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The Power of the Right Analogy

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I spent three days this week unable to write. It was because I was exhausted at the end of the day is what I told myself. I was eager and excited to complete the current chapter of my book on Ecclesiastes, had completed my research and already written a third of the chapter. Then I got to the section about Ecclesiastes 10.


It was more than exhaustion. I had a vague sense of what I was trying to say with the section, but how could I tie it all together? I needed a pedagogical structure. I needed an analogy.


Analogies can make prose memorable. A visual metaphor can make the facts easier to digest and remember. Jesus spoke in parables and it worked for him! The problem is, Proverbs 10 is like a dozen parables strung together. All I had was a loose categorization - they all have to do with kinds of work, like cutting stone, splitting wood, and digging.


Finally, I just read and reread the passage until the lights came on. Building a house! It was one of the latter verses that gave me the idea: a house with a leaky roof and sagging rafters.


A good analogy explains and makes ideas memorable.


A great analogy reveals deeper truth. This was the latter. Once I had the image of building a house - an image that the Apostle Paul likens the church to - I returned to the text. All of a sudden, every verse fit the analogy. Digging a pit? The foundation work. Quarrying stones? For the masonry work. Cutting logs? For the framing. Choosing wise or foolish people to be in charge? Hiring building contractors. Breaking through a wall? Demolition for site preparation. Fools multiplying words? That’s the real estate people advertising the house for sale! Sagging rafters? The roofing, as well as ongoing maintenance. Having a party? The celebration after the work is done.


Once I saw this, I finally saw Ecclesiastes 10 for the first time. When you are researching a topic to write about, do you have such a story to tell? Can you make all the pieces fit into a puzzle? It doesn’t always happen for me, but when it does, it is sweet.


So today I wrote the whole section and it worked. No exhaustion. No writer’s block.


Now what do I do about chapter 11? (I don’t think it has to do with bankruptcy...)

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