I lived with visions for my company,
Instead of men and women, years ago,
And found them gentle mates, nor thought to know
A sweeter music than they played to me.
But soon their trailing purple was not free
Of this world’s dust,— their lutes did silent grow,
And I myself grew faint and blind below
Their vanishing eyes. Then THOU didst come … to be,
Beloved, what they seemed. Their shining fronts,
Their songs, their splendours, (better, yet the same,
As river-water hallowed into fonts)
Met in thee, and from out thee overcame
My soul with satisfaction of all wants —
Because God’s gifts put man’s best dreams to shame.
Elizabeth Barrett Browning
When I was a little girl I made up my share of imaginary worlds and the characters that peopled them. I wrote stories since at least age 8, perhaps before. I still have old manuscripts mouldering away in cardboard boxes on the other side of the world, tropical humidity wreaking havoc on all those fading pencilings and frail notebook paper. My stories were all the companionship I had for many years, and I poured myself into them, relishing the bringing to life of each character, describing each house, plotting endless family trees, surprising myself with snatches of witty repartee for some crucial bit of dialogue. When my powers of invention petered out on one story line, I just birthed another and started fresh in a new notebook (which could explain my inability to finish a story as well as my shameless proliferation of notebooks.)
My mother at some point produced a stack of decades-old Reminisce magazines, and my old-fashioned self promptly devoured them all. Once I had practically memorized most of the stories therein by so many readings, I started cutting out the pictures of people in olden days and pasting them in a huge sketch book, adding captions to identify which of my stories the pictures applied to and which characters they stood for. This brought me hours of the greatest fun ever throughout my childhood. I collected pictures of old-fashioned houses, black and white portraits, anything I could find in our array of magazines that I imagined could resemble my stories. My mom had to make me promise I wouldn’t cut pictures out of magazines she hadn’t read yet.
Of course, these imaginary friends could never be complete substitutes for real friends, and the Lord did bless me with those along the way. As I grew older, I began to write less and live more. Hours of book reading were traded for hours of ministry or housework. And those story characters who had seemed so vivid and delightful before gradually paled in comparison to the real-life characters I was privileged to work for and with — the children I taught in Sunday school, the teens I led in choir, the adults with whom I served and shared deep conversations.
I don’t have to live vicariously through my stories anymore. I’m living God’s story for me. And it is truly a better plot than any I could have written for myself! I have been so immensely blessed by the people and places and subplots and even antagonists God has brought into my story; some I would never have chosen, some I would rather not exist, but they all are what is going to make my story complete someday. And I’m eagerly awaiting the day I will be able to read my finished story in Heaven, through its Writer’s perspective—because God’s gifts put man’s best dreams to shame.