“What made her step away?”
Hubs has been asked this more than once. I’ve already talked about the specific scriptural contradiction that was the proverbial last straw, but the last person to ask the question did so in a way that hinted at a deeper question. It felt more like he was asking, “After reading it over and over, only now does she start having a real problem accepting all that God did to people in the Old Testament?”
And that question made me think longer and harder.
(I love questions that do this.)
After mulling on it and giving my subconscious time to mull as well, the answer dawned on me: It Got Real.
For all intents and purposes, I subconsciously treated ALL THE OLD TESTAMENT stories in the Bible as just that…stories. I didn’t think of them as literal people living literal lives on literal earth, even while watching archaeological Bible shows with Hubs and seeing literal evidence of those literal lives.
See, here’s the thing: I’m a novelist and screenwriter. Four of my novels were published by B&H Publishing Group (LifeWay) and one is with Thomas Nelson/HarperCollins. I’m a produced screenwriter, having helped adapt one of my independently published novellas into a television pilot (with the fabulous Bob Burris and Chad Gundersen).
I say all that to say this: I am inherently a storyteller.
I see the world through stories. I interpret it as stories. I come from a long line of storytellers, some of whom have used this talent for good and others for evil.
Storytelling is in my genes. My mom cannot say, “Honey, can you run to Walmart and buy eggs?” No. Daddy will hear the entire story of how she got dressed and walked the dog and got interrupted by a phone call but finally got out the door, got to Wal-mart, was headed to get some eggs when she remembered she needed fingernail polish remover and so she headed over to the health and beauty section and, can you believe it, she ran into Sue and heard all about how Sue’s granddaughter has moved away but is doing so much better now and isn’t that fabulous and before you know it a half-hour passed and she was so amazed at how God worked that story for His glory that she completely forgot about the eggs until she got home and that, Daddy, is why she needs you to run to Walmart even though she just got back.
Same with my Daddy, only he has a flare for fiction and so there might be a few embellishments tossed in here and there to keep the story interesting and rare. (Case in point: my children actually thought my dad was a Golden Gloves fighter for several months. Truth: he probably walked into a boxing club for a few minutes in childhood.)
It’s like coating your tongue in honey. Everything tastes sweet when filtered through that honey. You’d have to stop and think about it if you wanted to truly get to the taste of a thing.
Or taping rose petals to your nose. Everything smells lovely. You’d have to really pay attention to discern the actual smell beyond the rose.
Everything comes to me through the filter of story. When I encountered stories in the Bible, they mattered as stories. They brought characters and settings and lessons to consider. I didn’t go beyond my story filter to truly think of these people and places as real people and places whom God was manipulating and moving like pieces on a chessboard.
This realization hit me when a pastor-friend reached out. He’d listened to the podcast episode wherein we discuss God killing David and Bathsheba’s baby for David’s sin (poor baby). The pastor sent me a podcast to listen to. I dutifully listened, but didn’t hear anything beyond an affirmation of what I’m writing.
Is he trying to quietly tell me he’s questioning, too? I wondered.
Or am I completely missing what he sees to be valuable wisdom here?
So, I emailed the pastor asking what he meant for me to understand or consider by listening to the podcast.
His answer was to remember that loving Christ is a marathon, not a sprint.
Now, that could mean many things and I’m still pondering on it, but here’s what it instantly invoked in me: a realization that I’d subconsciously read the Bible through each year as if it were one long book written by one author (God) to convey meaning and truth I could then apply to my life, today. I read the Bible as if it were one long marathon.
That’s how the Bible has been described to me by countless pastors and Bible study leaders.
But it is ALSO a book that recounts real experiences of real people living at the hands of a real God. It is a series of sprints.
Bathsheba was a real mother who really lived in dread and fear for seven days while her real husband begged their God for mercy. She’s a real mother who watched her real child die because of how her real husband had her real former husband killed on the battlefield.
In that last sense is how she and her experience became real to me. It’s how she walked off the Bible page and into the actual world. It’s where I met her, woman to woman.
And when she became real, so did all the others. They weren’t characers in a multi-generational, epic story.
They were human beings.
Being killed and punished and humiliatated and defeated by a vengeful, jealous, spiteful god who would abide nothing short of 100% allegiance and obedience in all times in all ways.
They weren’t just lessons for me in my modern life.
If scripture is real, they were real.
And that, in turn, made the God of the Bible even more real.
Which brought me to a place – for the first time – of having to choose from an aware knowledge of whether I would give over my entire life and existence to be that God’s servant and slave. Could I honestly adore and worship him – all of him, all of who this Bible says he is? Could I worship the god that my fellow mom, Bathsheba, knew? Did I want to sit in his lap, call him Abba?
I asked myself those things that morning at my kitchen table while I thought about my own little ones safely sleeping in their bedrooms upstairs. I thought of how fiercely I will protect every breath they ever take and use everything I can find or invent to utterly destroy any being – godlike or otherwise – that would dare to rise up against them.
I thought of how Bathsheba must have anguished, knowing for seven long days that God was killing her child because of her husband.
She became real. Her baby became real. And the God of the Old Testament became real.
A very real horror.