When you and I struggle with self-forgiveness, we’ve usually got deep, painful wounds put there by the enemy in the past. Do you want to know how to exact sweet revenge? Tell your story! 

At the Oregon Christian Writers Conference in Portland last week, I met the amazing Marlys Johnson, a cancer widow who joyfully writes and speaks about purpose in adversity. In today’s guest blog post, she reflects on the power of telling our story to others. Marlys, thank you for these powerful truths! (Read the original post on her website here.)

And they overcame him because of the blood of the Lamb and because of the word of their testimony, and they did not love their life even when faced with death (Revelation 12:11).


 So, how is telling our stories healing?

At a writers’ conference in Portland this past week, Sarah Thebarge taught a coaching class entitled “The Healing Power of your Story” — eight hours in length, spread over three days, excellent in-depth instruction and writing exercises.

This from Sarah about the value of story-sharing:

“Writing turns wounds into scars. Wounds are raw, painful, losing blood. Scars don’t get infected, you can touch them, they’re not painful.”

From the combined wisdom of my memoir-writing teacher and classmates—fellow writers who have experienced child abuse, lost families, mental health issues, abandonment—telling our stories …

. . . causes shame to lose its power. We often think if people really knew us — knew about our fears and mistakes — then they probably wouldn’t like us. Simply not true.
. . . helps us accept what happened. The events that have taken place, have taken place. We can change nothing from the past; we have power only to shape what’s ahead.
. . . frees us to be fully known. Instead of hiding behind a façade, telling our stories sets us free from the power our past had over us, free from worrying what others might think of us, free to be us.
. . . creates community. The strength of community is hearing someone say, “I get it.”
. . . distributes the weight of our burden, this heavy thing we’ve been lugging around on our own.
. . . dispels the lies. You know, the lies that say, “This is as good as it gets”, “You need to forget about those goals and dreams you had”, “It’s too late for you.” Those lies.
. . . provides validation. These are our stories. They’re worth telling. They’re beautiful stories of redemption, of becoming whole again.

As we’re going through the most devastating things in our lives, the geese keep flying, the sun shines and the rain falls. And the world goes on.

And we think, “How can you go on living as if nothing happened? The most precious person on the face of the earth has died. I am alone. How can the school buses still pick up kids; how can the autumn leaves keep drifting downward; how can people still laugh, congregated around tables in my favorite outdoor café?”

Because life goes on.

And we wouldn’t want it any other way. We are grateful that laughter will return, and hopes and dreams will revive, and we will love still; again.

I want to focus on the things cancer patients and caregivers can control for better quality of life. I want to show how adversity can improve relationships instead of tearing people and families apart. I want to offer hope; to illustrate how the lessons learned will serve me as I continue forward in widowhood.

What about you? What is your story and who should you share it with? What needs to be made whole in your life? 


Marlys Johnson bio photo
Marlys Johnson’s story:

I’m a cancer widow. Married to the same wonderful man until November 2014. We fought the good fight together for several years longer than he was supposed to live. We shared our story in cancer centers, at medical conferences, and to classes of college and nursing students across the country.

I published a book of short stories – Cancer Adventures: Turning Loss into Triumph – with the intent of inspiring others to look for purpose and meaning.
Cancer is not something we would ever wish on anyone. But through the cancer years, we developed a more profound understanding of what we had. An unspoken commitment not to take this marriage for granted. Improved listening and talking with our hearts wide open.

I am passionate about stirring up courage in others to live gratefully in the present and to dust off dreams, roll up sleeves and work in the direction of their dreams.

Marlys’ website:  http://www.canceradventures.org/
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  1. Julia Steuart   On   August 25, 2016 at 11:48 pm

    Your desire to relate to others in their situations they didn’t create inspires me to accept what I wished had never happened two and a half short years ago In living 58 years on this earth I never imagined I would ever face the suicide of my beloved 27 year old single son. All my hopes and dreams for him gone in a single desperate helpless deceptive few minutes, a life once lived with abandon and limitless zeal and love for life❤️❤️Dreams too big to fit in one persons life span❤️ What is the most heartbreaking realization is seeing what I didn’t recognize before Afsheen took his life Living to enjoy my life again seems unbearable to follow through knowing what I didn’t know then about his state of mind I pray and ask God everyday to help me to learn what he wants me to learn from this tragedy. Life feels cold and cruel without my bright and shining star who daily every since he was born on July 4, 1986 brought my heart deep and abiding love and delight. I remember one time when I was experiencing pre menopause symptoms and had sudden feelings of anxiety, he was 17 years old at this time and he said, ” Mom, just relax, everything is going to be good! It will all work out❤️ He was always easy to be around and put everyone at ease wherever he went❤️ Always supportive, gentle and kindhearted, enthusiastic and relentless in providing comfort and endless supply of warm hugs and contagious and reassuring presence. Never a dull moment with you my talented, endearing, tender hearted , loving son Someday we will be together and what a glorious reunion that will be. I can’t help myself but wonder, if we would have stopped to ask, How are you feeling today? Regularly asking you, are you well? Would you still be here with us? For how long?❤️ Loving you forever, MoM ❤️7/4/1986-12/17/2013

    • Lynn Hare   On   August 26, 2016 at 6:07 pm

      Julia, thank you for your loving thoughts about your son. I’m so sorry to hear he took his own life. I pray God wraps His arms around you, your Comforter and Counselor. Shalom peace to you today! ~ Lynn

  2. Linda Jo Reed   On   August 27, 2016 at 6:51 pm

    Hi Lynn: Thank you for sharing what you learned at the conference. What great points to reflect on as we tell our stories. I am always amazed at how God works in us through all our experiences. And what joy to be part of a great cloud of witnesses!

  3. Charles   On   August 31, 2016 at 5:36 pm

    Great post. Thank you for sharing it. I can hardly wait to read your upcoming book on self-forgiveness. My story about forgiveness, “Moving Past the Past,” is coming out in LIVE on the Sunday before Thanksgiving. God’s timing is so amazing!

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