Narrative and Active Listening

“The truth of personal narrative is that being human can seem like an exercise in futility, sometimes right up to the last breath a person draws. The truth of personal narrative is that, no matter how compelling the story, no matter the suffering it entails, no matter the size of the audience gathered around the platform, watching, the story itself is not enough. Our own personal narrative fails to be illuminated when we remain trapped inside it. Yet here we are, all of us trapped on the internet, talking at once, telling our own story. It is not enough.”

 I was reading this essay on the telling of one’s narrative.  The author admitted being somewhat jaded about the value of narrative storytelling in today’s internet environment….that the cacophony of voices has diluted the power of narrative so that it has little power anymore, even in Christian testimonies.  

It seems to me that the value of narrative is in the listening.. in hearing with the heart and the mind to others’ stories.. As I listen, engaged actively and with the Holy Spirit present, the narrative that one has written or speaks  becomes a  framework for something deeper, a glimpse into the soul.  Even some narratives shared by individuals with whom I had no framework for common ground and with which I could not  readily relate personally have led me to profoundly value the journey of the individuals because of the glimpses I was able to glean by listening with a desire to hear through the ears and heart of Christ instead of my own limited knowledge and experience. 

I have been corresponding and speaking by phone with someone from out of town about twists and turns in a current spiritual and emotional journey.  As I have listened actively, I have been led to observe some things and ask some questions that have led  to further reflection and additional insights.  It is give and take, speaking and hearing, with the Holy Spirit invited to participate.

Those attempting to convey thoughtful and meaningful insights, persuade others, find healing/closure/resolution, or offer the benefit of personal experience through whatever medium, would be well served to invite the Holy Spirit to guide the offering of their narrative and to invite listeners to hear with the same Presence to guide.  It can lead to deeper and more meaningful insights, more thought-provoking questions, and better understanding between storyteller and listener!  hen we do so, too, wisdom is increased, God is glorified, and hearts experience joy and peace……even if only one actively engaged listener hears.