My writing journey started while in my first year of medical school, just after our first child was born. I wondered what it’d be like to blend all four gospels - Matthew, Mark, Luke, John - into one full story of Jesus’ time on earth. I couldn’t find anything like this, but could I do it myself? I mean, it’s not like I had anything better to do between studying to be a doctor and raising a new baby! Thus began my fascinating adventure.
Like the gospel-writer Luke, I researched like crazy to get the story straight (Lk 1:3). I dove into the original languages of the Bible and quickly realized how much information is lost in translation. I learned about donkeys’ millstones (onikos mylos), the crowds being “blown away” (ekplesso) by Jesus’ teaching; three different words for “life” (bios, psyche, zoe); and what it means to have a “bowel movement” emotionally (splagchnizomai). I discovered historical and scientific context that made Christ’s story come alive, like the weather patterns around the Sea of Galilee, the northern Africa boomtown of Cyrene, and an abandoned quarry outside Jerusalem where Jesus was likely buried. At the same time, my ongoing medical training showed me the menorrhagia of the bleeding woman, possible liver failure in the man who “appeared swollen”, and Jesus’ pleural effusions as he died on the cross. I sketched pictures and maps to illustrate various features of the gospel. Nine years later, The Story of Jesus was published.
I’ve been hooked on writing ever since.
My newfound knowledge of Jesus’ life blossomed into historical fiction. The people we read about in the gospels each have a story that goes way deeper than the few paragraphs that describe them. I put myself in Elizabeth’s place as she struggled with pregnancy loss, and expressed it in her own words. I wrote a letter in Matthew’s voice explaining to his tax collector father why he won’t come home. I spent nights among the tombs with Legion, tormented by countless demonic voices in our head. As a father, it wasn’t hard to imagine the emotional roller coaster of Jairus seeing his daughter lying dead, and then watching her start breathing again. I put myself in Peter’s well-worn sandals as he stepped out of a boat and onto the raging sea; I put myself within him in his last moments, upside-down on a cross outside the gates of ancient Rome. Twelve accounts spilled out of me, twelve perspectives of everyday people who met Christ face to face and were Never The Same.
At the same time, the bedtime stories I told my kids got compiled into the adventures of Rory the Knight, Spaceman Bren, Princess Telsa, and Daisy Mermaid. Every night they outsmarted ogres, rescued drowning sailors, slayed giant squids, and explored distant planets. My kids still love drawing pictures on the blank pages, which I’ve left for just that reason.
Since finishing medical school and working as a family doctor, countless clinical conversations went into crafting a biblical perspective on family planning. There’s so much misinformation in church circles that I wrote Birth Control for Christians to give each couple all the information they need to make an informed decision about contraception.
In the same way, I’ve found that many believers know very little about what faith actually is in real life. You know, why don’t all my prayers “in Jesus’ name” get answered like the Bible says they will? Set against the backdrop of mine and my wife’s journey through infertility, I wrote Faith: Mountains, Mustard, and Everything In Between. I’ve also written piles of essays, some of which have been graciously picked up by magazines and websites around the world.
The Bible says it’s the glory of God to conceal a matter and the honor of kings to seek it out (Pr 25:2). The joy of discovering the truths of God’s kingdom made me fall in love with writing. It’s an activity I share with the Lord, as if he puts words in my heart that burn a hole in me until I get them out (Jer 20:9). I don’t write to make a living (I work full time as a physician) and I loathe marketing (i.e. self-promotion), so I’m grateful for any opportunity to share my heart with others. I hope my words can be an encouragement to someone out there.
D. B. Ryen