Southland Christian Ministry Training

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Narrative Therapy

When I first became a Chaplain I did not know that part of my role was to provide “narrative therapy”. I do this in many shapes and forms but the basis of this therapy is telling stories. Yes, I enjoy telling stories, but there is always a purpose, a real life application. The fact is, any good communication process it is never just one way, a good story always demands a response from the listener. But, my job is also to listen to stories, your stories and help you to see and understand your journey. We are where we are today because of the choices we have made in the past, we cannot change that, but by telling our stories we can hopefully learn how to make better decisions in the future.

Did I ever tell you the story about Fred who because of his family situation was never able to attend Sunday School. While visiting friends he had his first opportunity and was so excited that he went home to tell his parents about it. They asked the obvious, “what was the story about?” Fred loved stories and so related how the Israelis were in a tight spot with Pharaoh and his army chasing them, yet their escape was blocked by the Red Sea. So, Moses called in the Air Force to bomb the Egyptians and that gave the Israeli army time to build a pontoon bridge for the people to cross over the water. Poor Dad was shocked! He had heard this story when he went to Sunday school, and so asked “Is that really the way they told the story?” “Well, not exactly” admitted Fred, “but if I told it the way they told it you would never believe it!”

As I listen to stories, I am sometimes saddened by the fact that some people try to adjust the facts to make the story sound better, or more believable, hoping that I don’t know what really happened. But if you fail to honestly tell the story, blaming everybody and everything else for what happened, rather than taking responsibility for your actions, there can be no growth or healing. On the positive side, I believe that God still works miracles and can bring unbelievable ends to our stories if we ask for help. The good book puts it like this:

God can do anything, you know

– far more than you could ever imagine 

or guess or request in your wildest dreams!

(Ephesians 3:20. The Message)

Chaplain Ian S Whitley