rewriting our stories

I knew it yesterday when I clicked publish. I knew my words didn’t match the truth in my soul. I woke up with the same thump-thud in my heart, the steady beat that pounds inside of me, knowing I didn’t work my words to reflect the truth.

I don’t like this part of the writing process — the part where I miss my mark and the words fail what I really mean. I look for these areas in my writing and I pray for an unsettling of my soul. It’s important to me that my words don’t misconstrue, that my words point to truth. My soul is squirming and so I need to go at it again, pulling this string of forgetting stories. (I’m trying to ignore the voice in my head that says, You should have written the funny, lighthearted bit of the boys riding bikes in the snow. Then my mess wouldn’t be public.)

I’m thinking it’s not so much about choosing to forget — some wounds run so deep we won’t ever forget — but about choosing to rewrite our stories. (Thanks for these words, Amelia.) As I was tugging the thread of forgetting stories, I played with an image of a scar. It didn’t end up as part of my post, and yet, it might be the writing that stuck with me the most from yesterday, even though it was deleted.

Andy has a deep scar on his torso. It is from reconstructive chest surgery when he was ran over by a payloader at ten months old. It changed the course of his story. He forever will live with the results of this injury. He won’t forget it because the scar and the results of living with chest pain and joint pain and scar tissue are there every single day.

But he doesn’t let it stop him.  He chooses to forget what might have been (a pain free body) and instead accepts the truth of being healed.

As long as we are living, there will be wounds. We all have scars, seen and unseen. Part of the storytelling process is owning our stories — the good, the ugly, the hard — and then healing through it all. This is what I meant when I wrote:

It’s not forgetting like locking it in a box and letting is mold and fester and grow ugly. Rather it is choosing to let it go and blow it away. Our stories are as much about what we let go of as they are what we hold on to.

When we let go of what we thought should have been, when we let go of what we think we deserve, when we let go of wishing life went a different way, then we forget the stories we no longer need.

First we let go of the gut-wrenching. Then we forget the unfairness or the bitterness or the nightmare. The wound begins to heal because we choose to forget. This is the kind of forgetting I believe in and hope for myself and for my kids and for us, as humans.

The scar remains, but it doesn’t suffocate us from living. Rather, it reminds us we are survivors. We were on one path and now we are on a different trail. Sometimes it’s a shift we want…a forever family, a marriage, a grandchild. Other times, we don’t like a shift in trails, we don’t want to be on this new path…a friend dies, a spouse files for divorce, a parent is diagnosed with a fatal disease, a child goes to jail.

We live in a fallen world and the stories haunt. This is part of living. Then we begin the process of healing, letting go and forgetting and holding on and bringing joy to others through bits of our stories.

I just read Ann Voskamp’s blog post from Friday. These bits of her words are helping me sort out the tangled mess of  healing and forgetting and keeping.

  • “Yes, this is Spirit work. But I can wholly listen to your story. Tell bits of mine.”
  • “We can share our stories, because I think story, not argument, may reveal there is a God.”
  • “Maybe the dark depths of us really long for the filling of a wounded, weeping God who doesn’t write answers in the stars but writes His love in our scars. With His scars.”
  • “Maybe in ditches and by death beds, maybe we aren’t seeking evidence of God as much as we are seeking an experience with God.”
Writing is a process. As much as I strive to get the words to line up and march across the page in succinct, perfect order, it just doesn’t happen perfectly. Maybe, just maybe, in order for me to corral my words, I have to sort through the mess. Thank you for reading alongside me, commenting to push my thinking, and giving me grace while I tame my words.
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Two Writing Teachers.

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21 Comments »

  1. One of my favorite writers says we are all made of strength and struggle. The beauty of your revisions touched my heart today. Thanks for being raw, transparent, and authentic. Thanks for hosting the SOLC. Thanks for being brave and sharing your art with the world!

  2. I feel you are on a soul searching journey . . . a journey that will bring you peace, more strength and to a place where you can/will find the answers that you need. Good luck Ruth…

  3. Ruth after reading your post today I happened to watch Joel Olsteen this morning. His words confirmed your reflections. That it doesn't say we won't have struggles and hardships in our life but that HE can make those challenges work to our advantage….help you become a victor/not a victim. Use it as a stepping stone/not a stumbling block. It all comes with faith and the positive perspective—exactly as you said to use it to “rewrite our story”!

  4. Ruth, I knew exactly what you meant yesterday, and I totally agree with what you say today. My boys will never forget some of the hard things they went through. What I have prayed, and prayed, and prayed for them, is that they will know from the depth of their very being, that they are my beloved and precious treasures, and more importantly, that they are God's beloved and precious treasures. I have prayed that He will help them to move beyond the pain of those scars, and that He will help them to use that pain to bring good and healing into the world- maybe they will become coaches, who will work with other kids. Maybe firemen or policemen. Maybe social workers. The journey has been long and hard, but I pray every day that He will use their situation for His glory and that they will grow into whole, functioning Godly men, who contribute to society and have godly wives and children.

  5. Ruth, you give of yourself to your family in so many ways, deeply and truly. It only makes sense that your are looking into their hearts and praying for peace within their souls; you know the importance of living in harmony with oneself and that this must happen in order to live in harmony as a family. And as a loving mom, you are dreaming this for your children and family. And when you can dream it, it can be fulfilled. Writing about your hopes and dreams is a way of articulating your prayers so that God can assist in answering them, including through your clarity of thought and feedback from fellow writers. Beautiful.

  6. I have written several responses here and I keep deleting and rewriting words. So I'm realizing that my thinking is just ready to put down in black and white. Lots to think about. Powerful stuff and written so eloquently.

  7. Thank you for sharing this piece. Writing with God from a well of grace and faith, some may or may not acknowledge, can be hard. I like your first piece but in reading how you would rewrite it, I see a bigger picture, a bit of the spirit you want to capture and share. Thank you for opening hearts with your words. Scraps of mercy [and hope]… all of it.

  8. I love that you wrote something tough yesterday and decided to rewrite it today. I know we teach our students about revising our writing every day. Often it is harder, more than that, because we are instead, revising our ideas. Thank you for sharing both pieces. Both felt similar and yet different. Both gave me some food for thought. Thank you!

  9. Your process out in the open is a powerful thing for so many people. As your friend, I'm proud of you for letting it stand and continuing to think and write and share it as it shapes, letting each part be what it is.

  10. Our stories matter and I am thankful that you are sharing your struggle to express these deep feelings and beliefs. Your bravery makes me want to be braver in expressing my story. Thank you Ruth.

  11. Enter the re-write, we do it our whole life long. Thanks for these thoughts and pointing me to Ann's post. I missed it, as I did yours. Your thoughts on Andy's scars were powerful. Our scars teach us and remind us that God loves us through all. xo

  12. You know, for years, there are stories I've stuffed to the bottom of my heart, the back of my mind…because they embarrassed me. They made me feel like my mistakes, or scars were permanent. My thinking has changed though. God gave me these scars to communicate his love. When I withhold sharing these stories to encourage others, I'm missing my divine duty. I'm missing my purpose. Your piece touches me right now because a coworker is in a situation parallel to my ugly one…and I've been mustering the courage to be real with her. Thank you for always being true to your words, to your purpose. Best…

  13. OK, I must echo Deb… I've seriously written and deleted about three different comments. Very deep and powerful stuff. God is speaking through you Ruth. … Just awesome.

  14. This idea sort resonates with me. In a way it is linked to my thinking about the message I wrote in Mark's birthday card this year (he has been married twice before our marriage, and as you know is quite a bit older than I am). It was something like this: My birthday wish is for you to embrace each and every one of your years as they led you to me.

    Although this sentiment is much different than your children's pasts, there is a similarity in the idea of embracing how those pasts are part of them (and therefore part of their journeys to the present), while also embracing the future in which those pasts need not play a role.

    No wonder this is a post that has been percolating (and continues to percolate) for you. Words to express my thoughts even in this comment are elusive. I think your scar metaphor said it well.

  15. “We can share our stories, because I think story, not argument, may reveal there is a God.”

    I think this quote reflects what you're trying to get across here and in your previous posts.

    Beautiful, Ruth.

  16. Powerful. Written beautifully from a heart that is being transformed and molded on a daily basis. Thank you for sharing the scar metaphor and the lesson of rising above. I appreciate the quote and so believe it: “Maybe the dark depths of us really long for the filling of a wounded, weeping God who doesn't write answers in the stars but writes His love in our scars. With His scars.” Truth!

  17. I love this and the fact that you have just given us all permission…nay, a reminder, that it is perfectly acceptable to revise after we hit that dreaded publish button. I'll be revisiting Sunday's post…thinkingthinkingthinking…