I remember learning about different categories of books when I was in third grade. Fiction was not real, and nonfiction was not not real. Um, yeah. Something like that. At any rate, the book genre that fascinated me the most was the autobiography. Even at 8 years old, the idea sounded absurd. Who would have the audacity to think they’ve lived a book worthy life AND that they were the only one worthy of writing it?
While “autobiography” still sounds kind of ridiculous, over time I have become a huge fan of the personal memoir. Rather than the self-important style of the autobiography, these books are often stories about regular people in extraordinary circumstances. My favorites, though, are the other kind. These are the ones where extraordinary writers talk about their ordinary lives. Madeleine L’Engle, Donald Miller, and Lewis Grizzard have all written these kinds of books. They have deeply influenced both my writing and who I am today.
I’ve talked a bit about journaling on here before. It’s such a great tool for getting your thoughts on paper. Because you’re getting them out of your head and on the page, they somehow become more “real”. Journaling works as sort of a bridge between the things you’re thinking about and the things you’re doing. It’s really quite unbelievable.
In a college course we were asked to write an autobiography. I remember at the time thinking how strange it was that I was being asked to write about my life at a time when it felt so, well, unlived. Honestly, I think I was still hung up on the word “autobiography”. But it ended up being a wonderful exercise.
A few weeks ago as part of a small group at church, we took this idea a step further. We did a spiritual autobiography. This ended up being a little harder to come up with than I thought it would, but was immensely rewarding. By looking back at where I’ve come from, I was able to see all the amazing things God has done in my life. I might have even got a little glimpse at where he is taking me.
Try this: set aside a block of time. Maybe an hour or so. Write out your “spiritual autobiography”. Don’t do like I did and get hung up on the, um, autobiographicalness of it. This is between you and God. But take some time to write out the important events in your spiritual journey. This one is a game changer. I promise.
Here are a few questions to get you started:
- What was your childhood like? Your parents, your siblings, your school?
- Did you have a childhood experience in church? Was it good or bad?
- When did you meet God for the first time?
- Who are the people in your life that inspire you to a deeper faith?
- What are the issues that seem to come up on a regular basis?
- What are some of the milestones in your life? The peaks AND the valleys…
- What do you think God has done through your life?
- Do you see a glimpse of how God might use you in the future?
This might be an easy exercise for you, or it might be a painful one. Remember that it’s between you and God. When you’re done, it might be a good idea to file your “autobiography” away and then look at it again in a few weeks.
What do you think about the idea of an autobiography? What about a “spiritual autobiography”? Also, if you do this exercise, or if you’ve done it before, I’d love to hear about it. Let me know in the comments below!