Your Personal Salvation History
By Mike Van Vranken
One could say that reading the bible is a study of the salvation history of God and his creation. At the same time, our personal narratives, the stories of our individual experiences of life are our own personal salvation history. Throughout the existence of education, people have found it important to study mankind’s history. And as important as this has been to our evolution as a species, an even greater importance exists in our study of salvation history. How do we take the message of the bible, integrate it with our own personal narrative, and study salvation history as it pertains to the entire universe, as well as to us as individuals in that universe?
One question we might ask ourselves is: “How has God approached me in my salvation history?” When we are willing to take the time to research and study this history, we will begin to see who we are in God.
At the top of a sheet of paper, write the words: “People in my life who have reflected God’s face to me.” Now ask God for the grace to be reminded of all the people from ages one through 12 in your life who reflected His face to you. Maybe you think of your parents, grandparents, priests, religious sisters, siblings or teachers. Talk to God about theses people and pay attention to what is stirring inside you as you remember them. Now, who were the people who reflected God’s face from ages 13 to 20? What about in your 20’s, then your 30’s, your 40’s and each decade of your adult life? Who are the people reflecting God’s face to you? As the feelings and memories stir inside you, continue your conversation with God. Ask him to show you how these people contributed to your salvation history.
Now, on another sheet of paper, write: “What were the religious images that are important to me throughout my life?” Again, look at them through the ranges of ages one through 12, then 13 through 20, and so on. What movements are going on within you as you remember these? How have the images changed as you matured? Which images, if any, are still very important to you? Ask God what all of this is saying to you about your own history with him and his experiences with you.
On another sheet, which events in your life seem to show in the clearest ways how God has approached you? Use the same age segments as you rediscover all the events of God in your life that have been so important. Talk to God about these events. What is he saying to you about them?
Let’s keep going. Do the same practice that we’ve done with people, images and events, with “songs or music” that have shaped your relationship with God. Continue the exercises examining how God was approaching you as you recall “favorite virtues,” “enemies or troublesome persons in your past,” “places,” “books,” “tasks or work” and “gifts” you been given by God and/or shared with others.
A spiritual exercise like we’ve been discussing here could, and probably should, take about a month or more to complete. This is not a quick and easy, once and done activity. It requires a disciplined study of your personal history. And, this is not an intellectual exercise. This is about entering in to your experiences with God throughout your life and recalling all he has done for you. This is about taking the time to reminisce with God and recall his blessings by paying attention to all that he has used to approach you, to be with you, to love you. This is about listening to God and to what he has been saying to you throughout your life; and what he is saying now.
As you peruse your own salvation history throughout this month, allow your eyes to be opened a little to see who you are to God; or as St. Paul would say, “who we are in Christ.” Do you recognize how he sees you as his beloved daughter or son? Who has he been calling you to be? Who is he calling you to be right now? Do you see yourself as his beloved? Do you recognize you have been his beloved since before the world began?
Yes, studying human history is an important way to grow in our understanding of God’s creation. Along with that study, a discovery of our own, personal salvation history helps us grow in our relationship with God and recognize who we are to him. Then we can discover the roles he is calling us to play, right now, in helping him build the kingdom of God.