If you were to write a book about your life, what would be the connecting theme that strings together all your life stories?
The first lesson in writing a memoir is to figure out what type of tale you wish to tell, or what light you wish to portray your life in. Many famous celebrities, athletes, business people, and war heroes have put pen to paper and shared their journeys to eventual success. What would it look like for a Christian to do the same?
A few weeks ago I had the opportunity to take a weeklong seminar on “spiritual autobiographies” at Yale Divinity School. We read and discussed the life stories of Christians from various walks of life, including:
- St Teresa of Avila, who lived in a convent in 16th century Spain
- John Bunyan, the famous author of “The Pilgrim’s Progress,” who wrote from an English prison in the 17th century
- Amanda Smith, a freed African American slave who later travelled the world serving as a missionary
- Simone Weil, a Jewish French social activist turned Christian in the early 1900s
- And, perhaps the most widely known Christian figure of the twentieth century, C.S. Lewis. His autobiography “Surprised by Joy” is something of a hidden gem amidst his more popular books.
All five of these remarkable individuals share their personal coming-to-faith conversion stories, with much of their books focusing on their lives before as well as the changes afterward.
The most stunning realization upon reading their autobiographies is just how much time each of them spent contemplating their spiritual lives. For many, coming to believe in God and live a life reflecting Him was a long and difficult journey that spanned years. Yet after they genuinely became followers of Christ, their lives changed dramatically and they completely realigned their lives around living for the Kingdom of God.
It puts everyone living even a remotely lukewarm spiritual life to shame, while inspiring us to strive to do more – to have God on our minds in all we do, and to do what God has in mind for us.
While becoming an A-list movie star, starting a multi-billion dollar business from the ground up, and even saving another’s life in the battlefield are all varying degrees of admirable life achievements and make for inspiring books, they are not things that define who one is. They aren’t the true theme of life.
Taking this class on spiritual autobiographies reminded me of how I want my own life to be a testimony that points back to God. Of all possible aspects of life I can focus on, I want my identity in Christ to be the most prominent quality about me. Every achievement – school, career, family, travels – are all weaved into my story of living for the Kingdom, one ordinary day at a time.