holy curiosity: a sucker for a good plot twist (dani scoville).

Oh friends, you are in for a treat today. Dani and I have been acquaintances for awhile, but we’re about to become Real Deal Holyfield friends soon enough. So enjoy her thoughts on this year’s guest post theme of “Holy Curiosity” – because, if you’re a sucker for a good plot twist, then you’ll most definitely be a sucker for her storytelling ways. Have fun!

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There was nothing more thrilling for me as a child than a trip to the library. I had the shelf locations of all my favorite books memorized, so upon arriving I’d grab those titles first then spine by spine thoroughly review the rest of the children’s section. Walking to the counter with a tall stack of books and my own library card, I’d beam with pride. At home, I’d curl up on the sofa and escape into the story contained on the page, loving the characters and wondering what would happen next.

A couple decades and a literature degree later, and I’m still completely enthralled with story. Printed, digital, spoken, you name it. I am all about that narrative. I’ll groan with pleasure at a good plot twist, character development, or fulfilled foreshadow.

These days, though, my curiosity is struck by the real stories of people and how God shows up for each of them. It’s what drew me to be trained as a spiritual director. Getting to listen to my directees’ stories of daily life, prayer, and God movements feels like witnessing little miracles.

It builds my trust in God’s presence and activity in the world and my life.

In listening to others’ stories and experiencing my own, I sit back and turn over the details in my mind, wondering how the pieces fit or will fit together. Why did the job or relationship end at that time? Why does it seem like everything in this person’s life is changing at once? Could this be a kind of preparation for something big, like a move out of state?

There’s a sincere curiosity and perhaps naive trust in the idea that it all has some kind of meaning. This doesn’t mean the absence of pain, but that there is, at least, significance. The hope of meaning has helped me persevere through heartbreak, grief, and liminal spaces, and walk with others through theirs.

Often in hindsight, I see the narrative arc of God’s story. Such as a massive layoff at my first job out of college propelling me to move to San Francisco, where so much professional, relational, and spiritual growth has happened over the last 7 years. The arc reminds me that twists and turns make for a better, richer narrative than a straight shot from plot point A to B. That the mystery is exactly what makes the story worthwhile. And perhaps, there are no superfluous details or events.

But here’s the thing, sometimes my curiosity with story gets a little out of hand.

I can turn it into an attempt at predicting the future. When something is happening, I try to discern its meaning beyond the present moment. I know I’m in trouble when I start narrating a situation in my head.

This thought process led me to believe that my last relationship was the real deal because he and I had both lost a parent the same way. Because of this I wanted our relationship to be miraculous — that somehow what we did together could redeem our shared losses. When the relationship ended, it made me wonder what was the point of us having something so specific in common.

There was a narrative arc, but it bent in a different direction with different meaning.

As much as I love a good plot twist in a story, I hate real-life change and the unknown it brings. Such as the break up and entering the 30-something dating scene. Or my coming Spring graduation from my three-year spiritual direction program. Or the ongoing question most San Franciscans have of living in one of the most expensive cities in the country: should I stay or should I go?

On my best days, I lean into God, trusting that my story will unfold in time, remembering I am not the true narrator here and predicting what happens next will only lead to disappointment. On my worst days, my anxiety makes me keenly aware of all the possible negative plot turns that could happen.

Yet when I prayerfully look at where I currently am in the story: the beauty, difficulties, and characters in my life, I mostly feel gratitude echoing within me. That there even IS a storyline helps connect me to the reality of a divine narrator who loves me enough to give my story meaning.

So I watch the story unfold in front of me with the same sense of anticipation I did as a girl when the story was on the page. I release my grasp on discerning meaning in the moment, and let the divine mystery be just that, a mystery.

Dani_2015Dani Scoville is a mystic, Jesus follower, blogger, music enthusiast, Enneagram nerd, and friend. She is currently in her final year of training as a spiritual director at the Mercy Center. She lives in San Francisco with two friends that feel like family, and a tiny dog that looks like an alien named Olive. To find more of her writing, visit her blog.  It’s Cara again: I know. I KNOW: Dani’s words to us were a treat, that’s for sure. Show her some love by leaving a narrative-filled comment below. 

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