Alert listeners at this past weekend’s Gospel Coalition Conference for Women may have noticed that both Tim Keller and John Piper quoted a woman named Virginia Stem Owens. I don’t know how many poor souls like myself have somehow missed this writer and teacher extraordinaire along the way, but I am happy to share a gem I discovered in the treasure trove of her blog. Here she is writing about the human need to tell story…
“Say you go on a trip – an Alaskan cruise or a visit to a previously estranged relative. If you return and no one asks you to tell them about it, don’t you feel that the experience was somehow incomplete? If no one listens to the tale of our travels or trials, we feel a little, sometimes a lot, frustrated. The human race seems to have a deep seated need to narrate our lives to one another.
Because, I believe, we have an inborn need to give a shape to our lives instead of experiencing life as only a jumble of sensations — just one darn thing after another, a string of unrelated occurrences. We do this by identifying ups and downs, what was good and what was bad about the day or trip or lifetime. We want to figure out what caused certain actions. Did we get fired because we were incompetent or because the boss was paranoid? Was the high score on the history test a result of hard study or pure luck?”
And as we shape our story, we shape ourselves. We come to know, or at least think we know, ourselves. We all live inside some story. We have to. What, we want to know, does it all mean? And somehow we have settled on stories as the best tool with which to make meaning of our lives.” Virginia Stem Owens in Remembering Your Life at Virginia Stem Owens blog