It’s taken a long time to discover, little by little, that the events that have happened in my everyday life, become clearer, more organized and more significant insofar as I have stopped, reviewed them and then written them as a story or narrative.
Writing has not been easy for me; it is an arduous task because I have a very ugly and illegible handwriting and I tend to correct myself quite a bit while writing; this makes my papers untidy and full of erasures and scratches… For years I have been reluctant to write because of this. However, since we began this process of experiencing the itineraries and the approach of searching within, many things have changed. A new awakening into a better knowledge of myself, how to increase my capacity to stop the teeter-tottering of my thinking brain and stay a while in quiet meditation as well as what I suggest here, which is to put in writing my own experiences, has definitely been key. What I describe has a great importance and, of course, new technologies have been of great help. Since I began to use computers and text processing, three of the difficulties mentioned above have vanished: the need to constantly correct myself, the ugly handwriting and the order of my thoughts while writing.
I have slowly but effectively been reading about the great facilitating power of narrative in the encounter with others, and at the same time the self-structuring nature of the story. Allow me to add some ideas:
Today’s modern person needs stories because in them the person finds the space and the time for life. In postmodern times when we are questioning the indiscriminate development of science and technology that leaves behind human development, we witness the emergence of the importance of the subject.
There are two basic cognitive functions – two ways of thinking – argumentation and storytelling or narratives. Each one has its particular way of ordering and constructing reality. They are complementary but unyielding. Arguments set off to convince about the truth, stories or narratives relate to life and experience.
The narrative form is a way of discourse that is characterized by being self-referent, provisional and communicative. Narrative discourse is constructed from what happens in life, in other words, from human actions. The story recounts a personal experience and not just a report regarding an event. The strict boundaries of sharing between the author and the receiver who in many cases acts as a co-author, are not easily defined.
The narrative has the particularity of revealing the world of the life of those who participate in the narration which is a clue to understand the interiority of the subject. It is the stage for interpreting reality.
According to J.B. Metz, theology is related above all with direct experiences expressed in stories; narrative is evidenced throughout the Bible.
Narrative pedagogy is recognized as the most powerful force for transforming our lives. The stories that we tell ourselves and others, represent the view that we have of the world and of our relationships. This pedagogy wagers for a recuperation of the human being not only as someone that knows, but also someone that feels and loves. The story involves the whole person. It is not a confrontation with just knowledge but an approach to a live event that, as such, can influence me.
In light of this justification of the importance of the story, it may be useful to narrate our own faith experience. Today, the way we share faith has changed quite a bit; we are not immersed in a society that exudes Christendom, it is also clear that the “doctrine paradigm” that was so useful in older times for Christian formation, is neither sufficient nor adequate. By the same token the “anthropological paradigm” is not the answer either because it is not aware of gratuity as the essential aspect of the Reign of God. The witness (testimonial) or mystical paradigm is, therefore the new necessary paradigm. Its key aspects include, the centrality of the experience of God, the capacity of narrating one’s own faith experience in a testimonial language and other languages in tune with our current culture. Summarizing then, in order to share our faith experience we need to recover the narrative style which was the way Jesus spoke. The narrator uses his experiential language and does so in the first person, that is how the word becomes testimony.
In light of what I mention above, it becomes clear that there is a need and a convenience in the use of the story, our own stories which, when we organize them, they organize us helping us in our own growth process. The story need not be complicated, we just need to tell the story of our experience, describing the event or situation, and what we have felt along the way. We all know how to express what we have experienced. It also seems important to note that this narrative process, contributes to facilitate encounters, our mutual sharing and relationships with others as it helps us to keep in the flow, to make our communication concise and clear, because when we tell our own story, and write this story, we have carried out a profound process of synthesis and restructuring of what has occurred.
Guide for reflection and sharing:
- What calls my attention?
- When invited to tell a story, how do you feel; what worries you, how do you respond?
- My experience when sharing my story has been…