Ann Lamott says that “we write to expose the unexposed”. For some writers, this may not be all that difficult. Some people are naturally good at sharing the sensitive underbelly of life, without getting tangled up in fear and apprehension about how these delicate subjects will be received. I’m not really talking to those writers today.
These words here, are for those of us who are afraid to tell the stories that rattle around inside of us. Consider this your pep-talk, I’m going to tell you why it’s okay tell the stories that scare you.
I think it’s fair to say that we are all living with stories we haven’t told yet, most of us, are not as transparent as we want to think we are, and to some extent, this is good. Not every story can or should be shared in the public arena, and discernment makes a wise and responsible writer. Unfortunately, determining which stories we can (or should) share is not black and white. I have seen writers catch all maner of flack for telling stories, others didn’t believe they had the right to tell–and the plain and simple truth is, we are responsible for the words we share, and how we share them.
But what about the stories we can share, but we’re afraid to? Does it matter if we keep them to ourselves?
Yes. It does.
God cares more about our stories than we might think. This recently came to my attention as I was looking back over the landscape of my life. There are stories in my past that scare me. They remind me of a time when I was less spiritually healthy, when I was fumbling through dark rooms, hiding in corners and suffering in shame. These are moments I’d prefer not to recount. Why would I tell these stories? What good could come of it?
These are the questions I asked God, as I felt Him nudging me to tell these stories. I begged Him not to make me, but through His gentle, yet persistent prodding, He led me to open up.
And almost immediately, He revealed the purpose behind sharing the scary truths–healing.
In her book, Bird By Bird, Ann Lamott says this:
If there is one door in the castle you have been told not to go through, you must. Otherwise you’ll just be rearranging furniture in rooms you’ve already been in. Most human beings are dedicated to keeping that one door shut. But the writers job is to see what’s behind it, to see the bleak unspeakable stuff, and to turn the unspeakable into words–not just any words but if we can, into rhythm and blues.
That’s exactly what I’d been doing. I’ve spent years of my life, shuffling the uncomfortable stories of my life around, covering them with table cloths and fake flowers, keeping the curtains drawn tight, so that I wouldn’t have to examine them in full light.
But God is light, and the light shines in the darkness, and the darkness has not overcome it (John 1:5 NIV). God wanted to heal me and in order to do so, I had to be willing to push back the curtains–to share the scary stories. What the enemy intends for harm, the Lord uses for good. (Genesis 50:20)
Our scary stories lose their power to torment us once we allow God to redeem them. <–Click to tweet
As writers, our willingness to expose the uglier experiences of our lives opens the doors for healing, not just our own, but often for our readers as well.
The next time that scary memory re-surfaces, don’t be so quick to shove it back into the corner of your mind. Perhaps the Lord is prompting you, cracking the door a bit to let some light in.
Hold your story out to Him, ask Him for wisdom–He will tell you what to do.