How God Used My Fictional Character to Teach Me True Things

what-if-fictional

What if our characters are real?  What if they are actually the souls of unborn children who died before birth, and God gives them to authors as inspiration for characters in our stories?  What if we will meet all our characters someday in heaven?

When I came up with that fun fictional concept last week, I didn’t intend to write a story about it.  I just thought, “Haha, this is a cool idea.”

But a dear friend urged me to write a story, so I decided I would have some fun with it.  I flung my “Is this the best use of this concept?” worries to the wind, and sat down and wrote the first thing that came to me, the idea that tugged at my heart – a near-death scene where I encountered my most precious fictional character, Kevin, from beyond the grave.

It was like lightning struck.

It was fun, the way skydivers find jumping out of a plane fun. 😛

The entire couple of hours I worked on the story, adrenaline buzzed through my body.  I poured out words without inhibition, completely honed in on the emotions of the scene, blind to everything around me.  When I finished it was like I was walking on air.  I floated upstairs and went to bed, worn out and slightly totally obsessed.

I knew this story would be exciting and interesting to write, but I had no idea it would leave me full of tension and aching with yearning.

I had no idea that for two days I would cry out to the Lord for help and wisdom, terrified that I had built my own character into an idol by envisioning him as a sinless saint from heaven.  (I already adored the guy as my character, and now he’s perfectly sinless and “alive”??)

I had no idea the adrenaline would leave me with muscle cramps and no appetite for half the week, and I would lose four pounds in four days from the stress of remembering the story, re-reading it (more aftershocks of adrenaline!) and sharing it with some fellow authors in my writer’s group and elsewhere (*terror* Will they despise this chunk of my soul??).  It was not a real experience, but as far as my emotions were concerned, it might as well have happened in reality.

And I had no idea that as time passed, God would suddenly hush the siren-cry of character worship and catapult me into a spiritual ecstasy so joyous that I (the totally introverted shy person!) would go grocery shopping and smile at everyone I passed and want to talk to them, even mentally fish for ways I could share the gospel as I went because I was full to bursting with Christ’s joy.

What is this madness??  God, who am I and what did You do with myself?? 😀 

For the first couple of days, I thought I had made the most horrific writing mistake of my life.

I prayed for wisdom and just waited for some convicting inner urge to delete the whole thing and never think of it again.

I felt like it blurred the lines between reality and fiction and was too close to a “ghost story” for my personal comfort.  I thought it was completely off-the-wall-weird and I deserved rotten tomatoes flung at my head.  I thought I had walked right into a swamp of temptation and my imagination had led me astray (it wouldn’t be the first time).

But I prayed that God would use this piece of writing for other purposes, to glorify Himself to me.

Suddenly, while thinking about the themes in the story, my heart was captured by eternity and my Savior in a new and incredible way.  I had been seeking the Lord in a stale fashion for a long time, going wearily through the motions because I should, despite having no deep feeling there…and suddenly I was all feeling.

My emotions were gushing over, uncontainable.  I could no longer gripe about any hardship, rather bursting forth with reasons for praise and gratitude.  I started delving into God’s word not because I should but because I was delightfully starved for it, and I got fresh bursts of adrenaline simply reading about heaven.  I overflowed with prayer of all kinds throughout the day, not just simple thank-Yous or petitions, but full-hearted, amazed exaltation.

Things that Kevin said in the story convicted, encouraged, and uplifted me.  His glorified zeal for the Lord was infectious!  I started applying his words to my daily life across the board.  Discussions about the story with fellow writers who read it led me to more snowballing epiphanies and spiritual joys, both about my stories and my real life.

Wow!  God really doesn’t care about my prayers being organized or eloquent – He is patient and doesn’t mind me taking time to formulate my words or pause for a minute just to feel in awe.

Wow, He has perfect, personal love for me.

Wow, Lord, You have given me the promise of heaven!

Wow, when I am suffering You cradle me in your almighty hands like a mother holds her hurting child.

Wow!  When I push my characters to overcome their flaws, and I’m sad about their pain but know it is best for them, that must be how God feels about the trials of our sanctification.

Wow to everything.

My “revelations” about God were not new. Mostly they were things I already believed, grasped, and agreed with in theory – in my brain.  But pouring them out on paper, experiencing them so intensely that I was physically in pain for days afterward, suddenly they became tangible truths wrapped tightly around my heart and flowing out of my actions and words.

And the timing was impeccable.

This week my daughter’s neurological issues worsened.

For some time we’ve been waiting impatiently for her neurology appointment in mid-November, watching her increasing symptoms with concern.  But in the past week week her speech clarity took a nosedive.  She struggles to speak articulately, a new problem that is deeply concerning.

A few weeks ago, I might have been a distraught mess at this new development, frustrated by my helplessness, and angry at the lack of speed in the medical world.

But it is very hard to feel grumpy or angry about anything when you almost died and met your character from heaven, 😉 and had him gently point you toward the earthly service of Christ and the love of God that holds us even through agonizing pain.

I have wept to see my daughter struggle, and wept imagining the worst.  Trust in God doesn’t erase pain, though He holds us through it.

But I am not angry, not despairing, because my eyes are set on life beyond this fallen world, and the Savior who bought me for that life.  He is the surpassing treasure that will sustain me no matter what else happens!

The road might be hard ahead.

But because of what I’ve learned from that short story, I feel prepared by God to meet it.

I am blown away by God’s kindness.  I can’t stop talking about it!  Not only did He revitalize my faith right when I needed it (so I could hold His hand tighter rather than flailing and panicking when things got harder), but He also taught me these lessons through one of the things I love most: writing stories, my characters, and exercising my imagination.  He used my favorite thing to touch my heart!  He could have brought me these lessons any old way – sermons, blog articles, a simple talk with a friend – but he chose to do it through my own passionate storycrafting.

I almost wept with joy as I realized that.  What a personal, sweet expression of His individual love toward me!  It was like a parent giving their child a new folder full of schoolwork, and decorating it with stickers of their favorite animal – or giving them glasses to see with and getting them frames in their favorite color.  But this was deeper and more delightful than those kinds of tiny tokens.  It was an approving and loving validation of my imagination’s worth and why He gave it to me.

God used my own fictional character I love to take rarely-applied truths from the depths of my mind and apply them to the depths of my heart.

I can’t quite express why that was so incredibly special to me, that He taught me this much and used this writing experience as the catalyst…but it was a gift, and I treasure it.

One friend has joked that my stories make me bold.  They break me out of my shell to talk passionately, or make me do crazy things (like snap surreptitious photos of random strangers just because they look like my characters).

I guess this is why God gave me stories.  To make me brave.  To make me bold.

I don’t think this particular story is “going anywhere.”  It’s esoteric, odd, and probably only touching for fellow writers who share the yearning for their character to be real.  It’s slightly messy, with no real plot.  It will never be published.  It’s so deeply personal and so true to my imperfect soul that I cringe at parts to think that I’ve actually shared this with anyone!

But I realize now it wasn’t for anyone else, so their opinions don’t matter. God meant it for me.

I will never forget this tiny story, because God used it like a lightning rod to set me ablaze again for Him. <3

Then I heard what seemed to be the voice of a great multitude, like the roar of many waters and like the sound of mighty peals of thunder, crying out,

“Hallelujah!
For the Lord our God
    the Almighty reigns.
Let us rejoice and exult
    and give him the glory,
for the marriage of the Lamb has come,
    and his Bride has made herself ready;
it was granted her to clothe herself
    with fine linen, bright and pure”—

for the fine linen is the righteous deeds of the saints.

And the angel said to me, “Write this: Blessed are those who are invited to the marriage supper of the Lamb.” And he said to me, “These are the true words of God.” Then I fell down at his feet to worship him, but he said to me, “You must not do that! I am a fellow servant with you and your brothers who hold to the testimony of Jesus. Worship God.” For the testimony of Jesus is the spirit of prophecy.

– Revelation 19:6-10

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16 Comments

  1. I have been so glad to listen to this enfold. You have encouraged me with your godly attitude in this trial with your sweet baby girl (who I pray for daily!), and given me wisdom about heaven.
    Now I want an epiphany like this too! <3

    Reply
    • Maybe if you pray God will give you one! 🙂

      You know, I think part of what made it SO special to me that God taught me these lessons through that story – was because He taught them to me and flamed up my faith “proactively.” He did it before the occasion of worry hit. Of course when we go through trials we pray more, we seek God more, etc. As sinful human beings, we tend to not seek Him as much when life is going better for us. If He had waited until Cora got worse and THEN revitalized my faith, I would have been full of sorrow and upset at myself despite being thankful to Him. Like, “Oh man, was my faith so shallow when I wasn’t this anxious? God must be chastising me. This is what it took to make me seek Him more exuberantly?? I’m lousy!!” Etc. But He did it BEFORE. He didn’t let me tumble into the hole and then catch me on the way down; He basically picked me up in His arms and said, “Hold on to me – we’re about to jump.” <3 It changes the nature of the lesson and the nature of the trial SO much. I cannot possibly wonder if it's a punishment when God was clearly holding me tight going into it.

      *happy sigh*

      Reply
    • Thank you for praying for us and for being there as my sounding board and ever-supportive loving friend!! <3

      Reply
  2. What an amazing story. I’ve long been fascinated by the power of fiction to seem alive and real. I’m no poet but my attempts at poetry in high school always ended up about that subject. And having God use such an experience to shelter you through these trials – wow. I’ve been massively struggling with worry/anxiety the past month. I always seem to at this time of year (pretty sure I have some S.A.D.) but this year has been the worse. And in the midst of my constant seeking of Him, He keeps sending me messages like this one to strengthen me. I’ll be praying for you and your sweetie.

    Reply
    • Thank you SO much for your prayers! It means a lot to me. 🙂

      I will pray for your anxiety – I know that’s no fun! 🙁

      Reply
      • You know, back when I first read this, I had the niggling thought, “what if God is doing the same thing and preparing me for something?” And I answered that thought with a resounding, “Oh I hope not!!” And then Hubby found out over Thanksgiving that his entire workplace is getting laid off soon – it is doubtful he will have a job by the end of February. And if I had known this back in Oct/Nov, I would have fallen apart. But God has done such a work in me learning to trust in Him that I am handling the uncertainty a thousand times better than I ever would have expected. It’s still not easy but He is getting me through. I thought you’d appreciate. (And I agree with Kelly – I’me very curious about the story!)

        Reply
        • I’m so sorry to hear about your husband being laid off! That’s rough. 🙁 Praying for you and him!

          I can so relate to what you said here. I’ve always had a fairly peaceful life, and I used to think, “What if God is just letting me off easy for now because He has hard trials ahead?” That always scared me. But ever since this experience, writing the Kevin story, I’ve found I simply don’t care what God has ahead, because I know down to my depths that He is good and is always loving in what He sends.

          In fact, after I wrote this story and had my spiritual epiphany, I was telling a friend about it all and she joked, “I hope this doesn’t mean you’re going to die soon.” In the past, such a suggestion would have made me freeze over inside a little – but in fact I had already considered such a thing, and my response (both to my own imagination and to my friend) was just to laugh a little and say, “I don’t even care!!” When I am trusting Him with no holds barred, I don’t have to worry, “What does this mean?” or “What is potentially going to happen?” because I am just thrilled to be in His plan and to know that it is GOOD no matter what. 🙂

          Reply
          • Sounds like we think along the same lines sometimes. I told my husband about a year ago that I felt like I was waiting for the other shoe to drop. That the struggles and worries we have experienced don’t compare to the hardships I have seen friends and family encounter – that our turn would come eventually and I wasn’t looking forward to it. But I’ve been coming to realize we shouldn’t compare our struggles anymore than we should compare our talents or careers, etc. God works in us according to His knowledge and will and that means all sorts of different circumstances and situations. And we can’t live our lives borrowing trouble or worrying about tomorrow – in fact, we’re commanded not to! The Lord is my shepherd! And He is good! (Our pastor, who is struggling with cancer, gave a fantastic sermon about that just a few weeks ago.)

          • Amen to all that!!

        • Oops, in response to Kelly I thought she was talking about my trilogy with the character in it, not the actual story about him being dead and visiting me from beyond the grave! If you want to read that story, the one I wrote here, I’m happy to send it to you. I just warn that it’s oddball and weird. 😛 😉

          Reply
          • Ah, maybe she was? Now I’m not certain either. lol. I would like to read it but you had said it was intensely personal so if you have any qualms about it, please don’t feel obligated to share it. (Do you need my email address? I think you already have it…)

          • I think I have it, but I’ll let you know. 🙂 I don’t have qualms, but I do hope it’s not totally confusing to read, haha.

  3. Kelly

     /  January 6, 2016

    Found your blog through the Realm Makers blog post, Link Party. I would love to hear more on this story. Please write that book! 🙂

    Reply
    • You’re so kind, Kelly! Writing the book is my plan for this year…hoping to get it fully revised and even submitted/accepted places! 🙂

      Reply
    • Oops, I have to make a correction/clarification – by “this story,” do you mean my trilogy the character is from, or the story with my character being dead and visiting from heaven? The latter is finished and I don’t plan to do anything with it (but will share if you want to read). The former is in production. 🙂

      Reply
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  • About Bethany A. Jennings

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