He encourages people to tap into their life stories to see God’s powerful gospel narrative playing out in their own journey. He argues we don’t do enough to help people capture that story and find in it core aspects of our identity and evidence of HIS. What could your story tell us about the great reservoir of God’s Love?
Knowing and interpreting our stories helps us maximize on God’s truth that comes through our experiences. Experience is a key part of Wesley’s Quadrilateral of Learning/Wisdom/Truth that we often dismiss. Those four–Scripture, Tradition, Reason, and Experience–are all used by the Holy Spirit to teach us.
Allender argues we discover our stories not in a Pollyannish vision of our lives. We find it in how God’s love and truth gets us through the painful moments and our failures.
We in the Leadership Department at Andrews University School of Education help individuals write their narrative to help in their leadership development processes. It helps them see their gifts, skills and abilities and map those with the passions God has cultivated in their lives to craft a vision for their future. Then we customize their learning to help them get there (at least we try!)
I have used this story method in my ethics course to help people discover and isolate the main moral values that they have cultivated in helping them make better decisions and avoid stupid choices.
Allender reminds us NOT to make our stories about telling of a hero creation but about God’s ability to help us through touch issues. If others see us creating false images of ourselves–a Hollywood distortion–then we rob them of the deep beauty of lives that don’t need to be airbrushed. We and them will find hope in God’s ability to help us in all things.
We can face the future because we see God has been with us in the past.
Your story shows what God has done in your life.
This aspect of stories hit home in a subtle ways as I was reading John 11. Its the story of the death, burial and resurrection of Lazarus.
“Now a certain man was sick, Lazarus of Bethany, the village of Mary and her sister Martha. It was the Mary who anointed the Lord with ointment, and wiped His feet with her hair, whose brother Lazarus was sick. So the sisters sent word to Him, saying, “Lord, behold, he whom You love is sick.” But when Jesus heard this, He said, “This sickness is not to end in death, but for the glory of God, so that the Son of God may be glorified by it.” John 11:1-5.
Two powerful truths hit home. First, Lazarus had a family and so have you. How has that family shaped you?
Our stories are intertwined with each others. The parents, siblings, friends, colleagues, and acquaintances have made me story so much more than it would be dangling by itself.
Our stories impact others, even when we don’t write them down.
Second, in writing them down we let others gain from our stories. This story John wrote down. It is a great story of hope. This is an ordinary family that represents much of us in the world–a quiet brother, a workaholic sister, and a wandering beauty. But Jesus was in their stories.
But what caught my attention this time was how John inserted a future story to help us re-frame the current story.
Mary had not yet anointed Jesus feet, but the writer in looking back from his stand point many years later could insert that fact into the current story. (The book of John is believed to be the last book of the bible written. In it the aged Apostle John is giving meaning to the past experiences.)
How could we do that more? Find a better meaning from a more recent story to interpret a more earlier experience? Or how could you go back and retell a story you have been sharing but with greater meaning from a later event? or even a future event?
How could we get better at seeing how our future can reframe our present?… Probably by taking the time now to see better how our current experiences and reflection could help us better interpret our past!!!
Prayer: Lord, bless Dan Allender’s ministry of helping people recall, write and tell their stories. May it be a way for them to discover deep truth about themselves and you, and even guide them to see the values they want to use to enrich their decisions.