Bittersweet: Stories

There are two myths we tend to believe about our stories: the first is that they're about us, and the second is that because they're about us, they don't matter. But they're not only about us, and they matter more than ever right now. When we, any of us who have been transformed by Christ, tell our own stories, we're telling the story of who God is.
-Shauna Niequist, Bittersweet
I suspect that most bloggers have encountered the discreet eye-roll from time to time (I know I have, and I choose to believe it's not completely personal). Blogs are self-indulgent, pointless, and filled with oversharing. I used to feel really self-conscious about it. Sometimes I'd post, but feel too embarrassed to link to Facebook (i.e., risk larger exposure). Honesty is also vulnerability, and I've never been particularly convinced that people would like me more if they knew me better.

Any encounter with human beings (including time spent alone) can be self-indulgent and tedious. But I come back because any encounter where we're being as open as we know how to be has within it the potential to heal, to be redemptive, comforting, and life-giving. Sometimes stories are in-person, and other times they're in print, but either way they're vital.

Spiritual direction is like that, too. ABSOLUTELY it can be tedious. But what I've loved about spiritual direction is the discovery that, just by telling someone else my story, I'm able to see God in it more clearly. I sit down with V, often not knowing where to begin, and by the end of the hour I've recognized God in a place I didn't notice before. I settle into her cozy office, stuffed with books, pillows, and as many kinds of soft fabrics as can possibly belong in one room, and first we notice God in the room, and then we notice God in my life. This past month reminded me of God's humor, something I'm often too self-absorbed to notice within the bustling corridors of my own mind.

When I sit with someone, the same things happen. Sometimes I learn a new attribute of God through a directee's experience, and sometimes the feelings that arise in me call me to investigate (at a later time, mind) something in my relationship with the divine.

Above all, I'm reminded through my stories and those I'm blessed to hear, that God accompanies us through everything, though we don't always feel it. Heartache, rage, fear, joy, all of it. Hearing other people's stories makes it clearer that God isn't a stained-glass, sanitized, prudish local official, but a big, messy, protective, tender mystery. We hear so many cliches filled with really dishonest, sanctimonious theology, and it's cleansing to hear about all the dirty, broken places where God has been with us. When I was suspended during my undergrad years, my mother passed one story after story of successful people she'd met who had done the same damn thing-- it was the kindest gift she could have given me. Their stories were my hope. My story might be your hope, or at least your companionship.

Our stories matter.


  1. yesterday I was given an hour to talk about my glass. I told their stories, which is my story from high school and college and birds and Wernersville and Margaret and jazz....

    If I don't tell this story, then why experience it.

    You are blessed to have entered into the land where people tell their stories.

  2. I hope this comment makes it to your page...I'm having the darndest time getting it to! Anywho, I have noticed that people who, like Jacob, wrestle with God on a regular basis tend to love stories. The Bible, although probaby not "inerrant", is definitely the Greatest Story Ever Told, mainly because it tells so many different, equally absorbing personal tales. The characters are diverse and complex. Some are "saintly", but most are quite flawed which, as Mrs. M noted, gives me hope. Perspective means everything. I must also agree with Stratoz's assertion that "If I don't tell this story, then why experience it?"

  3. Nancy, I think you're on to something. Without struggle, who needs stories? We don't need hope or solidarity when things run smoothly.

    And I love that they're all a bunch of sneaky, conniving, lustful wankers. After God's own heart, mind you.


"So keep fightin' for freedom and justice, beloveds, but don't you forget to have fun doin' it. Lord, let your laughter ring forth. Be outrageous, ridicule the fraidy-cats, rejoice in all the oddities that freedom can produce. And when you get through kickin' ass and celebratin' the sheer joy of a good fight, be sure to tell those who come after how much fun it was."
-Saint Molly Ivins