I grew up in Finland and received Religious Education as part of the national curriculum in a public school. Evangelical Lutheran Church being the State Church in Finland, we learnt about the life of Martin Luther early on in the Church History class. I remember drawing a story board of Luther's life for one homework assignment, which was not only a great way to learn (and never forget!) his biography and how God intervened in his life, but also spiritually formative (it had quite a personal impact on me).
Today, I am grateful for my Christian Lutheran roots and celebrate all those who have gone before me and faithfully wrestled with God and the Scriptures.
In Spiritual Direction we often tell stories. Stories of our lives in God's big story.
Typically when I start a Spiritual Direction relationship with a directee we spend a good amount of time telling and listening the story of the directee's life, paying closely attention to times that were especially important to his or her journey with Jesus. We talk about the family of origin and its influence on the directee's faith, big life events and experiences that have shaped his or her relationship with God; important relationships, community, training, trips or even music and authors may be mentioned.
I love to listen to people's life stories, not only because I am simply a hopelessly curious person (although I am that too!) but also because I firmly believe in the power of our personal stories, the act of recalling our past experiences and giving words and meaning to them. Of course, there are parts of our story that we would rather not remember, but even then the sharing of our story can be a meaningful step and even change your future.
A Psychiatrist and Spiritual Director Curt Thompson writes in his book 'Anatomy of the Soul' the following:
'Despite the fact that you cannot turn back the clock and change the actual events in your life, you can change your experience of what you remember and so change your memory. As you pay more attention to this possibility, you will become aware of what Jesus is doing in real time and space to facilitate healing and renew your mind.'
One of my favourite ways of sharing my story is to draw an autobiography or a 'life line' where I mark the significant points in my spiritual journey. This is especially helpful if I have a limited time to share in a small group setting and helps not to get side-tracked. Sometimes it's also nice to write your autobiography down and read it to a close friend, family member or a Spiritual Director. No matter how countless times I have shared my story, each time different parts seem to surface more or get a new meaning for me. I have grown to trust this as God's gracious work in my life through telling of stories; He brings to mind what at that given moment is important for me to notice or remember. Whether visual, spoken or written, 'retelling' of our stories can be a profound spiritual practice.
How would the visual autobiography of your life with God look like?
If you were to write your autobiography, what title would you give it? What's this current chapter about?
Ps. I don't have access to my story board of Luther's life any longer, but my sister shared this neat short video of it. If your children's school doesn't teach this story any more, it's well worth sharing with them.