Mapping Your Story

I remember the first time I realized I had a story. Prior to that moment, I thought I was a normal person going through normal problems with normal amounts of pain and difficulty. Then I met a woman who challenged me to press into the storyline of my life. With her and God’s help, I began to explore my story, and in the process, I discovered plotlines, recurring characters, and narratives that I unknowingly lived under. Discovering my story reoriented the trajectory of my life and ultimately drew me to become a therapist so that I can help others understand and explore their own stories.

Romans 11 is all about finding ourselves in God’s story – and sometimes we need to familiarize ourselves with our own story in order to press into God’s larger story.

Life is disorienting. Years can slip by before we wake up to the reality of our own life. We often live unconscious to our coping mechanisms, habitual problems, blind spots, emotions and relational difficulties. When we are disconnected from our own stories, it can be hard to even recognize that a bigger story exists, let alone that we are invited into it. However, when we take a little time and intentional effort to look at our story (with the help of Jesus, of course) we soon discover how our unique story fits within God’s larger story.

Understanding our own story also alleviates the pressure of our being the main character or writing an ending that ties everything up in a pretty bow. When we locate ourselves in God’s greater story of redemption, we come to a place of rest, knowing that God has a plan that is far bigger than our own.

One way you can begin to uncover the storyline of your life is by doing a story map. Mapping your life’s story simply means you plot out the significant events, people and moments in your life, and then look at how they have shaped who you are today. A simple way to begin is by literally plotting these moments out on paper, creating a timeline.

This timeline is more than just a list of chronological events – it actually holds the key to understanding what God is doing in your life and how he is intentionally inviting you into a better story. You might even be surprised at how it leads you to greater healing and wholeness in your life.

HERE IS A LINK to a basic story map graph that you can use.

1.  To start, begin listing out important moments in your life chronologically, ranking from -10 (the most painful or negative) to +10 (the most positive or joyous) on the graph. Allow yourself to list any important event, person or moment that comes to mind. Sometimes a seemingly insignificant incident in 3rd grade is actually a pivotal, life-shaping moment – nothing is too small to map out!

2.  Review all of the moments that you have listed on the paper. As you review them, ask yourself, “Which moments changed me or the trajectory of my life forever?” Circle or highlight those moments.

3.  It can be helpful to actually write out a story for some of the more important events. Write as if you were writing a story for a book or a movie script – let your creativity draw you into the details of the scene. This allows you to look at particularities of your story with new eyes. You’ll likely see emotions, details, dialogue and circumstances of important events with greater understanding and clarity.

4.  Review your timeline and look for:
        a.  Prominent or recurring characters
        b.  Vows that you made in the moment (“I’ll never let that happen to me again…”)
        c.  Techniques you adopted to get through difficult events
        d.  Common themes
        e.  Messages that were spoken over you by others (“You are such a well-behaved child…”)
        f.  Areas where your story feels “stuck” or like you never found resolution
        g.  A trajectory that your story seems to be on

5.  Pray and invite God to help you interpret the storyline of your life. Our lives are made up of small stories and events that become part of a larger narrative that we live under. Ask God to help you uncover some of these narratives to see how they might be affecting your life.

6.  As you receive clarity about your story, who God has made you to be and where your story is headed, you can intentionally bring your story into alignment with God’s bigger story. Where do you need redemption in your story? How can you allow God to graft your story into his greater story of rescue and restoration?

7.  Share your story. Few things are as powerful as allowing another person to behold your story. Whether it is a friend, Stephen Minister, spouse or therapist, a safe person listening to your story with caring ears can help you find new ways of connecting your story with God’s bigger story. 

If you desire to dive more into your story, here are a few resources for you:
To Be Told, Dan Allender
Reclaiming Your Story, Merle Jordan
Story Workshops, The Allender Center
The Place We Find Ourselves podcast
Restoration Counseling

Becky is a therapist and spiritual director. She has been a member of Faith since 2015 and serves with Faith’s Photography Team and Writing Team. Becky enjoys writing about soul care and cultivating a deeper life with God.

Becky was born and raised in Colorado and enjoys spending time with her husband, gardening and exploring God’s creation.