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Quotations I love: The answer is in a story

Lynne Baab • Wednesday March 17 2021

Quotations I love: The answer is in a story

“The answer is in a story
and the story is being told.”
—Pádraig Ó Tuama, poet, theologian, mediator, and leader of the Corrymeela Community in Northern Ireland [1]

There are a handful of people in my life who really bug me. I’ve heard that when people irritate you or make you mad, you should look at your own life to see if something you don’t like in yourself is being revealed. I’ve done that. I’ve talked about my relationships with these individuals in spiritual direction and therapy, and I have gotten some insight, but not very much.

Year after year, these relationships continue to be difficult. I want to love these individuals more. I’ve prayed that God would help me love them. I want to stop reacting so strongly to these people God created and loves. I want to understand the forces within myself and within them that are colliding. I have gotten very little insight.

“The answer is in story
and the story isn’t finished.”
—Pádraig Ó Tuama

I am a planner, and as I get older I find an increasing number of things I can’t plan. How much longer will my 96-year-old mother live? As she declines toward her death, what will that decline look like? When she dies, what will it be like for my brother and his family, as well as my husband and kids, to deal with all her possessions? Will we all still be friends afterwards?

How long will Dave and I live? What kind of trajectory will Dave and I have as we decline toward death?

I love my granddaughter with every fiber of my being. She’s turning 7 this month, and I look ahead to 10, 13, 17, 27. What challenges will she face? I can easily imagine some of the things she’ll face at each of those ages, but I know that many, many other challenges will arise. Will I be able to support her in them? Will she let me? Will I even be alive and sentient to provide support?

When will life be back to normal after covid? How much will the new “normal” resemble the old “normal”?

My family believes that I love to control things. I tell them that I don’t need things to be my way, I just need to know. The reason I like to plan is so I can know what’s happening. And there is so much I cannot know.

“the answer’s in the story
and the story’s just unfolding.”
—Pádraig Ó Tuama

I know very well that God is the author of my story. I know that God is working in my life and the lives of the people I love, bringing wholeness and peace and joy. I can look back at the story of my life, and I can see time after time when God led me to the right decision, empowered me to do the right thing, and made clear exactly what the next step was. As a writer, speaker, and preacher, I have so often experienced God giving me words at the right time for the exact situation at hand. God has provided for me over and over and over. God’s grace has poured into my life over and over and over. God’s goodness is such an important part of my story. Why can’t I rest in God’s presence and provision in my story? Why do I have to know more?

“the answer’s in the living not the knowing
the answer’s in the telling of the story”
—Pádraig Ó Tuama

Loving God, help me see the story of your presence in my life. Help me see your love, your provision, your guidance, and your help in each moment. Help me tell the story to others. Help me declare in my words and actionsyour goodness and steadfast love. Instead of focusing on things I don’t know, I ask for your Holy Spirit’s presence and power so I can see things to be thankful for and enjoy the unfolding of your story in my life.

(Next week: “No matter what happens to me, that happened to me.” Illustration by Dave Baab. I love getting new subscribers. Sign up below to receive an email when I post on this blog.)

Book focus: In my book The Power of Listening, I talk about “triple listening” – listening to the other person, listening to my inner thoughts and emotions triggered by what they’re saying, and listening to the Holy Spirit’s voice. This kind of triple listening helps us stay in the story that is unfolding in any particular moment. I also have three articles about listening here on my website. 

[1] from the poem “Narrative Theology,” as are all the quotations by Pádraig Ó Tuama in this post. The poem is in his book In the Shelter: Finding a Home in the World.

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