Knowing and Being Known
Storytelling as a Creative Act
“Of all the things that set us apart from the rest of creation as humans, one feature stands out: we tell stories.” (Curt thompson, The Soul of Shame)
It’s nearly impossible to function in our day to day lives without telling a story! We tell stories not only to describe our life, but more so to make sense of it. And we who know and follow Jesus believe we live inside God’s larger narrative. The Biblical story of God and his people is full of drama, complete with pain, betrayal, sorrow & shame, as well as passion, love, sacrifice and redemption. Stories shape how we think and feel about ourselves, about others, and about God. Everyone has a story, and every story is worth hearing.
This unique season offers us an opportunity to engage in the work of telling our stories more truly than ever. You are invited to take a risk to reveal who you are, in the hope that being seen and heard will be a step toward healing and freedom in your life. Often we don’t notice things about ourselves until we can speak them out-loud with trusted people who will love us no matter what we say.
Just as the sharer practices vulnerability, as listeners, we get to practice hospitality of the soul - to make space in our hearts to receive someone’s story. The best thing a listener can do is to simply pay attention. Pay attention to what the speaker is saying, and maybe what he/she is not saying. Pay attention to facial expression, tears, or tension-these are ways the body is telling the story without words! Pay attention to what you feel as you experience their story - this can be a real gift to you the listener. Finally, listen for what the Spirit of God might be doing as the person shares.
As you engage a storytelling focus for your group, let’s commit to the following guidelines, and read them at the beginning of each session.
As a sharer, I commit to:
Prepare ahead of time. (You do not need a “written script” but giving this some thought before you share will help you be clear & cohesive. Many people like using bullet points as prompts.)
Reflect on the moments in my life (both negative and positive) that shaped who I have become.
Get beyond the “facts” as best I can, sharing both where I have overcome and where I still get stuck receiving love and belonging and also offering it to others.
Be OK that parts of my story will go unsaid for now. There’s always opportunity for follow up, and we want to respect each others time (and virtual attention spans!)
As a listener, I commit to:
Give my full attention to the speaker.
Keep what is shared confidential inside the boundaries of the group. This is a MUST for the group to be safe.
Respond to what I hear in ways that are helpful (no advice or judgement) to the speaker and keep the focus on them. See examples below of helpful & unhelpful ways to respond.
“I felt really proud of you for saying that hard thing.”
“I see you working to be more patient with your kids, way to go!”
“I am grateful to know you.”
“It must have been tough to leave that job you loved, that was brave.”
“Thank you for trusting me with your story.”
“You shouldn’t feel so guilty.”
“Have you ever considered…”
“When I was learning to pray, I read from the book of Psalms every day and that helped me.”
“Look on the bright side, you have a great marriage now.”
“Your parents were real jerks.”
Suggested Format for a Virtual Group
10 minutes to get everybody “through the door”
10-15 min for everyone to share a “high/low” of their week or other quick update
20-30 minutes for the story
15 min for responses (affirmations/questions) from the group
15 minutes for prayer (be sure to start by praying for the person who shared)
Questions to Consider as you Share
You’ll have to leave out many details to get the significance of the memory, but do try to focus on what the instance meant to you rather than simply report the facts. Pick memories across your lifespan so we can hear how you have grown & changed along the way.
What was it like as a kid growing up in your home?
What were some of the beliefs and values your family held? How did those get communicated to you?
When and where did you first encounter God/Jesus?
Share a time when you were rejected, left out, ignored, etc. How did you feel? What did you do? Do you still see any of those tendencies in your life now?
What do you celebrate most about who you are? How have you shared or not shared that gift/talent with the world?
Share about a time where you felt like God was especially close. What was that like?
What do you least like about yourself? How does this keep you “stuck” in your relationships?
What new thing would you create/make if you could be unafraid and unashamed?