You don’t know what the story is going to do, which is the great, great value of the story. You don’t know what the protagonist is going to do, or the antagonist. You don’t know what the narrator is going to do. You don’t even know what the reader (you!) is going to do. Even if you’ve read this story before.

You. Don’t. Know.

Those unknows are the lifeblood of narrative, and they are what give stories the power to shape perceptions and character, if we can embrace the not-knowing and the needing-to-find-out as features of a narrative life and not as bugs.

Of course I’m talking about the Bible. Many of us who take the Bible seriously as a moral authority lapse into talk of God’s “plan” revealed in the Bible for salvation. That mode of relating to Scripture takes it out of the realm of story and imagination and places it under a monocle to be deciphered as a blueprint. Or, with more literary distance from the faith of adherents, you can talk about the great “themes” of the Bible–love and justice and mercy. But the Biblical authors weren’t assembling variations on a theme. They were telling inspired stories, the kind that bend and move in unpredictable ways, to the discomfort, yet ultimate benefit, of the people and communities who hear them.

When was the last time the Bible surprised you?

One thought on “Surprise!

  1. Maybe this is the value of the many translations — not the question of the best one, but the spaces between the different words. I want to say “No, not that, it’s –” whatever my old translation or favored one might say, but then the new one works its way in, too. Hmmm.

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