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Come Write Your Story

Written by Ann Swindell on . Posted in The Gospel Coalition Blog

Article by: Ann Swindell

I’m not gifted at comprehending my own spiritual growth while still in the midst of it. I don’t typically live through trials and victories with my antennae attuned to how God’s transforming me. I wish it were otherwise; I wish I had the ability to see my immediate experiences through the lens of spiritual development. But most of the time I’m just doing my best to love God and my family—and make it through the day intact. I’m not necessarily looking for the big themes or revelations the Lord is weaving into my life in the moment.

But I know God has numbered the days of my life (Ps. 139:16) and that he’s working out all things for my good as he conforms me to the image of his Son (Rom. 8:28–29). I don’t want to miss these things; I want to be able to point to how God’s transforming me “from one degree of glory to another” (2 Cor. 3:18) as I walk with him.

So I turn to two things in order to help me understand my spiritual growth: my Bible and my pen. Reading the Word and writing my story—these are how I’ve learned to experience my life as a purposeful whole, even when the days feel splintered and confusing.

God’s Word, My Story

Anytime we seek to understand our own lives and the stories we’re living, Scripture must be our starting place. It’s where we find truth and hope. We make sense of life by allowing God’s Word to shape and form us, even when we don’t fully grasp it; we submit to Christ’s ways and find him unfailingly faithful. Time and again, I’ve found that as I read the Word and become more grounded in its truth, I experience more of who Jesus is—and therefore more of who I’m becoming by God’s grace.

With the Bible as the foundation for understanding our lives, we can then turn to our pens—and by this I mean taking the time to write our stories down. It’s important for us, as followers of Jesus, to take the time to write about our lives—to write our testimony of how the Lord has met us, saved us, and is transforming us. When we write about our journey with the Lord, we’re able to see his hand and presence more clearly by looking back than we could in the moment. The days are often hectic and rushed, but when we make time to write, we can look back and see the ways God’s molded and guided us over the long haul.

This has been true for me. As I’ve spent time writing my story down, I’ve been able to see my life anew in light of the gospel, especially as I’ve processed the difficult parts. During the Great Recession, we prayed and prayed for the Lord to change our circumstances, but he didn’t. Our income continued to dwindle, and it seemed our prayers went unanswered. At the time, I couldn’t see how God was growing my faith. All I could see were the low numbers in our bank account. But as I’ve taken time to write about that challenging season, God has helped me see the bigger arc of the story: While the Lord didn’t change our circumstances, he certainly changed us. Our income didn’t grow, but our faith did. We were forced to rely on the Lord for practical, tangible needs, and he provided. Was I thankful at the time? Yes, but I was also stressed and struggling. Writing about it has enabled me to see the gift in the midst of it all—how deeply God grew my trust in him as my provider, rather than looking to a job or a paycheck. I can also see, now, that those struggles prepared my husband to leave a financial job—a good fit for him—for the ministry. What was painful at the time has become a great blessing in our lives.

Deeper Worship 

This is just one way writing has helped me see God at work in clearer, more concrete ways. And as I’ve been able to articulate how I’ve grown spiritually, my worship has deepened. I see how God has guided and shaped my life from a birds-eye view, which has birthed praise in my spirit for all the ways he’s protected and revealed himself over the years.

Writing our stories, though, isn’t just for our personal worship and spiritual growth. As Christians, we are a people of testimony and witness, and our stories are meant to elicit worship in the lives of others. Whether we share with a family member, a small group, on a blog, or in a book, recounting God’s goodness can encourage others to trust and praise him. We may even learn to better communicate our testimony in person because we’ve taken the time to write it out. But no matter how we share our story, we’re called to recount God’s work in our lives to those around us and to another generation, just as the Israelites did.

Be Intentional 

You don’t need to be a “writer” to write down your story; your journey with Jesus doesn’t need to be polished or perfect to bring about praise. Instead, carving out time to remember what God has done is what matters, because as we revisit Christ’s transformative presence in our lives, we’ll be changed all over again.

Day to day, we probably won’t have time to consistently scan the horizon for what the Lord is trying to teach us or for how we’re growing spiritually. But if we’re intentional about reading the Word and writing down our stories, we will see, afresh, how his faithful hand has led us each day. And by seeking to tie our stories to Scripture, we may even find new connection points to the gospel.

If you want to see how God has worked in and through you, or if you want his help to make sense of your experiences, ask the Lord to illumine his Word to your heart through your story. It’s a wonderful place to start.

Editors’ note: If you’re a Christian writer who wants to write your story for the glory of God and the encouragement of others, join us at www.WritingwithGrace.com and use the code TGCwriter to save 10 percent off the cost of the course!

The Writing with Grace Memoir course is a live, online, four-week course for writers of faith who want to write their stories. Students in the Writing with Grace Memoir course learn high-level writing techniques and tools, are given optional reading and writing assignments, and join an online community of other writers. They also have access to a live Q&A session with an editor from a major publishing house, and can watch the recordings of class on their own schedule.

Ann Swindell is an author, speaker, and teacher of writing who holds an MA in writing and an MFA in creative nonfiction writing. Her first book, a spiritual memoir, releases with Tyndale in 2017. You can connect with her at AnnSwindell.com.

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