On the importance of writing your life

Ruth Bell married Billy Graham.

That’s the reason many people know her name.

She grew up in China before World War 2. Her dad was a doctor. She went to college where I did, though long before me. (She was on the board when I was a student). She had five children, a husband traveling constantly.

Footprints of a pilgrimI heard her voice Sunday evening. Not the sound, mind you. She died a few years ago. Sunday evening I was at church,  helping run sound for a group of college students doing a reader’s theatre adaptation of her story.

I heard her poems.
I heard her letters.
I heard her journal.

The arc of her life was consistent, not perfect. She was often frustrated with parenting alone. She was fearful for a rebellious son. She was supportive of a husband who served the world. She talked with God with questions and hope and delight.

As I listened, I realized the importance of writing your heart.

When we write honest accounts of our struggles, our fears, our lives, our hope, our faith, it matters. It may be therapeutic to us.  Up close, day to day, it may seem up and down. But as I listened to this story across decades, I saw that if there are many points, you can see a pattern in a life well-committed.

I suppose that part of the reason it resonated is that I recognized bits of poems that Nancy and I had read nearly three decades ago, just before we were married. Listening to those words drew me into thinking about our version of Ruth’s story. Sometimes stretching, sometimes wonderful, sometimes wondering, always completely committed to God and each other. Hearing Ruth’s words reminded and refreshed me.

So write, dear friends who journal honestly, write. And live lives showing incremental application of passionately consuming commitments.

We need your stories.


9 responses to “On the importance of writing your life

  1. Great post. I’m so conditioned to write for money that I’ve just about lost touch with the impulse. How does a busy person get back to that?

  2. The easy answer? By writing.

    But perhaps writing for yourself as audience rather than a customer. Or telling a story to a child. Or, for me, telling a familiar story in a different way.

    I understand busy. But if I don’t at some point write to live, I almost don’t stop to live.

  3. I love how you put this: “The arc of her life was consistent, not perfect.”

    That’s how I would like to live and write. And I think “honesty” is key. If I approach my self, my life, and my writing with honesty, that consistent arc will be there.

  4. I’m in tears after reading your post. This week as I’ve been writing, honestly about the arc of life, I realize how difficult it is sometimes. Not the writing, necessarily, though the disciple is still a challenge, but the honesty. The transparency. Yet God is calling to do just that. And this post is another confirmation. Thank you, dear friend.

  5. Great reminder to put more of my heart into my blog posts. It’s easier for me to skim the surface – but that doesn’t change others – or me!

  6. Thanks for sharing this…it’s the best thing I heard in a while…

  7. thank you all.

    So question: how much does this apply to organizational blogging? Not necessarily businesses, but, for example, churches? How much do we be vulnerable?

  8. I liked the post thank you. You reminded me that I have not written in my journal in a while. I often censure myself because I do not want to feel exposed, even though when I expose myself people respond to me because they want to know the real me. What am I afraid of? Does anyone feel that way?

    Perhaps, I’ll do some more. Thank you!