Write what you see. So a friend said.
She got the advice from Eugene Peterson, the author of the Bible translation called The Message, who understood it as his call to write.
Eugene Peterson got the advice from John, the Beloved Disciple, the author of the Revelation. John was worshiping the Lord and praying in the Spirit one day, exiled on the island of Patmos, when he heard a loud voice – presumably the voice of God – saying “write on scroll what you see…” (Rev 1:11)
So the advice comes down from a good Source, and I hear it speaking to me too.
Write what you see.
So John says, “I turned around to see.” (Rev 1:12).
We see so many things, don’t we? So many beautiful and horrid things. Images both painful and majestic flit through our minds through so many avenues – through what we let in and what we can’t keep out. There are ugly, gruesome things that mar the mind. I cover my eyes. There are poignant memories that recur time and again, and I try to forget. Events I never saw but somehow reside in my imagination and prey upon me in times of weakness. I get up to do the dishes. So many things I don’t want to see. I turn the other way.
Other things are too beautiful to describe. Words don’t seem to capture the fullness of the glory that emanates – that keeps oozing out – seeping into my frame of vision – showing itself everywhere. It startles me with an element of surprise but also constancy. Sunshine streaming through the clouds so brilliant all turns white. I cover my eyes. A brilliant gleam in my son’s eye, full of personality and promise. I cling to it. Strong hands and a strong heart that have held mine for so long. I put the dishes down. There is so much to see.
So I stand, either in horror or awe, from day to day wondering how to write down any of it.
But what if I did?
The command doesn’t ask for commentary. It really asks nothing of the writer, but faithfulness and obedience. And attention. And alertness. Do I have that? Can I do that? What might I have to let go in order to, not just write, but to see? To Behold. To behold the day. To Behold God.
I ask these questions honestly, because I think to see more attentively, more deeply, is to live more truly, and more authentically. What kind of life would that be, could that be? Faithful, obedient, attentive, alert. This way of looking and seeing and beholding could change everything!
John, the author of the Revelation was faithful to the command. He said yes.
“And when I turned I saw… someone “like a son of man” (Rev. 1:13)
“After this I looked and there before me was a door standing open to heaven” (Rev 4:1)
“Then I saw the right hand of him who sat on the throne.” (Rev 5:1)
“Then I saw a Lamb, looking as if it had been slain.” (Rev 5:6)
“I saw heaven standing open and there was before me a white horse, whose rider is called Faithful and True” (Rev 19:11)
“And I saw an angel” (Rev 20:1)
“I saw thrones” (Rev 20:4)
“Then I saw a new heaven and a new earth” (Rev 21:1)
When John turned, he saw. When he turned, God revealed himself to John.
Then he saw… Then he saw… Then he saw!
“Behold Me! Behold Me!” God cries to a people who do not seek him. (Isaiah 65:1)
How much he wants to reveal himself to us! If only we would turn and look.
Write what you see.
Would you like to take the challenge with me? You could keep a journal for yourself, send an email to a friend, or respond to this post. Let us see what God is up to in this world and how he is revealing himself to us every day.
Then the One who was seated on the throne said, “Behold, I am making all things new…. Write this down.” (Rev. 21:5)