Wednesday, February 16, 2011
THE HEALING POWER OF THE WRITTEN WORD
So we know that fictional tales as well as Scripture can bring healing. Let’s dig a little deeper.
The custom of writing letters—actually taking pen and paper and writing the missive by hand—has gone out of vogue as more people rely on emails or texting to communicate. Yet, a handwritten note has a personal quality that electronic mail does not.
Think of a deployed soldier. When he receives a letter from home, he—or she--feels a connection with the loved one thousands of miles away as if the essence of the sender is captured in the written word. To a lonely soldier, that link is especially important.
Some years ago, a friend’s mother-in-law was diagnosed with terminal cancer. The woman—I’ll call her Rose—lived alone in a senior apartment complex in Florida far from her children. She had little faith in God and wasn’t interested when her family witnessed to His love manifest in their lives.
My heart went out to Rose, and at the Lord’s prompting, I started to send her cards. At first, I wrote only a few words about being friends with her family and that I knew she was ill and was praying for her. Over the weeks, I continued to write, each time adding a bit more about my faith and God’s forgiveness.
I can’t take credit for the change in Rose. Looking cancer in the face is sobering, and the realization of our own mortality can soften the hardest heart. Neighbors reached out to Rose. Her son and daughter-in-law visited often and an excellent medical staff managed her care, but I do believe the healing words of God’s love in those little notes cracked a closed door that eventually stood wide open to receive the Lord.
Frank and Ruby Grace--a dear couple in my church--celebrated their 60th wedding anniversary last September. Just a few months later, Gacie, as her family called her, passed away. Frank was devastated, and each time I saw him at church, he seemed more and more despondent. He walked with a cane due to arthritis, and the love of life he had exuded when his wife was alive had disappeared. Even his daughter feared Frank would soon follow his dear Gacie into death.
A World War II veteran and South Georgia forester, Frank had years earlier self-published a collection of stories, which I had the pleasure of reading. His quick wit and warmth came through on the written page, and the wisdom of his tales had universal appeal.
As I prayed for Frank, the Lord gave me an idea. The next time I saw him at church, I encouraged him to write more stories about his life and the lessons he had learned.
The following week, his eyes seemed a bit clearer as he told me he’d taken pen to paper and had made an effort to jot down some of his thoughts. The following week, he stood a bit straighter, frown lines no longer wrinkled his brow and his smile came even more readily.
Last week, Frank told me he was using a computer to write the many memories of his past. He walked without a cane and his eyes twinkled with that old love of life. In Frank’s case, the actual process of writing was healing.
Julia Cameron in her book, THE ARTIST’S WAY, contends we need to sit with paper and pen and write three pages of whatever comes to mind soon after we rise in the A.M. She claims the hurts and frustrations that bog us down are released through the healing process she calls Morning Pages.
Counselors use a similar technique when they encourage their clients to jot down memories that bubble up from the past. I was recently with a woman who, over the years, had worked through the dysfunction that had been her childhood, yet she still didn’t feel closure. In an effort to get to the bottom of what was troubling her, she began to write any memory that surfaced in a small notebook. By reflecting on the written entries and with prayer, she was finally able to forgive her mother, which brought healing to both of them.
When past pain holds us back, writing about the hurtful incident or incidents can be freeing. Whether we’ve suffered physical or emotional abuse, penning a letter to the one who hurt us can be cathartic. We don’t need to mail the letter. The healing comes in the writing.
Long-term illness, the death of a loved one, the loss of a job, the end of a marriage can be obstacles that seem impossible to overcome. We search for answers and can find none. We harbor anger, sometimes at God who seemingly allowed such pain. Writing a letter to an ex-, to a deceased loved one, even to God helps us verbalize our feelings, release the hurt and begin to heal.
Most of us in Seekerville are writers or enthusiasts of the written word, so I hope we’ll share more stories today. Have you been healed by the written word or have your words touched others?
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