Why Reading the Bible as a Story Matters.

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- Jen Wise

I’ve read the Bible straight through 11 times so far this year. I should clarify: 1) it’s the children’s version and, 2) no, I’m not a weirdo.

Last year when my then 3 year-old son asked for his own children’s Bible, I quickly popped one into my cart online and with the magic of Amazon Prime it was at my door the very next day. My kids were off the wall with excitement (it doesn’t take much!). They begged me to start reading right then while we ate our lunch. I agreed - and being only a week or so before Easter I thought, “We’ll start with the New Testament… and if we work at it we could get all the way up through the resurrection in time for Easter.” I love tidy little plans like that. 

Well, we started reading. And reading. And reading. I kept waiting for them to get bored or to ask if we could switch to Spiderman books, but every day at lunchtime that little Bible was waiting for me at the table. By the time Easter rolled around we had blown past the resurrection and were rounding the creation story. Who knew?

An interesting thing began to happen as we continued to devour this book time and time again. My kids were taking it all in as a grand story. Characters developed and family lines grew – themes emerged – action rose and fell. 

Now, being a combination of theologian, mom, and over-thinker, I’ve spent countless hours mulling over ways to teach my children narrative theology. I’ve worried not if they’ve been exposed to scripture, but how they’ve been exposed to scripture. Yet it never occurred to me that by sitting down and simply reading the story, as a story, they would hear just that: a story. 

When we read the Bible as a story, themes emerge – we begin to understand who God is, what he is doing, and who we are in light of that. Rather than coming at a passage as an isolated event from which we will extract a moral saying, or trying to pull a few words to build a case, we see the character and movement of God in a dance with his people. We see God wooing and engaging and saving and guiding and disciplining… all in order to bring restoration and reconciliation to a world he loves. 

In this way we now have a story, our story, from which to engage the world. We’re not searching for a chapter and verse to tell us ‘yes’ or ‘no’ to dilemma x-y-z. We’re asking, “How does this line up with who God is? Does this fit my identity as his child? Am I forwarding his restorative mission?” Rather than just reading the Bible we have ingested it, it is a part of us – and we understand that we are living the story. 

During our daily lunch routine it is not unusual to find scraps of paper with (very primitive – an artist I am not) drawings of the Biblical story. These little scraps contain few details – still, they tend to be my answer to a number of questions that pop up. “Why _____?” “Well, because remember, all these years..._____.”I love our little scratch pad sessions – I love visually reinforcing this story and passing it down to my kids as our family story. Who are the Wises? We are children of God – we are agents of his work – we are world changers – we are a restorative force – we are cultivating his life in this world and sharing his love. We are a part of his story that is being played out at this very moment.

The first page of our children’s Bible says, 

“In the beginning, the world was empty.
Darkness was everywhere.
But God had a plan.” 

I love this page. Every time I read it I feel a sense of thrill, a sense of ‘I am in on this plan.” My prayer is that as children of God we will ingest his word, make it a part of ourselves – and live out his story toward the restoration of the world.

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Jen is a compassionate theologian, obsessive foodie, constant hostess and voracious reader. She attended Cornerstone University and Gordon-Conwell Theological Seminary earning a Master of Arts in Theology. Jen has written articles, curriculum and blog posts for various ministries around the country. Jen lives with her husband and their two sons in the Twin Cities. Catch up with her on twitter @jenlwise.