LEARNING EXPERIENCE: STORY
Over the coming week and a half, you’ll work on writing your story. Afterward, you’ll share this with the rest of your Learning to Live group. Aim to share for about 8 minutes, to allow time for questions and discussion. (If you work better with a suggested word or page count, this is about 1,500 words or about 2-3 pages, single-spaced, 12 point font.)
Because the time is limited, you will have to be discerning in what you share and how — this is also part of learning to tell your story. (Some groups may choose to take a retreat and allow more time for people to share their stories; you’re welcome to do that too!)
The reason we’re working on our own stories is not only to allow others to get to know us better but also to practice identifying and telling of the work of God in our lives. Peter, one of Jesus’ closest friends, wrote: “Whenever anyone asks you to speak of your hope, be ready to defend it. Yet do this with respectful humility, maintaining a good conscience.” (1 Peter 3:15b-16a). The truth is everyone has a story, and God is at work in everyone’s story. Author Madeleine L’Engle writes:
When we were children, we used to think that when we were grown up we would no longer be vulnerable. But to grow up is to accept vulnerability. To be alive is to be vulnerable.
Our stories are our gifts of vulnerability to one another. But too often, we keep them to ourselves and each other at arm’s length. Brené Brown puts it this way:
Here’s the crux of the struggle: I want to experience your vulnerability but I don’t want to be vulnerable. Vulnerability is courage in you and inadequacy in me. I’m drawn to your vulnerability but repelled by mine.
Some practical guidance:
This week, as you work through the experiences, relationships, trials, and blessings, try to identify one common theme that ties them together.
Zoom in on a few spiritual markers or choice points (three at most), moments when you chose one thing over another, when you chose to respond one way over another. These choices reflect your values and can point to how you have grown or how God has led you.
With those spiritual markers, tune us into your senses in one moment: what were you feeling, thinking, seeing, hearing?
Whether you write it all out or work from notes, practice and time yourself!
Richard Peace was one of my professors in seminary, and he wrote a small group guide on Spiritual Autobiography: Discovering and Sharing Your Spiritual Story. You can read the articles below to help you construct your own story. Just bear in mind that Peace was writing for people who would be writing their story over several weeks (rather than several days) and sharing for half an hour (rather than 8 minutes)!
The Spiritual Discipline of Noticing (15 pages)
Optional: The following video from story consultant Bobette Buster may be helpful in thinking through your story: “Can you tell your story?” (22:59)
Finally, if you’d like an example of a story, here is a draft outline:
Basic background (1 min): family, chronology.
One or two key spiritual markers or experiences (5 min), e.g. when and why I decided to follow Jesus; when and why I decided to be baptized, a key question I needed to wrestle through in my faith; how God has led me over the course of my life and where that has me now; lessons learned over the last 5-10 years.
Most recent steps of the journey and where they’re pointing (2 min).
"To grow up is
to accept vulnerability. To be alive
is to be vulnerable."
- Madeleine L'Engle