By Betty Morris
Each of us has a story – the many stories that make up the larger story that is our life. The practice of telling our stories is actually based in scripture. If Paul, Mary of Nazareth, and Mary Magdalene had not told their stories, we would have missed many important witnesses to Jesus Christ. We too have stories and witnesses in each of our lives, but have we told them to others?
Sometimes just beginning to tell your story can be difficult. Perhaps you have done it in small bits and pieces but never looked at the larger picture where all the little stories fit. If you take time to put them together, you may find that new insights begin to emerge.
One of the most important reasons for considering your life story may be the witness you have for future generations. It is also likely that as you recall your story you will receive confirmation to yourself of the presence of God in your life. Some of us have had few difficulties in life and some have experienced great pain and hardship. If you now see God in those experiences or are able to reflect on what you realize was God’s action, you may recognize that this wisdom can be shared to increase the faith of others.
Julian of Norwich, writing in the 14th century, told of visions she had of the love of God while she was deathly ill. Your writing is your own spiritual classic, meant to increase your own faith and, if you choose to share it, increase the faith of others. It is a brave venture, but these are the risks we take in the wisdom years.
One way to tell your story is to begin with investigation. Programs such as Ancestry, 23andMe, or other DNA-testing procedures can help reveal your own history – even much that you may not have known. But this can be both blessing and curse. What you learn may be surprising and welcome or negative and painful. Before you begin the endeavor, be sure you can be open to what you encounter and willing to not let new information damage existing relationships.
A good way to start writing your story is to think of questions others might ask you. What was it like at the time of your birth in your country of origin? Or who were your friends in high school? What did you study? What were you good at? What not so good? One program that helps is StoryWorth (StoryWorth.com). For a fee, StoryWorth sends subscribers a question to be answered each week. It might be, “Where did you live as a child and what are your memories of that time?” Answers are collated by StoryWorth into a bound book at the end of a year. Throughout the year, weekly answers can be shared with anyone you name.
You might accomplish the same thing by having your family members create their own questions and send them to you for your response. You could ask your children and grandchildren to each give you ten questions about things they want to know. Then decide that every Monday morning or Sunday afternoon – or however you want to schedule it – you will pick one of the questions to answer. If you have a spouse, you might record each other’s answers digitally and create an audio recording to give to your family.
However you choose to write or tell your story, remember that you have wisdom to share. Your very life is a testimony to God’s faithfulness and your tenacity.
Choose one of the above suggestions for writing your life story and determine how you might accomplish it.
Start by making a timeline of your life, noting the significant moments and events, like your first day of school, your high school graduation, your wedding, the birth of your children. As you look back at those now, where do you see God at work? How has God guided you and blessed you? If there were trials, how did God bring you through those? If there were mistakes, how has God redeemed those?
Think about who needs to hear your story. Your family? A friend? Someone you know who needs encouragement? How might you share your story?
As you write and remember, thank God for being your constant companion in your life.