Adapted from Redemption by Mike Wilkerson
Keep it short: 10 minutes or less!
Usually, it’s good for one person in the group to serve as a timekeeper for the storyteller and to give a 1 or 2 minute “heads up” near the end. If you’ve never told your story at all, you might be surprised how quickly 10 minutes goes! And if you have told it before, you may be perplexed that we’re only giving you 10 minutes! How can you tell your life’s story in 10 minutes?
You can’t. And we’re not really asking you to. We know that there is far more in your life that is significant than can be packed into 10 minutes. We’re asking you to spend 10 minutes telling us some of the most significant shaping events, relationships, and patterns in your life that will give us a window into where God has you at this point in your spiritual journey. For now, we just want to have everyone weigh in with something significant. We’re not trying to hear everything there is to hear up front. We’ll look forward to hearing more from each other over time.
Where to begin?
How do you choose which themes and details of your life to share in such a short time? You may very well have 4 or 5 strands or themes within your story that are very meaningful and would give us insight into who you are and how you view yourself. Choose one or two. Others may come out over time as the group moves forward.
Share something that reveals where you are today, not just where you’ve been in the past. Telling about the past merely serves the purpose of filling out the context that helps us understand your present experience. So pick a theme that’s alive for you today. If there’s a particular concern that has brought you to a DNA Group, you should include that concern and it’s context in your life. Within that theme, share the details that most significantly shed light on where you are today. For example, your parents may have been divorced—no doubt a significant event in your life. Should you share it in your story? If it doesn’t provide some context for your current struggle, considering leaving it out (at least initially). On the other hand, if their divorce has been a shaping influence that leads up to where you are today, it might be helpful to share.
Get the idea? Think about where the action takes place in your life today, and work backward to prioritize what of your past to share.
Your story is not really about all the facts of your personal history: where you grew up, how much money your parents made, the fact that you were born on a “cold and stormy night…” Those are facts about your past that may or may not be relevant to the meaning of your past. We’re looking for meaning. Share facts of your life that help to communicate a particular meaning.
Choose only the facts that best communicate the significant meaning you want to share. Let the other relevant but secondary facts come out over time. Avoid sharing facts that don’t have significant meaning in your story at all.
What if I don’t see the connections yet?
Maybe you’re not sure how your story fits together with your present. That’s OK. It’s a lifelong process for all of us. Perhaps this experience of being a part of a DNA group will help you gain some clarity on what God is and has been doing in your life. Share what seems relevant and be open to gaining more clarity over time.
Common shaping influences
Here are some events that can have profound shaping influences on us. (See the section below for some ways to discern which of these might be truly significant to telling your story and which may be less relevant.)
- extended family history
- parents relationship
- your relationship to either of your parents
- relationships with siblings
- moments of intense trauma (physical,emotional,financial)
- moving to a new city, home, school
- harm, abuse, betrayal done to you, once or many times
- leaving home and moving out on your own
- harm you’ve done to others
- patterns of habitual sin
- conversion to follow Jesus Christ
- physical ailment, injury, defect
- patterns of social pain, suffering, conflict, trial
- times of great blessing (emotional,physical,financial,spiritual)
It doesn’t always begin with “abuse”
Often, the most shaping influences are our lives are suffering of various kinds. So if you’ve experienced abuse, harm, betrayal, severe suffering in your past that is a shaping influence, share it. Share the full weight of it. Don’t minimize it.
On the other hand, don’t try to dig for something to label as “abuse”. You may have some significant themes in your life that we need to hear about that don’t have any apparent connection to some abuse in your past.
So tell it like it is, like you see it, without feeling like you have to add something into your past in an attempt to “explain” the present. Speculative explanations won’t help, and may only distract you from getting to core issues in your heart.
Some questions to guide your sharing
Optionally, you may use some of the following questions to guide your sharing.
- What are your deepest wounds?
- Who wounded, abused, or hurt you?
- How did you deal with it?
- What lies did you come to believe?
- What suffering do you experience that is beyond your control (like abuse)?
- What battles do you face that you brought into your own life (like sinful habits)?
- What do want most deeply?
- What or whom do you most love, or most hate?
- When do you get the most sad and depressed? When do you get hopeless?
- What do you get the most excited about? What brings you the greatest pleasure?
- What do you especially want to avoid?
- What do you think you need? What are your “felt needs”?
- What do you see as your rights? What do you feel entitled to?
- Who must you please? Whose opinion of you counts? From whom do you desire approval and fear rejection? Whose value system do you measure yourself against? In whose eyes are you living? Whose love and approval do you need?