As authors, we’re charged with the task of showing emotion rather than telling the reader how a character feels. If you’ve ever taken a writing course or had your work professionally edited, chances are you’ve received the dreaded red-pen critique: “S/T.”
As a reader, perhaps you’ve come across a section of a book that seems to drag. The story changes from absorbing you into its setting to a dry recitation of facts. UH-OH! The author has stumbled into telling words rather than showing language.
Instead of telling the reader, “Joe is sad,” an author must show Joe’s sadness through dialogue, body language, setting, other characters’ responses, etc. The Apostle John gets an A+ in Show vs. Tell in his recounting of Jesus’ miracle at the wedding in Cana. Everyone involved in that day’s miracle had enormous faith—but not once did John tell us that…
Unadorned, Active Faith
When Jesus and His new disciples attend a wedding in Cana, Mary (Mother of Jesus), Jesus, and the wedding servants displayed unadorned, active faith when the wedding wine ran dry. Quiet, simple, yet bold—each of these folks spoke, acted, or issued a command that required God’s intervention to produce the desired end.
Mary’s faith emerged as implied statements. She didn’t come right out and ask Jesus to miraculously produce wine, nor did she argue with him when He said His time for ministry hadn’t yet come. She simply implied—with complete faith—that God was about to take care of the situation:
“When the wine was gone, Jesus’ mother said to him, ‘They have no more wine.’
‘Dear woman, why do you involve me?’ Jesus replied. ‘My time has not yet come.’ His mother said to the servants, ‘Do whatever he tells you.’” John 2:3-5
Jesus commanded the servants, and in doing so, involved others in His Father’s work:
“Nearby stood six stone water jars, the kind used by the Jews for ceremonial washing, each holding from twenty to thirty gallons. Jesus said to the servants, ‘Fill the jars with water…’” John 2:6-7a
And John shows us the servants’ faith in two ways. First, by how far they filled the jars; and secondly, by the faith they displayed in taking a measure of the water to the master for a taste-test!
“…so they filled them to the brim. Then he told them, ‘Now draw some out and take it to the master of the banquet.’ They did so, and the master of the banquet tasted the water that had been turned into wine. He did not realize where it had come from, though the servants who had drawn the water knew.” John 2:7b-9
Unknown, Internal Prayers
Here’s something we CAN’T know from John’s masterful use of Show vs. Tell: internal dialogue. What were Mary, Jesus, and the servants thinking in that crucial moment of their faith decision?
- Was Mary simply a proud Jewish mama, who wanted the world to see her “special” Son? Or did she feel a nudge from His Heavenly Father to pursue this moment, this miracle? And did she pray with all her heart that her Son would not be embarrassed or put to shame on his first endeavor?
- Jesus’ first reaction was, “Not yet!” But He quickly submitted to Mary’s suggestion—or was it His Heavenly Father that nudged His faith forward? Was Jesus in silent conversation with the Worker of all Miracles, when He instructed the servants?
- Why did the servants fill the jars to the brim? That’s a lot of water! If they DIDN’T believe it would work, wouldn’t they have skimped on the job? How hard do you think they were praying, when they were told to take a measly cup of water to the host of the wedding? What would their punishment have been if the water–was still water?
Telling the Truth About Showing Your Faith
The truth is…I get a discouraged about my meager faith. I’ve never walked on water or received miraculous healing. But when I felt the Lord call me to write, I walked through each door He opened. When I’m struggling with physical pain or other chronic issues, I try to accomplish at least something productive for the Kingdom (even if it’s laying in bed and praying!).
Hmmmm—maybe faith isn’t about outward significance, but rather the inward journey. Go figure. 🙄
Faith is the simple, daily words and deeds that show our trust in God–before the water turns to wine. The Apostle John didn’t tell me that. He showed me.
- Faith is the simple, daily living-out of our trust in God BEFORE the water turns to wine.
- See the writing skill of “Show vs. Tell” illustrated, when Jesus turns water to wine.
- Whose faith was greater? Mary, Jesus, or the servants who offered water/wine to the wedding host?
- What are other examples (in Scripture or in your own life) in which true faith is shown through action rather than explained with words?