There has been a lot of research lately around the concept of communal brainstorming being counterproductive. Of course this is a slap in the face to all of us who have been trained from a young age in “group work” for the purpose of developing the best idea or best product. After all, our value increases exponentially when unilatteraly working together toward a common end. Personally, I am undecided. Surely there are pros and cons to both brainstorming together and developing ideas in solitude that we then bring to the table.
The one thing I know, however, that we cannot do individually is to share our stories. The stories of other people’s journeys help us to build a greater understanding of their present identity. You may have developed an opinion of a fellow neighbor or co-worker, but understanding his or her history provides the invaluable opportunity to tweak your opinion in light of his or her experience. Hearing the stories of others even helps to reframe our own story in light of their narrative. For example, my friend Josh Hayden explains, “that our posture of believing remains open to the in-breaking of the Holy Spirit and one another through which they are expanding the frames through which we interpret the narrative of the scriptures, our lives, relationships, work, and world.” The work of God and the life experiences of others influence (most often by broadening) how I come to understand my own experience.
I recently experienced this through a relaxed vision casting huddle; in which several of us whose portfolio includes Sunday morning worship shared our own experiences of family, marriage, and parenting. This was all part of discerning a diversity of perspectives on these topics as the subject matter of a future sermon series. We shared stories from our childhood and even gave a (sometimes vulnerable) peek behind the closed doors of our homes through describing experiences of childhood, marriage, and parenting. I had a blast, but more than just enjoying a good time, I grew to appreciate the uniqueness of those in the room by hearing the backstories that further define who they are today.
This kind of community can only be developed face-to-face around several bowls of Resee’s Peanut Butter Cups and M&M’s. Sure, the original intent may have been providing various perspectives on the topics and developing creative ways to approach the subject matter as worship leaders. (And we can do this in isolation.) But a greater appreciation for each other emerged from our time together as we, quite simply, told stories.
Do you wish that you had an open forum at work or in your neighborhood in which you could share stories for the sake of developing a greater understanding (and even appreciation) of current identity? Do you think you could exhibit grace and learn to accept certain quirks or traits in others through learning more about their closest relationships? I highly recommend taking the time to do so.
This post might be perfect (and not because you quote me!) because you highlight the sheer joy and beauty that comes in simply listening and understanding life through narratives. When our enemies have stories it makes it difficult to keep them as enemies. A quote from an interview we heard at Duke recently was that “our enemies are people we just haven’t spent enough time in conversation with…yet.” I realize you weren’t talking about enemies necessarily, but the beauty in humanizing the “other” through sharing stories helps us to see each person is made in the image of God. Thus, storying is restoration.
Beautiful post, Stephen.
Thanks for your complimentary comment, Josh. If I’ve reached perfection, then there is no point in continuing. That didn’t take long.
Although not enemies, some of the folks with whom I was telling stories were strangers prior to our time together. Perhaps in our culture we unconsciously and dangerously too closely categorize stranger and enemy.
One of my favorite ways to spend time is in decreasing the number of strangers in my life.
Seriously, how many posts and already perfection?!? Bet your new call didn’t know they were getting perfect…not just good!
I love this: “One of my favorite ways to spend time is in decreasing the number of strangers in my life.” That’s a mission statement right there. It sums up the beauty of Mr. Roger’s vision (Jesus’ too?) really well.