Spiritual Friendships as Story
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.”
* * *
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
I really feel like spiritual mentoring is so important, Lisa, so this book intrigues me. You always find the best books! I’ve been a spiritual mentor to several women in my life and just recently sought out a much older woman to be a mentor to me. It’s been so helpful to be both the mentor and the mentee. Thanks for this great resource and for challenging us to this worthy cause. Hugs to you, my friend!
Thanks for sharing your experience, Beth! I’ve never been in a formal mentor/mentee relationship so I’m glad to hear from someone who has, and from both sides. It’s good to hear that it DOES indeed work.
I haven’t heard of this book but it sounds amazing — I want to read it! Making sense of our own stories, hearing the stories of others and sharing our stories is really one of the greatest things we can do, I think. And when God is authoring our stories, it invites us to explore a whole new layer, unseen to those who aren’t looking for it. So glad you brought this book to my attention! 🙂
The title is what captured my attention to read this book. Since “Story” is my One Word this year, it seemed the right fit. I’m thankful that I read it as it will help me be more attentive to the story of my own life as well as the lives of others this year. Hope you get the opportunity to read it, too, Valerie.
I always love the analogy of each person is a story. I started using the analogy back when I used to coach high school sports. It’s a powerful way to get all of us to a deeper examination of our lives and motivations.
Sounds like a wonderful book… but what will you read tomorrow? (fast reader humor…)
I’d love to go back in time and hear your pearls of wisdom to the teams you coached, Floyd! I’m sure you had a strong way of connecting with them.
It actually took me a few weeks to read this book. ha. I just downloaded a Kindle book from my library that is 600 pages though. Yikes! I’ll be there for awhile. 😉
Spiritual mentors are SO important in our faith walks! Thank you for sharing this 🙂
I agree, Nicole. I’ve never had an official mentor before, but there have definitely been godly women in my life (both older and younger) that have taught me SO much. So grateful for the way God provides spiritual friendships for us.
You definitely have me interested in this book. The idea of our lives being a story that keeps moving on and isn’t static
Is so true. I know God has really shown me that this year. That many times things don’t fall into place at once. That im not fixed all at once. That like you said other forces namely God are working in many ways. He is doing so many things at all times. This is a grace. That is what time is for. The place where our story is fully developed. I am going to re read all the insight you offered here.
Yes, Somer. Wise words from you. If we can remember that each life is a story-in-progress, maybe we can be less impatient to want the book to be over. God works in pages and chapters and we have to let him flesh out the plots and characters in his own timing and ways.
you know me and the power of questions. That list is great, Lisa. AND this fit so well with your word and with your interest in the enneagram and a deeper understanding of yourself and others. God is teaching you a ton, good friend!
Yes, Jean, I’m amazed at how many different things are intersecting this year with my desire to learn more through the enneagram. God is definitely teaching me more and more!
Sounds like another great “Lisa” recommendation. Thanks. I like the “Movements” part…makes me think about the movements of Beethoven’s or Shostakovich’s or Vivaldi’s music. With a pause between each Movement, I will ponder the next question in this list. Will be looking into this book, my online librarian. : )
I’m glad you emphasized the “movements”, Linda, because I had sort of passed it over. I definitely hadn’t thought of it in terms of musical movements, but I love that analogy! Thanks for sharing your wisdom, as usual.
“Our story is written to be read again.” What a neat line!
That line moves me, too, Sarah. Each of our chapters is critical to our storyline, and every story is meant for more than just the main character.
Another interesting read, Lisa! I admit I don’t quite grasp all the nuances here, but that is a great list for self-reflection!