Ever walked into a movie halfway through? You were likely scrambling your brain trying to figure out what’s happening on screen. If you were lucky you had a friend whisper in your ear to catch you up.
Often, when people attend the Storyline Conference, this is their experience. Only they’ve not walked into a movie, they’ve walked into their life. It’s just that they hadn’t been paying attention.
One of the ten exercises we do at Storyline is to fill out our timeline. In this exercise, we list the positive and negative turns we’ve experienced and then place them on a grid that allows us to see the trajectory of our lives.
There are many benefits to this exercise, but the biggest ones are:
1. We realize that we’ve been blessed more than we’d previously thought.
2. We get a general sense that somebody is watching over us.
3. We realize that the negative turns in our lives eventually turn out okay.
4. We also realize that the negative turns have usually produced some kind of blessing, either by shaping our character or by preparing us for an important responsibility.
5. We begin to understand that our experiences have prepared us for something important.
You don’t have to attend a Storyline Conference to fill out your timeline. You can do it at home. I recommend creating the timeline with a group of friends or with your spouse. Here’s how it works.
• List the positive and negative turns you’ve experienced in your life. If you are 30, you’ve had between twelve and fifteen. A positive or negative turn is a story term and all good stories involve BOTH positive and negative turns. You can’t tell a good story without conflict, so the negative turns are just as, if not more important.
• Rate each positive turn on a scale of +1-10 and each negative turn on a scale of -1-10.
• Draw a horizontal line across the middle of a sheet of paper. At Storyline, we provide an elongated, folded piece of card stock. You may need a long sheet for this. (Imagine an elongated goalpost like in football. You want to draw an “H” with the center piece stretched across the page.
• In chronological order, place each life turn on the page. Draw a line up and list positive turns (the line should be as tall or short as the number value you gave it. Do the same for the negative turns.
When you’re done (this is a reflective exercise and it may take you a couple days) go through each negative turn and ask yourself why you are grateful that this hardship happened to you. Ask yourself what is the redemptive value of this negative turn.
I’ve posted a picture here of Joseph’s timeline. Joseph was the shepherd in Genesis who became the second most powerful man in the world. As you can see, his life was filled with trouble. But if he hadn’t been sold into slavery, run Potiphar’s house, been imprisoned and run the prison, he would never have been qualified or able to become great.
Life looks differently when you understand it as a story.
Also, share your timeline with a spouse or close friend. At Storyline, we are always amazed at how couples who’ve been married for years understand each other in a much more comprehensive way.