Earnest Hemingway is often credited for saying “There is nothing to writing. All you do is sit down at a typewriter…and bleed.” One quick caveat: this saying is often attributed to Hemingway, but he may not have said it; the origin is debated, and even if he said it, it’s still possible that he only adapted it from another source. The original idea may have come from first from a particular journalist Hemingway enjoyed or may be part of a collection of writing influences. I love Hemingway, but regardless of the quote’s origin, I’ve come back to the idea many times when I struggle to get my own thoughts down. I love it for the struggle it reflects in the creative process – not only the struggle to fight through writers’ block and produce (though that’s part of it), but the flesh extracting work of writing something serious and personal. Bleeding onto the page, in that writing with substance requires you to bleed onto the page and with some degree of pain and sacrifice leave some part of yourself there.
BUT – the more I have reflected on the quote and the concept, the truer it seems to me. Truer than Hemingway or others probably intended. Others have bled to write and to speak; beyond creative struggle, beyond being intensely personal or vulnerable. The prophets and apostles bled to preach. Suffering, beaten, imprisoned, and at times executed: Daniel thrown to lions, and his companions tossed in a furnace, John the Baptist beheaded, Peter (according to tradition) crucified upside down. The book of Revelation is John’s recorded vision on a Sunday, that he calls ‘the Lord’s day’ while he is exiled & imprisoned on the Isle of Patmos.
And this “bleeding to be heard” isn’t just something trapped in the past, read about in history books, but hardly imaginable now. I think of a friend of mine in Dallas, and for his safety now, I will refer to him as “Richard.” Richard is Turkish, born and raised in Turkey, (actually not far from where Paul was imprisoned at the time he wrote the letter of Philippians, and not far from some of the churches receiving Jesus’ letters in the opening chapters of John’s Revelation). Studying philosophy in University as a “secular Muslim,” Richard was suddenly and miraculously converted. He was being discipled by two indigenously Turkish, Protestant pastors. One weekday morning, men came into the apartment where they officed and told them to renounce their faith. Disown their Savior, or they shoot them. They refused, and the men shot them in this apartment, in front of another member of the church. At the time, Richard was arranging to move to the US and study in one of his pastors’ seminaries, and this did not slow him down. If anything, this accelerated his need to study well and return, because there were suddenly two fewer seminary trained pastors to feed Jesus’ sheep in Turkey. So he did. Richard finished seminary, worked through his own ordination and mission organization sending requirements and is now church planting and pastoring in Turkey, emailing updates and asking for prayer, and that we not share his name or location.
American Christians get bent out of shape and declare that we are suffering a war on Christmas if people say Happy Holidays to us in December. At times, well-meaning, but woefully misguided people from our extended church family vote or swarm social media, around issues of perceived persecution in things like potentially losing tax-exempt status. Others have literally bled to speak, bled to preach & proclaim Christ. Many of the prophets and apostles bled through beatings, torture, or martyrdom because they could not be kept from singing Christ’s glory and goodness.
Their suffering and sacrifice shouldn’t surprise us – the Christ they proclaim, the Christ we trust for our salvation, and the Christ on whom we have hung every last hope – this Christ is the Bleeding Word. He is the eternal Word of God made flesh with and for us, who bled and died in our place, and then called us to grab a cross and follow.