Jaleah's Story - How Stories Can Connect and Transform Us
The Lord often reveals what is better to the younger (Rule of Benedict 3.3)
Editor's Note -- We are delighted to announce a new SDI webinar led by Diane Millis. It's called "Narrative Circles - A New Approach to Group Spiritual Direction." This is a rare full demonstration of the approach, and it goes right to the heart of the relationship between storytelling and spiritual companionship. Learn more here.
“May I get a picture of the two of us?” a young woman asked me at the close of a recent conference.
“Of course!” I responded. “First, please tell me your name,” I asked.
“I’m Jaleah,” she turned to me and said, “and I want you to know that you’ve opened my eyes so much to reflecting on my own story, because before coming to this conference I never thought I had a story. I thought people who went through serious calamities and adverse situations had stories, but me no. It was your willingness to share your own story that changed my perspective. It helped to think about how my story is relevant today, and what deeply, God is showing me.”
After our picture was taken, I thanked Jaleah, gave her a big hug along with my email, and asked her to send me a copy of our picture.
The next morning, as I sat at the gate awaiting my return flight home, the following message appeared in my inbox:
"The entire time you spoke at the conference, my heart was heavy, I don’t know if it was because I related so much to your story or that I’ve neverrrrr actually opened up about that until now: to you. So with your sharing, it has opened up so many areas that I’ve tried to hide, and keep suppressed for so long. I am so grateful that you shared your experiences, because it helped me see how certain things affect the way I respond to present happenings and also, what God is trying to change in me in order for me to become more."
Saint Benedict reminds us that the Lord often reveals what is better to the younger. As this wise young woman observed:
~ We may not realize that we have a story to tell.
~ Another person’s willingness to share their story candidly can show us so much more about our own.
~ Our hearts may ache as we recall our story and tell it. Yet it is through telling of our story that we increase awareness of God at work in it.
If you, like Jaleah, are yearning to discover more about your story, I invite you to check out my recently published book, Re-Creating a Life: Learning How to Tell Our Most Life-Giving Story (SDI Press). The book is structured around guiding reflection questions designed to increase your understanding of your narrative identity (that is, the story you are telling about who you are, who you’ve been, and who you aspire to be). My hope is that by devoting more time to exploring your story, you too will increase your awareness of God at work in it.
Diane M. Millis, PhD, is a teacher, author, spiritual director, retreat facilitator, and consultant. All three of her books, Conversation—the Sacred Art, Deepening Engagement, and her recently released Re-Creating a Life: Learning How to Tell Our Most Life-Giving Story, provide toolkits for both one-to-one and group spiritual companioning. Diane is the founder of Companions on a Journey (where she introduced the process of group spiritual companioning to young adult college students), and the Journey Conversations Project (where she developed a model for interfaith group spiritual companioning). Diane currently serves in a wide array of sectors introducing the 4, 4, 4 format for group spiritual accompaniment. She teaches Narrative Leadership at United Theological Seminary of the Twin Cities (Minnesota, USA). She lives in Minneapolis.