Why Are You Writing in Jesus’ Voice?

Post by Kathleen Schwab

The text in our devotional Messages from God is a little unusual: it is written in the voice of Jesus. The daily readings come from my prayer journals, where I got into the habit of writing out conversations between myself and Jesus. I’ve been doing this for quite a while, but since the journals were private, not to mention written in my barely legible scrawl, I never had a reason to explain it to anyone.

I write this way for the simple reason that it works in helping me connect to God, and sort out my impressions of His guidance.

Credit: Therese Kay Photography

Credit: Therese Kay Photography

I am a language oriented person. When I can put my experiences into words, life makes sense to me, and I feel more at peace. Not everyone is like this: some people need to take action, others to belong to community. Some people need to connect to the natural world; others need to build things. My mode is words, so shaping the impressions I sense from God into a piece of writing helps me move forward in my Christian life. It gives me clarity and direction.

A few problems crop up with this. Some people feel that by writing in the first person I am claiming to speak for God. I’m not, of course. But I am putting my impression of messages from God into words the best I can, and I’m plenty aware that my words fall short. Another concern I’ve heard expressed is that I think I am writing something that is equal to scripture. I don’t. Something written by an individual last year can never be compared to the bible, which stood the test of experience, group analysis, and cultural change over thousands of years. Comparing the two makes no sense.

I’m aware that the first person voice of Jesus makes some people uncomfortable, but this is how my writing has developed over the years, and I’ve fought an uphill battle to write about God at all. When I was a teenager I showed one of my first poems about God to a friend – it was written in the style of a psalm – and she told me seriously that I should not be writing like this because “the canon is closed.” I remember her also saying, very firmly, “You can’t.” I felt embarrassed and out of line, like I had accidentally showed up to the funeral of somebody important in my pajamas. We all get these messages when we start to step out and create something. For sure your creative expression won’t fit the bill for someone, and if that someone thinks you are doing something downright wrong, that is even more painful.

Poet John Donne was born in 1572, a time when forbidden writing was taken very seriously, and people were exiled and executed over questions about canon. Into this fierce religious environment Donne wrote sonnets about God full of longing, passion, anger, heartbreak: the full range of human experience. The first time I read “Batter My Heart, Three Person’d God” I wept, I think from the relief of knowing for sure that someone else had experienced the same thing with God that I did. I felt less alone, less like some sort of misfit who felt things too deeply and wasn’t quiet enough about it. I don’t know if anyone took Donne to task for the way he talked about God, but if they did, he ignored those voices. Here is his poem:

Batter my heart, three-person’d God, for you
As yet but knock, breathe, shine, and seek to mend; 
That I may rise and stand, o’erthrow me, and bend
Your force to break, blow, burn, and make me new. 
I, like an usurp’d town to another due, 
Labor to admit you, but oh, to no end; 
Reason, your viceroy in me, me should defend, 
But is captiv’d, and proves weak or untrue. 
Yet dearly I love you, and would be lov’d fain, 
But am betroth’d unto your enemy; 
Divorce me, untie or break that knot again, 
Take me to you, imprison me, for I, 
Except you enthrall me, never shall be free, 
Nor ever chaste, except you ravish me. 
— John Donne

I share my writing in Messages from God for people who will be helped by it, or who might simply enjoy it. I know they are out there. I listened for many years to the voices that said my writing doesn’t belong in the public sphere; when Therese and I first got seriously down to making this book a reality I was confronted by years of subtle and not so subtle messages that my voice is not welcome.

I’m here anyway, because God called me. He calls all of us.

How is He calling you?