Please Share Your Story

Several years ago I handed a blank journal to one of my older friends and asked her to please write her story. The following Sunday, she handed it back to me, having written several pages. I thanked her and then asked if she would please tell me more…Gratefully, she took the journal back and did just that. I now have that journal on my bedside table and every time I look at it, I feel gratitude that she has entrusted me with part of her story.

Somewhere around age 60 and above it is not uncommon for us to begin looking back and assessing our mistakes and accomplishments and to reflect on what we have learned. I want to encourage you to do what my older friend did for me and start writing your story. This can be a very natural discipline and outgrowth of this stage of life. In addition, research is showing that there are health benefits to writing our story.

For instance, in his article, “Health Benefits of Journal Writing” Chris Woolston reports several studies that demonstrate benefits from writing about previous traumatic experiences. A groundbreaking study published in the April 14, 1999 issue of the Journal of the American Medical Association showed that “writing about past traumas can even ease the symptoms of asthma and rheumatoid arthritis”. Other studies have shown that reviewing one’s life can: further personal growth, increase acceptance of one’s life, lower or prevent depression, create the opportunity to review accomplishments and remember life’s joys and challenges, and provide a bigger picture of an individual’s life and place in the world. According to Woolston, “There are even instances where the process of journal writing has sustained the writer beyond her anticipated life span, where she lived on precisely in order to finish saying what she had to say”.

While research is still inconclusive as to how writing improves health, it is suspected that “the answer probably lies somewhere in the strong connections between stress and disease” according to James W. Pennebaker, Professor of Psychology at the University of Texas in his book, Opening Up, “festering memories can be a major source of stress”.

By now I hope you are beginning to ask yourself the question, “What should I write about?”. There are many ways to write a life review. One is to simply begin with a list of facts that can open the door to deeper storytelling. For instance, begin with where and when you were born, the name of your parents, siblings, friends, information about your education, marriage, awards and recognitions, employment, places you have lived, your hobbies and groups you were affiliated with, etc. Or, you might begin by sharing insights you have gained from life, people and experiences you have treasured, advice to loved ones…

Each of us will have our own reason and style for how we tell our story. You may use methods that are formal or informal. You may write or record your story. Perhaps a family member or a professional can interview you. To jog your memory, you might use old photos, either from your life or the times you have lived through.

Please be sure to include your faith story; when you first recognized your need for Christ and felt the joy of that relationship, when you experienced God’s sustaining power and comfort in hard times, when you felt His absence, when you received His grace, when you grew into a deeper understanding of His presence and love for you… You might share what biblical story best captures your story and has influenced who God has called you to be.

I pray you will take the time to write your story, even if you choose to keep it between you and God.