Every life is a story.
In Keith R. Anderson’s new book, Reading Your Life’s Story: An Invitation to Spiritual Mentoring, he teaches us to read our stories better.
Although the book is officially about spiritual mentoring, I read it as a book about Story (my One Word for 2017) and spiritual friendships.
“This volume is an invitation to learn to read your life as story in the companionship of spiritual friendship and to come alongside others to read their life as story. Whether you are mentor or mentee, the task is the same: you learn to read life as story and invite others into prayerful conversation; it is an invitation.”
It’s no passive endeavor. Anderson calls this “reading” a holy task with a sacred purpose. I agree.
He divides the book into two parts:
- Uncovering Your Life Story
- Uncovering the Movements of the Spiritual Mentoring Relationship
Part One: Uncovering Your Life Story
Part One sets up the importance of engaging story, keeping in mind God’s primary role in co-creating the story.
“We believe our spirituality is shaped by narrative and how we tell the stories of our lives.”
The way we frame our stories matters. We don’t recreate our narratives, but we read what the Author is already writing, with “faith in the presence and voice of the living God.”
We give witness to the work God is doing in each life.
“Spiritual mentoring starts with a trust that something else is at work, someone else is active, something more is going on in the world around us. Greater forces are always at work.”
Part Two: Uncovering the Movements
Part Two provides more details about the interactions between a spiritual mentor and mentee. But even if a formal mentoring relationship is not your goal, you can glean value from this section.
Anderson offers questions and a way of listening that can enrich any relationship.
“You listen to a person who is, herself or himself, a story. They bring a story that is not the same as the one they brought a week or a month before. Why? They have lived life and their character has developed in that time; plot lines have unfolded, and God has been at work in the minutes, hours, days and weeks.”
Here are some questions he suggests:
- What’s chasing you?
- Are you at peace?
- What would you do with your life “for free” if you didn’t need any income?
- Do you know anyone who lives the kind of spirituality you put on yourself?
- When was the last time you remember being content?
- Why do you always “should” on yourself?
- What do you know that, had you known it twenty-five years ago, would have made a difference in your life these past twenty-five years?
- If you were to create a “to-don’t” list to place alongside your to-do list, what are three things you would write first?
- Why do you persist?
- If Jesus invited you to climb into his lap and whispered something in your ear, what would he say to you about yourself right now?
Spiritual relationships enrich our lives over time. They aren’t to be rushed.
“It matters that you can sit in something slow and focus on the long walk of faith.”
Anderson concludes that our greatest spiritual growth rarely comes in a classroom or while listening to a sermon.
Rather, we grow by “taking the stuff of our ordinary lives” and “placing it on the altar of refining fire,” and there finding “all stuff redeemed for a life of holiness.”
An old Jewish saying asks, “Why were human beings created?”
“Because God loves stories.”
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Have you been in a mentoring relationship? How did it work? Please share in the comments.
Thanks to IVP Books and NetGalley
for the review copy of this book
- Invisible Band-Aids
- Slow But Forward