The Power of Story
“Story telling moves us into the place where we trust what we know, even if it can’t be measured, packaged, or validated empirically
The Story Factor
The theme of the Fall Seeking Stillness retreat was “Light in the Midst of Darkness.” Throughout the weekend participants were encouraged to reflect on and talk with God about times in their lives when God had broken into darkness and brought them hope. It wasn’t an easy weekend, because we were called to remember times in our lives that were painful, disappointing, and very difficult. However, as we looked back, many of us could see how God was present in these times and how He also used these dark experiences for good, in the long run.
In the last activity of the weekend, we reflected on these questions:
- Think about how you talk with others about darkness you have or are experiencing.
- How might the way you tell this story impact the way you experience transformation from it?
- How might God have used or be using your darkness story (or stories) for his glory?
- With whom might God be calling you to share your story?
I think it’s fair to say that all of us were amazed at how powerful the process of remembering and telling our stories was as the retreat drew to a close. We sensed God’s powerful movement in our hearts and in our midst.
What is it about telling our story that makes it so impactful? William Barry writes, in a book entitled Letting God Come Close, “sometimes we need to be asked about experiences before we can recognize how important they are to us.” He considers times in our lives when we sense God’s presence with us as touchstones – experiences we can revisit in our minds at times when our sense of God is not so strong and our hope might be waning. He goes on to say that “remembering and telling someone about our profound experiences of closeness to the Lord can be a royal road to ever-deepening intimacy (both with God and with the other person).”
I had a clear example of what Barry is talking about this past weekend. I was driving with a women I’ve known for several years. We consider each other friends, but haven’t really shared our lives at a deep level. In the course of our journey, she began to tell me about a VERY difficult time in her life as an African refugee. We’re talking life and death situations over multiple years. Throughout the story, however, she often stopped to tell me how God had provided for her. She said she tells the story to remind herself that He is always with her, even when she doesn’t see Him. She said it’s only in retelling the story that she has come to appreciate how He was protecting her life. At the end of the story, we gave glory to God together, feeling both closer to Him, and closer to each other.
I’m convinced that God uses not only our stories, but the way we tell our stories to impact us deeply. He especially uses our stories of how we’ve experience Him in darkness when we tell them to ourselves and others. Not only do these stories give those who hear them a sense of God’s power and a degree of hope in their own circumstances, but they create in us a deep sense of God’s love and provision. The more we tell our stories in a way that gives God the glory, the more our hearts are strengthened in trust and reliance on Him.
Sometimes we don’t want to remember the difficult times in our lives. Often, we’re embarrassed to talk about them with others. When we plow through life as if everything is fine or when we lock our memories away, never to be revisited, we miss gifts God wants to give us and to the world.
I encourage you to think about the reflection questions listed above and to take time to share the results of the reflections with at least one other person. I would love to hear how God impacts you through this process. Write to me (firstname.lastname@example.org) or send me a blog that we can post so others are encouraged.
Blessings on your Christmas Season;