Journaling is another great way to build spiritual intimacy with your spouse. In the months following the affair Ann and I passed a journal back and forth. It was raw and passionate and probably only Anne Lamott could get away with sharing it and remain in good standing in some corners of the Christian world. Perhaps I should share it since many of you are certainly just as raw. It helped us put more of our hearts and story into words and into a shared story.
A foundational principle of recovery and emotional healing is the process of discovering your story. For each of us, there is a journey which is helpful and necessary to complete. There are stages of this journey through which we all must move.
Telling your story – reporting. The first step in this process is to put words to your experience and tell your story. I have often heard people say, as they begin to tell their story, they realize that they have never really shared the details of their experience before. It is powerful to begin to share one’s secrets, including the painful parts of his/her story that have shaped and formed him/her.
Embracing your story – owning. The next step in the process is to own your story. When we first begin to tell our story, we can sound like a reporter who is detached from the events. Somewhere in the process, we are no longer just using words to communicate our story and we begin to recognize that the events being shared are ours. This is a significant step in healing, because in order to steward our story, we must first own it as ours. Stewardship begins with ownership. Stewardship is the process of understanding something’s value and managing it accordingly.
Feeling your story - connecting to the emotions. As we begin to own our story, it opens the door to feel our story. With each of our childhood experiences there is an emotional component, and yet for many people, it was not safe nor encouraged to express those feelings at the time. The emotions are still within us, and in many cases, leak out in our current life. When we allow ourselves to feel the power of our story, we can begin to fully live in the present, and not be held hostage by the past.
Integrating your story – accepting grace. What finally happens on this journey is that we are able to integrate all parts of our story – the good and bad, the painful and comforting, the desperate and the hopeful. For many of us there are parts of our story that we wish did not exist and ever happened. Many times there are harsh judgments and shame associated with our own experiences. When we begin to integrate our story, we recognize that it is all parts of our story that shape and form us, and when we look at our story and lives through the lens of grace, we become a gentle observer and we can live in truth.
The Power of “And” Many of us have been living in a world of “either … or.” We get stuck into thinking that something or someone must be either all good or all bad. An aspect of recovery and emotional health is accepting that in each of us there is the capacity for both good and bad. When we expect or need for someone to be all of something, life becomes disappointing and lonely. Life is not like the movies where the villain is easily identified.
We discover that those we love have the capacity to hurt us, and yet, we still can see the goodness of who God has created them to be. As we do the work of integrating all parts of our story, and we come to see the truth of who we are, we are then able to see the complexity in others. We begin no longer to need the contrast of black and white, we are able to embrace and celebrate the beauty of the gray that is in us all, which leads us to discover the power of “And.”