The first of these two articles (http://bit.ly/2tl1o7Y) introduced Narrative Therapy and described some of what a counselor using this approach does with a client. Now let’s look at how much of Narrative Therapy fits in with God’s Grand Story.
Look at the similarities between therapeutically seeing one’s life problems in the context of a personal story (Narrative Therapy), and viewing the world’s story from the Christian perspective (God’s Grand Story). Our lives play out within the overarching story of God’s redemption of the world in general, and the person the particular from sin and failure. God intervenes in each life, saving, directing, and preserving. He seeks to bring us back not to our original state of “Garden of Eden” innocence, but to re-make us as his beloved and redeemed children. Knowing that is our new role in the story should arouse awe and excitement.
In short, we now matter, and we matter a lot.
A question most humans ask some time in their lives is: “What is this all about anyway?” “Is there any meaning to life?” Seeing one’s life as part of the Grand Story answers these questions: this perspective gives each person meaning in life, a place or role to play in their story, and also makes their decisions and actions meaningful and real. The agency of the client, belief that ones’ actions can and do matter, and bring about change, is encouraged and restored.
Having agency is crucial for each person. Seeing oneself as a person whocan determine and decide what to do, how to respond to unexpected and expected events from outside, and what direction to go, are all essential to being a whole person. Of course, our ability to decide what happens is limited; we will all die eventually, but we can still make real decisions while we are alive.
Re-claiming one’s agency moves a person out of a state of helplessness and seeing feared events as inevitable. If a woman who has been abused and dumped by a brutal man begins to heal, and finds meaning as a new person–despite the damage–she is reclaiming agency. She is not inevitably going to fall into abusive relationships again.
In neither Narrative Therapy nor the Grand Story of God are events inevitable. Failure does not have to produce more failure, and a person is not a prisoner of their past. In terms of Narrative Therapy, this means that we have real agency. Our decisions matter because we matter, and we have the ability to determine and decide aspects of our lives.
An interesting thing happens as well with this kind of approach: the client becomes like a consultant, or specialist, about their life. The counselor guides much of the process, with the client knowing the material inside and out, since it is their life they are handling. In a Christian setting, the client is encouraged to become the co-author with God of the future of their life, and the counselor asks guiding questions, reveals insights, calls up the client to more congruence or integrity in their actions and attitudes, and in general encourages the client in the direction they have ultimately chosen.
A final observation about seeing our life stories within God’s Grand Story is how this perspective can change our view of time. Two concepts of time are in the Bible. Chronos is the idea of constant, unchanging, passage of time, in almost a humdrum manner. It carries a sense of rolling waves of time, and inevitability of events. On the other hand, the word kairos means at a specific time, as in Christ came at the perfect moment, at the appointed time, the exact
moment in history when all conditions were right. Kairos describes a moment of change, an extraordinary thing happening in the middle of the ordinary. In the incarnation Jesus broke into human history as a baby, and his life, death and resurrection are the means to unshackle mankind from inevitable results of all sin. He interrupted history.
In a similar way, we can have kairos moments in our individual lives, when a truth or insight breaks through that changes everything. Those kairos moments interrupt the unchangeable “normal” of life when God breaks into our routine and set ways, and we are changed. Then, we can continue that change as we walk out the rest of life; this is our New Life.
If you are struggling with lack of meaning in your life, or feel caught, or if your find your life journey has led you to an impasse, don’t hesitate to contact me.