One of the powerful aspects of the Lenten journey is it invites us into the story of our faith. We are invited into the story of Jesus and how that impacts us in this moment. We get to revisit and re-examine what that story means to us this year and how it has impacted us in the past.
Something wonderful happens when we gather to tell stories. We are often encouraged to stay in this moment, which is a wonderful practice. Yet, this has left me wondering what does this do to my relationship with the future and the past. How do I find balance in looking at the past and the future in order to bring me back to the Now?
This is where storytelling is very helpful. It is a lost art in our culture. The ability to sit around with friends and imagine the future you know is inside you. Say it out loud with feeling, vulnerability and support, even being wild and imaginative in the process. By looking ahead and asking, “what do I want to experience in the gift of life I have been given?”, it brings us back to the moment with new knowledge. How do I start living now that will make that future show up in me? What small steps can I take Now?
The challenge in future storytelling, and perhaps why people shy away from it, is that by speaking the future, one may enter into the “I wish that were Now” syndrome. The temptation to think life won’t start until that future is realized. That temptation makes Now look like not enough. And then the moment is gone. I notice as I work with people in life transitions that it’s easy to go to the hopeful future and want to dwell there. In doing this, this moment is totally ignored, especially if the moment does not hold the sparkle of the future.
Another challenge in future stories comes when they are about waking up possibility. Waking up the “I wonder” inside. That can be a scary thing to wake up because it can have a life of it’s own. One can no longer hide.
These challenges happen because it’s easy to lose the meaning of what storytelling is truly all about. Stories are told because they remind us that all of life is just one story after another. The real power is in the story unfolding right now.
Storytelling one’s past is a bit easier. In fact I tell a lot of past stories in my day, especially the horror stories. “I’ll never do that again; let me tell you why.” It is as though that past story is the end of the story. This happened – end of story. There is no moving on from here. Yet if I were really practiced at storytelling, I would quickly come to the reality that this is but one story among many and there are more to tell. This story doesn’t define me. It’s the story in this moment that matters. Looking back allows me to ask questions like, what was I doing five years ago? Did I ever imagine that all this would be happening now, or is life exactly the same? This brings me back to the Now with gratitude and trust that this moment truly is leading to the next.
I invite you to practice the art of storytelling in your Lenten walk. In engaging Jesus’ story, once again let it also reflect on your story. How did Jesus relate past, present, and future? Ask questions and share stories about your walk with God with others. Move beyond reading and discussing and ask, “how can these stories inform your Now moment?”