Our need to tell our stories.
One reason we need to tell our stories, of course, is so we can share them with others. Sharing our stories, and finding commonalities within them, are a wonderful way for us to establish friendships and empathy with others. They're also a great way for us to share our faith, provided that we articulate how we've experienced God's presence in and through our stories.
Another reason we tell our stories is so that we can come to know ourselves––the "star" of all our stories––as the narrative of our lives unfold. How we choose to respond to the things that happen to us is often a good indicator of our character––it's a good indicator of who we are. As we come to understand the "whys" and "wherefores" of our own behavior, then, we can use that knowledge to grow and evolve into more mature, more complete human beings.
Perhaps the most important reason we tell our stories, though, is so that we can come to know God. Seeing God work in and through the events of our lives helps us crystallize our thoughts about God, through our perceptions of God's behavior. It helps us understand the image of God we form from these perceptions, which is inextricably linked to our life story.
So telling our stories benefits us in three ways:
- It helps us understand and connect with others;
- It helps us understand and connect with ourselves:
- It helps us understand and connect with God.
Learning how to tell our stories, then, is an important part of our faith journey.
In order to tell our stories, however, we have to have some idea of what to say––and, perhaps, what not to say. What events should we consider noteworthy? Which ones shouldn't we consider noteworthy? What should we include? What should we leave out?
The short answer to all these questions is this: Whatever you like. There is no "right" or wrong" when it comes to telling your story. You can include what you want, and omit what you don't. Chances are, what you choose to include will be what's important, anyhow.
Still need a little help? Try this very simple (and very fun!) exercise I learned while preparing for a denomination CREDO conference last spring:
- Divide up your life into five-year segments (you can collapse your childhood years from 1-18 if you like).
- Identify a "key event" that defines for you the most important event(s) of those segments.
- Add a few details about why it was significant––for example, what did you learn from the event? How did it change you? How did you experience the presence of God in that event?
- Add a few details about how you felt about the event(s). Need a little help here? Try coming up with a song that describes the event. The song you choose will help you clarify the emotions you have surrounding the event. For example, if you're married, you might want to use the old Carpenters song, "We've Only Just Begun" to describe the hope you felt when starting your married life. If your spouse passed away unexpectedly, you could use Green Day's "Boulevard of Broken Dreams" to describe the despair you felt at losing your life's dream. You get the idea.
- Having a hard time thinking of songs? Simply go to your trusty iPod, pick out a playlist, and see what songs resonate with you. Or, you could Google, for example, songs above childbirth, and see what pops up.
Once you've identified your key events, and how you felt about them, you're ready to tell your story. Start with me, if you like. I'd love to hear it!