Looking at the list of shows on cable TV, there is quite a trend nowadays for survival stories. “I Shouldn’t Be Alive” is one program; “Storm Chasers” and “Deadliest Catch” follow people through death-defying situations to show how wild work and research can be. “Man, Woman, Wild” is another one that puts a married couple (who are survival experts) in a remote location for a week to see how they stay alive. Survival stories are dramatic and they sell quite well.
What you may not know is that you have your own survival story. Maybe you haven’t gone on a reality tv-show with it, but you have faced threats in your life that you did, indeed, survive. Dangers to your body, to your self-esteem, to your reputation, to your feelings, to your soul. Harm done may have been acute (like in a car accident) or chronic (like recovering from a car accident, and getting in a car again). A lot of survival stories center around the break-up of relationships.
Whatever it is, each person creates a story about how they survived. That story tells about their own personhood, about the way they view the world, and about the relationships that helped them or hurt them. Think of a book you’ve read recently or a movie you’ve watched – what is the survival story of that character? I think of Rapunzel; she had her survival story that kept her alive and waiting, and after her prince came she had another survival story. But should she always rely on the prince? Can she write a new survival story for herself?
This is deep stuff. Often, you can imagine how once someone has a survival story, they keep living it out – the same conflict, the same result. What saved them once becomes their main understanding of how to receive love and care and hope and influence over what happens in life.
Spiritually, I wonder if the survival story we craft from our life and the way of being saved/kept safe in it becomes the primary way we look for God. For Rapunzel, maybe God comes from ‘out there’ and does not ask her to change; yet what if after her rescue she meets a mother- or sister-figure who can teach her to look for love – human love and divine – through the ordinary, the local, the ever-present? How can our God story adapt so that it keeps on saving us, into our future? I think that the story of Christ, coming into the world that already had its survival story decided (to survive, keep the law with diligence & precision) and of Christ changing the way that people can not only survive but together thrive and live. From survival to renewal. A new story, new connections.
As I read more of NLP, it always turns toward practical application, especially by frequently asking the questions: “Is it useful? Does it work?” These questions apply to little daily things (like how we put our kids to bed) as well as big things (like our personal survival stories). Often the stories that *did* work once do not work so well anymore. Our hearts, minds, spirits, souls, and bodies need to come up with new stories.
Here is an opportunity to reflect on your survival story. Where did it come from? How did it help? What are you surviving now, and what story can you imagine crafting? Where is God in your stories? What does love look like? You may find that your story begs to be shared – perhaps with a friend, a counsellor, or a pastor. Protect your story but also let it continue to protect you; and of course allow for new scripts to be created!