Write your story
I was recently asked to provide a short article about the story of my life. Initially I thought that would be easy enough, until I sat down and started writing it and discovered it’s not as easy to be succinct as I thought.
It was easy enough to write some facts; I was born in such-a-place, I went to school, I went to work, I got married. I shifted here-and-there. Facts came easily, but the reasons behind transitions in my life started to flood my memory bank and remind me of emotions processed in the past that spoke into my future that still affect the way I see the world today.
The process of writing my story ended up as a cathartic reflection on how my life has turned out so differently from what I imagined it might be when I was an idealistic hopeful teenager who knew it all.
Here’s some things that I reflected on in the story-writing process.
There are no short cuts for time.
I’m 49, old enough to have a few runs on the board but young enough to still see that the light at the end of the tunnel is a long way off – hopefully. There are things that I thought I knew when I was young[er] that I now realise I still don’t know. Learning the discipline of self-reflection and having the courage to discern my frailties and respond with the courage to change has been a discipline that only time can enable.
It’s a wonderful privilege to be gifted with dreams and visions and I’m thankful for how God has wired me, but lessons learnt in haste have usually meant that I’ve been trying to shortcut the process of learning itself. I can’t speed up time even though it goes quicker than I want it to, and time has itself has been my teacher.
Scars mean healing.
As I look back there are still losses I grieve. I’ve lost close family members to cancer, car accidents, suicide; various complaints have robbed people close to me of their health and their dreams, disappointments aren’t far away and mental health issues lurk quietly in the background of many.
The pain of life creates injuries that do heal to a degree, but scars remain and when knocked, emotions arise under the surface. The reminder of pain becomes real as life moves on, but scars are a reminder that some healing has occurred, that the sun does come up again, that optimism can be gained by looking forwards and enjoying what is around me.
What’s important then is seldom important now.
When I was a teenager my life was focussed on a Chrysler Valiant Charger that I saw every day as I walked to and from school. I thought life would be complete with that car in my possession. Then something else caught my eye, and I thought a relationship would fulfil all my insecurities. Then a house, a new job, whatever it was there was always something else I needed/wanted, until one day a passage of Scripture caught my eye that spoke about contentment.
Paul learnt the secret of contentment. Learnt it. Over time. This has shaped me, I’m still learning, but what was important back then is not so important now. What is important? Forgiveness, grace, knowing my value, belonging and acceptance isn’t found in the things of this world.
Our story is not our own.
When I reflect on the journey of my life, everything is intertwined with others. My work, my marriage, my children, my hobbies. Everything I am and everything I do is because there are other people around me that encourage me, rebuke me, dislike me, push me, love me. How I respond to others has been my choice; my story is only what it is because others are around me. My story is because of others, so my story is not my own. Realising this creates a wealth of opportunity for personal development.
God is faithful
We sing a song in our church that has the following lyrics:
You are faithful, You are glorious
You are Jesus, all my hope is in You
You are freedom, You are healing right now
You are hope and joy, love and peace and life
These words couldn’t be truer; faith has been my cornerstone and the faithfulness of God through all of life is something I can’t do without.
Write your story
If you want a cathartic experience, try writing your story. Not just the facts and dates and places, but the reasons why your life has changed, what did you feel and how did those experiences shape you. I think, like me, you’ll be surprised at the stirring within your emotional tank.
Grant Harris is a reformed banker who has been the Senior Pastor of Windsor Park Baptist Church in Auckland, New Zealand, for ten years. Grant’s passionate about seeing people catch a glimpse of who they are in Christ and living out the difference that makes. He’s tried living according to the patterns of this world and found that those patterns came up short. He’s still a work-in-progress and always will be. You can contact Grant at email@example.com.