I have always loved the Bible. It’s been part of my life for longer than I can remember. Recently I had the idea of trying to re-tell Bible stories in just fifty words. Here’s why.
The Bible gets plenty of reactions, but indifference is hard to justify. Some people loathe it as an instrument of oppression; others adore it as the inerrant word of God. Its remarkable range of writings invite passionate discussion, prayerful contemplation and bemused curiosity. This ancient collection of myth, history, poetry and philosophy has been helping shape human cultures for thousands of years. As a contribution to world literature it has few parallels.
I have been through many changes in my fifty-six years, but the Bible has always been there in the background. I was brought up Baptist, was charmed by Anglo-Catholicism in my teens, flirted with Calvinism in my twenties and embraced Roman Catholicism at age thirty. I have thought long and hard about how Christians from different traditions seek to interpret the Bible. Through happy times and miserable ones I have always read from the Bible at least once or twice a week, and sometimes every day. Often it is a comfort, but it can also seem disturbing, distant or just plain baffling.
Whatever else it may be, the Bible is a remarkable repository of stories. Many of these stories go to the heart of what it means to be human. They attempt to understand something about the mystery we call God. I find them endlessly engaging.
Christmas Writing Competition
Recently I was invited to write a fifty word story for a Christmas competition. It had to be exactly fifty words – no more or less. I came up with a very brief re-telling of the story of Mary’s encounter with the Angel Gabriel in Luke Chapter One. I loved the challenge of trying to distil the essence of this iconic narrative into such a tiny space. In fact I wrote about big things in small spaces. Here it is:
Mary and the Angel
Luke Chapter One
Mary met an angel in the attic. He was enormous.
‘Don’t be afraid’, he said.
‘Huge things hide everywhere in little spaces:
Miles of mycelia in a teaspoon of soil;
Three metres of DNA in every cell;
Eleven dimensions in the nucleus of an atom;
God in a woman’s belly.’
As you can see, I did not attempt to cover the full narrative from Luke’s Gospel in any sort of literal sense. My little ‘story’ is much more of a meditation, inspired by the original text. As such it is very much my personal interpretation. Another person might see it entirely differently.
Writing this whetted my appetite. I like the idea of trying to squeeze big stories into tiny images. So now I am writing one most days. When I sit down to attempt a fifty word Bible story I am forced to reflect deeply and personally on what I think the account is trying to convey. What is the point of this story? How can I express it in just a few words? What does it mean for me today?
So I am playfully working towards a ‘Fifty Word Bible’. I will try to share some of this in blogs or on my website from time to time. Please don’t take this too seriously or expect too much. I worry that my efforts might seem irreverent – to try to turn something so big into something so little. Be assured that these are simply my small daily musings. I you find anything here to interest or inspire then I am doubly grateful. Or you are most welcome to attempt your own fifty word Bible stories. You might be surprised where the journey takes you.
Well that’s quite enough explanation. I will end this blog by sharing a couple more fifty word stories.
Here’s another Christmas one:
Matthew Chapter Two
It was a long way to go to see a baby.
Months of slog through the desert, chasing some combination of planets.
All to visit a child who couldn’t even talk yet,
in an unimpressive house with homespun parents.
But in his presence
with great joy.
Even more audacious, here is a fifty word attempt at the entire Bible:
Fifty Word Bible
God made everything out of nothing.
People tried to make God smaller. More manageable.
God loved the world.
So God made himself tiny:
A peasant child.
A flake of bread.
A whispered word.
A flash of colour on a swallow’s wing.
Nowadays God plays hide and seek.
Karen Lawrence is an author, blogger and Mum of seven living in Billericay, Essex, UK. You can read more of her writing at www.karenlawrenceauthor.com