I’m not a writer – not even close – but I’ve been told writing can be likened to breathing. Writers are unique individuals who invite all the details and guts of life inside, the good and the bad, to be absorbed. That’s like breathing in. Then during the exhale phase it all tumbles out in the form of written words. The trick is to write to the emotional center of the whole mess so it effectively speaks to the human condition.
Anyway, when my friend Louise said she had started a new writing project, I took notice. Louise seemed to be defined by creative brilliance. Surely her writing would be equally addictive.
“I’m working on an autobiography,” Louise said, matter-of-factly.
“Ooooh, awesome. Tell me – how’s it going? What’s the writing process like? Can I read it sometime?”
Her electric blue eyes and petite nose squinted quizzically. “What exactly do you mean?”
Writing defined Louise’s life; in her mind, there was no living without writing. I raised my chin and tossed my bobbed hair with an air of confidence. I need not apologize for this question. “I mean, tell me what it’s like – writing an autobiography.”
Several seconds, maybe ten really long ones, dragged between us. Finally, she sighed. “It’s like … chasing down your heart … taking a bunch of biopsies from different eras … and then looking at each one under a microscope …”
She paused to take a big breath. “… and then exposing the ...”
The sentence hung, unfinished, in midair.
“Yes? The … what?”
Louise gazed into space over the top of her stylish plum-colored, rectangular glasses. “You silly! I’m not going to give away my last chapter.”
I had to think on that one, and another long silence pressed me into a conversational corner. I literally took a step backward.
“Well then, “ I chuckled, “I won’t ask. Let me know when … I mean if and when I can read your autobiography … especially the last chapter.”
That night I dreamt one of those crazy off-the-wall dreams that could never, ever happen in a million years. I found myself engrossed in a bubble of introspection as I wrote a short version of my own autobiography. I sat cross-legged on the living room floor dressed in cut-off jean shorts and a tank top in front of the coffee table. Sunshine streamed through breeze-blown, lace curtains. The laptop lid stood at attention as my fingers flew across the keys and words tumbled easily across the screen, unbidden and free.
As a young child, I noticed things other kids missed. I seemed particularly spellbound by small observations: patient snails carving wiggly paths in the sand; spiders surrounded by webs covered with precious sprinklings of silver dew.
During my teen years something froze up inside. I felt numb and out of place; my parents and I wore masks to protect our fake facades. At school I didn’t fit with the “in” crowd. The friendly stars and moon in the inky night sky became my soul mates.
Then I married, had children, and fell into “the norm” of the everyday call of duty. My identity was swallowed up in mountains of diapers and dirty dishes. On occasion, something simple - something like a stiff, cool wind in my face scented with the aroma of freshly mowed grass - called me to freedom. I longed for more, more, always more of what could be, what should be, what would be if only my heart could find rest.
I was shocked and fearful when a serious, life-threatening cancer invaded my body. Pain and loss defined me. Was there a silver lining to that cloud? Questions assailed me from within. Was God real? Who was I? Why was I alive? Where was I going after this life?
Seeds of faith planted years before finally took root and grew. Long-neglected rooms in my heart opened; protective skyscraper-sized inner walls tumbled down. Despair lifted as Jesus drew me to Himself.
I woke with a start and stared outside into the night sky. Louise’s words repeated themselves in my mind: “… chasing down your heart … taking biopsies … looking at each one under a microscope … exposing the ...”
I finished her sentence out loud by whispering to the sighing tree branches outside my window: “… exposing the evidence of God’s work and His gift in every phase of life: HOPE!”
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