“To save my life” is a common expression {where I come from}, used to communicate a certain futility about a matter, stemming from a sense of fear or ineptness… as if our inability to remember something, find something, or accomplish something might take us to the very brink of death. I used to say it all the time… when things seemed impossible or frightening to me… which used to be all the time. And every time I repeated it, this seemingly harmless colloquialism spiraled a little deeper into my limiting belief system.

  • “I can’t remember to save my life.”
  • “I wouldn’t try that to save my life.”
  • “I couldn’t do that to save my life.”

Here’s a question for you: What if the very thing we think we can’t do “to save our lives” turns out to be the very thing that does save our lives?

Here’s why I ask. I happen to believe that writing saved my life. {Sounds a little dramatic, I suppose… but I truly believe it did. Actually, it was God who saved my life. Writing was the lifeline.} I’m not talking about the kind of writing that should ever be published, necessarily, or could be called good or noteworthy. Neither mattered. I was dying inside, with no idea what to do or who to tell, and all I knew to do was cry and pray and write. I was writing to save my life.

Eventually, the three {cry, pray, write} would merge to create what I now call “the cries of my heart.” But before I could pen my thoughts and emotions on the pages of lovely leather-bound journals, I needed a dumping ground for some not-so-lovely writing. The kind that fills spiral notebooks with heavy-handed cursive and angry punctuation marks. The kind we hide under stacks of winter scarves in the back of our closets. The kind that often never happens… because, to save our lives, we just can’t.

It takes an enormous amount of courage to face “unbearable truths.” It also takes enormous energy to avoid them. And when the weight of denying them actually does become unbearable, and we feel like we’re on the brink of dying, a wonderful thing happens. Our desire to live rises up, even in the midst of despair, and with a brave heart we hardly recognize, we begin to face things we thought we couldn’t… to save our lives.

The truth about truth is that it’s incredibly freeing. Such a relief to our weighed-down, worn-out souls. For me, this wonderful thing happened through an ardent process of spiraling down to the deepest places of my heart, pen in hand, filling page after page with the most honest prayers I’d ever prayed. And in that place, where deep calls to deep,* I found comfort for pain I thought would kill me, and truth that set me free from unbearable guilt. I experienced love I had always longed for, but couldn’t find or fathom to save my life…and then it did.

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*Psalm 42 is an example of deeply honest “cries of the heart” penned by warrior poets and singers of old.