On writing your life

First published March 3, 2010

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.

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About Jon Swanson

Social media chaplain. Author of "Lent For Non-Lent People" and "A Great Work: A Conversation With Nehemiah For People (Who Want To Be) Doing Great Works." Writer of 300wordsaday.com. I help people understand. Understand some of the Bible. Understand what Lent can be about. Understand what it means to follow.