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  • Writer's pictureDon Walker

Narrative and Meta-Narrative

A few years ago, I took a course in "contemporary family counseling." This course dealt with various approaches to family counseling that are currently in use. One such approach is "Narrative Therapy," which is based on the premise that "people live their lives by stories" and "families are formed, perpetuated, and transformed by the stories they share." This perspective is significantly important as we understand the influence of postmodernity upon our culture. In this way, narrative therapy departs from the scientific reasoning of modernity and embraces "narrative reasoning" (which is an important conceptual idea in postmodernity). This approach emphasizes understanding and interpreting our lives through our stories and sub-stories, through which we find meaning in life.

As a believer, this approach intrigued me because of its parallels with Biblical teaching. To begin with, the Bible is primarily a collection of stories that have been handed down generationally to enable us to understand and interpret the larger context of our own lives. In this the Bible provides us with a "meta-narrative," the "big story" from which we are to view our own story. To illustrate, the big story is the story of the forest, while your story is the story of a tree within the forest. Your story must be understood within the larger context of the forest.

The Biblical story is the story of a Father and His Son, that is the meta-narrative. My story, and your story, must be understood in the context of this meta-narrative in order to understand and properly interpret our individual stories. Your life story is that of an "epic journey," with various twists and turns, plots and sub-plots, new characters appearing and older characters departing, there is tragedy and comedy, there is mystery and romance. But none it has ultimate meaning apart from the larger story - the meta-narrative. We lose our sense of meaning and purpose in life when we fail to see it, in the context of the meta-narrative.

Abraham, Moses, David, Jeremiah, Peter, James, John , and Paul are all part of the meta-narrative. But then again, so are you. Your name and your story may not be part of Scripture, but you and I are still part of that big story. The big story is not all about you, but you are in the story. Your story is a story within the big story.

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