catapult magazine

catapult magazine

Vol 11, Num 3 :: 2012.02.03 — 2012.02.16


Our stories

I am lying on my stomach on our living room floor, my head resting in my hands and my legs are bent at the knees while my feet are playing in the air. I am adjacent to Tim, the son of my parents’ friends, who is sitting cross-legged, also on the floor. Tim is six years old and I am five, about to begin school. As I watch him study the Sunday funny pages, I feel envious: I want to read just like Tim. I can’t wait to read.

Miss Sletton, my third grade teacher, is reading aloud from Little House on the Prairie by Laura Ingalls Wilder. My head rests on my arms which are folded on top of my desk. My eyes are closed as the story unfolds in my mind’s eye. I have fallen in love with these characters and want to hear more of the story. One chapter a day frustrates me and because I can now read chapter books on my own, I ask my mom to take me to the public library to check out my own copy of the book. I read ahead of Miss Sletton and know how the story ends; nevertheless, I enjoy hearing the story again.

I love stories. I love reading stories, hearing stories, viewing stories. As I grow older I am nourished by stories — nourished in my mind and soul. At middle age, I find the stories that feed and sustain me the most are spiritual memoirs. A spiritual memoir is the story of a writer reflecting on his or her life in relationship with God. The memoirist’s story becomes part of the Universal Story — God’s loving interaction with humankind. Edwin Gaustad said in Memoirs of the Spirit, “One seeks to know the self better in order to know God better.”

There a few writers whose books I return to regularly. All are contemporary women whose stories help make sense of my own story. Tim Hansel suggests that “all of our theology must eventually become biography,” so I read their biographies as a way to discern my own theology.  Here is my short list, in no particular order:

  • Kathleen Norris: Dakota, Cloister Walk, Amazing Grace.
  • Anne Lamott: Traveling Mercies, Plan B.
  • Barbara Brown Taylor: Leaving Church, An Altar in the World, Preaching Life.
  • Nora Gallagher: Things Seen and Unseen, Practicing Resurrection.
  • Patricia Hempl: Virgin Time, The Florist’s Daughter.
  • Roberta Bondi: Memories of God, In Ordinary Time, To Love as God Loves, To Pray and to Love.

I am lying on our living room couch, reading the most recent book by one of my favorite writers. My husband kisses me goodnight and teasingly says, “Don’t stay up too late.” He knows I will stay up until I finish the book. I want to know more of the writer’s story, of how her theology becomes biography. I am eager to let this story — and the Universal Story — sink into me to shape and inform my story.

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