I begin to write, the truth of what Jesus has done begins to bear fruit in my heart like a flower in full bloom. Often I find myself surprised to see the truth of Jesus shining through my own words in my real struggles.
Writing is a simple but sacred habit. When I am writing and when I am with my Saviour, I cannot hide who I am. I cannot hide what I really believe. The truth is always on the page—brokenness and beauty in every line.
Rehearsing the truth of the gospel in our own words is like shooting an arrow of hope straight into the depths of our battered souls. It is like a signpost that points to him who has conquered all, helping us to mark milestones in our lives, and illuminate the road behind us or the way ahead of us.
Whether scribbled in messy handwriting or full of typos, eloquent or incoherent, deeply personal or completely public, the act of rehearsing the gospel through writing is a gift we have been given to enjoy.
The words of Jesus about scribes ring beautifully true to me, “Therefore every scribe who has been trained for the kingdom of heaven, is like a master of a house, who brings out of his treasure what is new and what is old” (Matt. 13:52).
My hope is we will all discover this wonderful gift of writing the gospel to our hearts so we see the treasure of the gospel in old and new ways, changing our hearts, and impacting the lives of those who read our words.