Stories That Shape Us

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Scripture references: 2 Kings 2: 1-15, Psalm 23, Acts 1: 1-11

Inspired by We Make the Road by Walking by Brian D. McLaren

“A little girl once asked her mother if the Bible story of Elijah flying to heaven on a chariot of fire was ‘real or pretend.’ How would you have answered her question?”

“You might try to explain that sometimes a ‘pretend’ story can tell more truth and do more good than a ‘real’ one – as Jesus’ parables exemplify so powerfully. You might explain how real stories often are embellished with pretend elements. Or you might respond as that little girl’s wise mother did: ‘That’s a great question! Some stories are real, some are pretend, and some of the very best ones use a mix of both reality and make-believe to tell us something important.” The mother’s answer didn’t tell the little girl what to think. It invited her to think – as a bonafide member of the interpretive community.”

I grew up hearing all the Bible stories, never questioning that they were factual. As an adult I did a re-think. In most cases I came to see an even deeper meaning in the stories. As McLaren states, “interpreters today must remember that it’s easy to miss the point of ancient stories. . .As a first step in wisely interpreting Bible stories with science, art, and heart, we need to put each in its intended historical context and get a sense for the big narrative in which each story is nested.”

When Jesus arrived on the scene the people were still expecting a militant Messiah. That is not who he was!

“We must stay focused on the substance at the center, undistracted by all the surrounding fireworks. Because the meaning we shape from the stories we interpret will, in turn, shape us.”


  1. What idea from this lesson challenged, encouraged, warmed or surprised you?
  2. How do you respond to the comparison between the story of Jesus’ departure in Acts and the story of Elijah’s departure in 2 Kings?
  3. Activate: Try to read the gruesome story of the Levite’s concubine (Judges 19-21) and then the gentle story of Ruth and Naomi (Book of Ruth)

Gail Cawley Showalter
I hold a degree from Lamar University in Speech and a Master’s from the University of Texas. I was an educator in regular and special education for twenty years, finishing my professional career as a Braille teacher. I am a Certified Professional Coach with Fowler International Academy.
I married Sam after raising three children as a single mother.
In 2007 I founded SMORE for Women. SMORE is a nonprofit whose goal is Single Moms, Overjoyed, Rejuvenated, & Empowered. My stories have been published in several Christian books and magazines. My book, Living Learning Loving, Insights and Encouragement on the Path of Motherhood is available for purchase on Amazon.

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