Because I’m a writing scholar, I see everywhere the writing of narratives. Of course I mean the literal writing of narratives, as when I tell a story here, in words. But I also see everywhere how we write and revise the narratives of our lives, of identities, of our memberships and intentions.
This idea isn’t mine, nor is it new. But that doesn’t mean it isn’t true. And these days, I’m seeing how it’s especially true when it comes to discernment. Discernment is a storytelling activity. Everywhere people are discerning God’s call to them, those people are writing a narrative. It’s a narrative of what will happen going forward, and a narrative of what was meant to happen, looking backward. I’m especially interested in the backward part– a story made entirely by revising.
As any writer can tell you, revising takes bravery. What if my story hasn’t meant what I thought it did? What if my steps weren’t leading where I thought they would? And what, then, if I am not who I thought I was? To make a new story out of one’s life is not only to make a new story, it is also to let an old one go.
Jesus– the Jesus who, having been not only fully God but also fully human, knows what things are like for us– must have known this too. What stories did he have to revise along his way? What did he have to let go of?
These are my discerning thoughts at the beginning of an especially discerning Lent. And this old-but-good post from Amy Butler reads the temptation of Jesus as a discernment narrative (wrapping it in one of her own). She writes:
“Vocational discernment totally unmoors us. It turns us around, sets us off course, rattles our comfortable cages. Thinking about what we’re called to do and who we’re called to be in the large picture of God’s work in the world does have the potential to call us to greatness…and it has the potential to destroy us.”
Like I said, revising takes bravery.