I love the idea of life being like a story. History itself is a narrative of the story of the human race of which we are all a part. Within that grander story, every one of us has a story to tell. Your life is your story. Your story is your life.
Like a story, your life has a beginning, a middle, and an ending. There is a theme, characters, subplots (work, family, health, happiness, friendship), trajectory, and tone.
What kind of story is your life?
- A comedy?
- A drama?
- A thriller (horror) movie?
- A romance or a love story?
- An action movie?
- A fairy tale?
In reality, each of our life stories is an EPIC. It’s a long journey with many scenes, experiences, twists and turns, characters, and smaller individual story lines. It's our own personal growth adventure!
Right now, I'm reading a very interesting book called Step Out of Your Story: Writing Exercises to Reframe and Transform Your Life by Kim Scheinderman. Drawing from a number of disciplines, including narrative therapy, she presents life as a spiritual story which we are co-authoring. She suggests that we "can re-imagine ourselves as the hero of our own unfolding story, with the power to reclaim our personal narrative through choice and voice ... rather than remaining entrenched in tales of victimisation and martyrdom."
Here are a few questions for you to reflect on:
1. It's been said that most people spend more time planning their holidays than they do planning their lives. When is the last time you took some extended time aside to think deeply and honestly about your own life?
"Men go abroad to wonder at the heights of the mountains, at the huge waves of the sea, at the long courses of the rivers, at the vast compass of the ocean, at the circular motions of the stars, and they pass by themselves without wondering." St. Augustine - Confessions.
2. If you could view your life as a story, what is the 'narrative arc' of your story so far? Are you happy with where the story is going?
3. Who is writing your story? Is it really you ... or are you simply following the scripts of other influential and even well-intentioned people in your life?
"Freedom begins the moment you realise someone else has been writing your story and it's time you took the pen from them and started writing it yourself." Bill Moyers
[Watch the movie The Truman Show for a classic example of a person living out someone else's script]
4. Use a third person lens as you look at your life.
- Draft a brief character sketch of the main character (the protagonist) of your story - YOU.
- What does this character want out of life? What are their motivations, dreams, and aspirations?
- What is getting in the way? What are the obstacles (or antagonists), whether people, emotions or things?
- What's at stake? How intense is the character's motivation? How much do they care? What is to gain by overcoming the obstacles? What is to lose by failing to do so?
Notice how different you write about, or see yourself, when taking a somewhat neutral observer/onlooker role.
5. The biblical character of Joseph went through a horrible family ordeal of rejection and betrayal. Yet at the end, when re-united with his brothers, he said, "You intended to harm me, but God intended it for good" (Genesis 50:20). Without denying his painful past, how did Joseph learn to tell his story from such a redemptive perspective? How can we learn to re-tell our own stories with more of a redemptive spin that allows for God's providence in all things - the good, the bad and the ugly?
"What matters in life is not what happens to you, but how you remember it and how you tell it." Gabriel Garcia Marquez
6. In one of the darkest times of ancient Israel's history, the prophet Jeremiah said this:
"For I know the plans I have for you," says the Lord. "They are plans for good and not for disaster, to give you a future and a hope." Jeremiah 29:11.
How could this powerfully, positive statement inform your understanding of God's intentions for the remainder of your story, regardless of what has been in your past?
Whatever your story has been so far, may your next chapter truly be your best chapter yet!
See also: Storyline: Understand your Story
Psalm 9:11. Sing your songs to Zion-dwelling God, tell his stories to everyone you meet. MB
Psalm 145:4. Generation after generation stands in awe of your work; each one tells stories of your mighty acts. MB
Matthew 13:3. Using the boat as a pulpit, Jesus addressed his congregation, telling stories. MB
Mark 4:30. Jesus said, "How can we picture God's kingdom? What kind of story can we use?" MB