You want to entertain your memoir’s readers, but you also want to change your readers.
You want to write stories that show God’s everyday involvement in your life and your readers’ lives, stories that illustrate “everything is revealed to be in the hands of God.…” (Lawrence Kushner, Invisible Lines of Connection: Sacred stories of the ordinary)
Within that context, make sure your memoir’s stories—at least some of them—challenge your readers to think, to ponder, to mull over issues below the surface. Challenge readers to turn from worldly trinkets and distractions so they can consider their lives’ substance and purpose.
The following prayer teems with ideas for your memoir’s vignettes:
Disturb us, Lord, when
We are too well pleased with ourselves,
When our dreams have come true
Because we have dreamed too little,
When we arrive safely
Because we sailed too close to the shore.
Disturb us, Lord, when
With the abundance of things we possess
We have lost our thirst
For the waters of life;
Having fallen in love with life,
We have ceased to dream of eternity
And in our effort to build a new earth,
We have allowed our vision
Of the new Heaven to dim.
Disturb us, Lord, to dare more boldly,
To venture on wider seas
Where storms will show Your mastery;
Where losing sight of land,
We shall find the stars.
We ask You to push back
The horizons of our hopes;
And to push into the future
In strength, courage, hope, and love.
Attributed to Sir Francis Drake, 1577
Did Drake’s prayer give you ideas for vignettes? I hope so!
For example, take the first couple of lines: “Disturb us, Lord, when we are too well pleased with ourselves.…” What does “too well pleased with ourselves” mean? What stories can you write about being too pleased with yourself or about someone else who was too pleased with himself? What were the results of that mindset? Why would/should we pray for God to disturb us over it?
Look at the next couple of lines: “Disturb us, Lord, when … our dreams have come true because we have dreamed too little.…” What does dreaming “too little” mean to you? What results from dreaming too little? Why would/should we pray for God to disturb us over it? What stories can you write to illustrate that?
Sift through your memories for stories that illuminate “Disturb us, Lord, when … we arrive safely because we sailed too close to the shore.” What does “sailing too close to shore” mean to you? When did you sail too close to shore? What were the results? Why would/should we pray for God to disturb us over sailing too close to shore?
On the other hand, look over the third stanza: When did you dare more boldly and venture on wider seas where, as a result, storms showed you God’s mastery? Write a vignette about a time you lost sight of land, and as a result, you discovered stars. You’ll want to examine and explain what the following mean: “wider seas,” “storms,” “God’s mastery,” “losing sight of land,” and finding “stars.”
Stories matter. Stories make a difference.
Stories guide, inspire, encourage, influence, motivate, and empower.
Stories shape lives.
“Sometimes a particular story, or version of a story, is so potent,” says Ayd Instone, “that it becomes so interwoven in our lives that it defines the direction our life story takes and modifies behavior.… I’ve seen teenagers who changed the direction of their lives to become teachers after seeing the film, The Dead Poets Society.…”
Your stories are important. Write them!