Faith seeking understanding #004: On writing while scarred rather than with an open wound

Faith seeking understanding, my personal journey towards a deeper knowledge of and intimacy with God, the cosmos, humanity and myself through thoughts, words and (occasionally) images, is a series of [hopefully] daily reflections I’m writing with the purpose of publishing something on a regular basis for others to read, either here, at joncarllewis.com or among my writings at Medium.com.

Photo by Roman Trifonov on Unsplash

Author and theologian Jeff Chu said in a session at the Frederick Buechner Writer’s Workshop at Princeton Theological Seminary that it is preferable to write when scars have formed rather than trying to write out of an open wound. Woundings happen in life and, theodicy aside, can be rich fodder for writing in particular and understanding the human experience in general. Nevertheless, he maintains that it is better to write after a time of healing and reflection have been completed—or, at least, that’s what I understood him to be saying.

To a certain extent I agree with him… and to a certain extent I don’t want to. I think there are several types of writing that are worth doing: therapeutic writing to heal oneself and therapeutic writing to communicate with others. I strongly suspect that Chu’s advice was primarily intended for people who are writing things for others to read, not necessarily people who are writing for themselves, but I am not sure how scarred-over a wound needs to be (or how healed) before a painful experience can be relayed for public consumption.

Yesterday, I learned some valuable lessons through experiencing a situation that wounded my heart a little bit. I wanted to write about it hours after the fact (I figured I could use the situation for my daily reflection) but I found that I couldn’t find the words. Until I gave myself permission to not share my initial outpouring of words with the public. So I wrote lots of words on the situation yesterday in my journal. However, on my blog, I basically put a placeholder and said I was taking a sabbath rest from writing. I could have said that I was taking a sabbath rest from writing something for public consumption, and that would have been more accurate, but I still needed to come to an understanding of my experience by pouring my subjective expressions and impressions onto the page.

It wasn’t pretty—at least not most of it. I allowed myself the opportunity to cry out in pain, to howl in a literary way, but in a way that might have been too raw to accurately communicate what I was learning from the experience (that is, if I were, in fact learning anything from a vantage point that close to the experience).

Even now, when I feel I have scarred over a little bit and understand some of the lessons that experience has already taught me, I am hesitant to share that with the world right now. For one thing, other people are involved, and I want to make sure I have enough distance that I don’t use their pain for my own entertainment—or to “entertain” others. I want to be respectful.

But I also want to share what I have learned.

Perhaps I need to be more patient. Perhaps I need to give it time.

I am grateful for this space in which I can share my thoughts and reflections, but I am mindful that I also have a responsibility to say something coherent. And to do it without wounding others by lashing out the way one does in pain.

So, I will put off writing about my painful experience and what I think I learned from it. I will take Jeff Chu’s advice. I will wait until my wounds have become scars. And I will trust that I will know when the time has come to share.

Thank you for your time and attention.
I’d love to know your thoughts on what you’ve read.
Please comment, below, or email me at joncarllewis@gmail.com.
May God richly bless you on your journey.

Faith seeking understanding #004: On writing while scarred rather than with an open wound

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