Honoring the particular in every person’s story

Written by on November 3, 2016

One of the more powerful experiences in the VP3 Pathway of processes is the composing and sharing of life narratives. So many good things emerge in people’s lives as a result of engaging in intense and prayerful self-reflection, in sharing of life stories, and in hearing the others’ stories around the table. Something seems to actually shift in people’s hearts and imaginations. Honoring the particular in every person’s story has transformational impact—we do not remain the same.


Few greater gifts can be offered to a person in today’s largely anonymous and hurried social reality than an honoring awareness of his or her particular life story. Cistercian monk Michael Casey puts this so eloquently:


It is my belief that in Western society we tend to underestimate the depth of human experience. We are more at ease dealing with objective facts and overt happenings than in opening toward what is beneath the surface. Undoubtedly this complicates life. One finds beneath a cheery, well-adjusted facade a vulnerability and a history of hurt. In the short term it is easier to interact by assuming a surface calm. Mostly we do not want to listen to pressures building up inside others; we prefer to hope they will muddle through, and (anyhow) we have enough worries on our own account. Perhaps the most necessary of all skills today is the timeless knack of being able to listen to others, allowing them to tell their story, knowing that telling it will ease their burden and help them become stronger.[1]


Casey points out that there is far more going in our lives than we tend to acknowledge or even recognize ourselves. We can live such distracted and superficial lives. Waking up to the depth and possibility of the life that we already live invariably requires the caring and discerning presence of others. As we come alongside others, let us become living reminders of this startling reality—their story is unique and it matters deeply to God and to us (Psalm 139). 


For those of you who are leading The Journey currently, inviting others to prayerfully examine and share their stories with one another, you might find an upcoming event VP3 Coaching Live: Preparing, Sharing and Receiving a Personal Narrative. (Thursday, November 17th 12:30-1:30pm) — Register Here.


A newly released and highly recommended book on this topic is Keith Anderson’s Reading Your Life’s Story: An Invitation to Spiritual Mentoring (IVP, 2016). 




[1] Michael Casey, Toward God: The Ancient Wisdom of Western Prayer (Liguori, Missouri: Liguori/Triumph,1996) 134, 136.

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