Estelle: You’re name is Vivian, isn’t it?
Vivian: That’s right. And you’re Estelle, aren’t you?
Estelle: That’s right. You’ve been here for two or three weeks now, haven’t you?
Vivian: More like five.
Estelle: So what brings you to us?
Vivian: After my husband died five months ago, I sold the house.
Estelle: I’m sorry for your loss. My husband died seven years ago last November.
Vivian: And I’m sorry for your loss.
Estelle: How do you like the retirement home?
Vivian: It has a lovely garden.
Estelle: Yes, I’ve seen you there. You walk and sit down, then get up and walk around some more, then sit down again.
Vivian: It’s a nice place to pray.
Estelle: I see. What do you pray about?
Vivian: I pray for my children and grandchildren. I pray about heaven. I thank God for the life he’s given me. What do you pray about?
Estelle: I don’t pray much any more. I guess I’m out of practice. I used to—in my younger days.
Vivian: What happened?
Estelle: Nothing really. I went to a revival when I was a girl. Got saved. I was very pious after that. Read my Bible every day. Went to church every week. Twice on Sundays. Passed around Bible tracts.
But after doing that year after year, I lost my zeal. You know how that goes.
Vivian: No, I don’t know how that goes. I know it happens. I’ve seen it happen. But I never understood it.
Estelle: Don’t you every get tired of hearing the preacher say the same thing week after week?
Vivian: Yes, that can be a bore. But I always have my Bible.
Estelle: But after you’ve read your Bible cover-to-cover, what else is new? You know how the story ends. How it began. Everything in-between. How many times would you read the same murder mystery?
Vivian: The story’s the same, but I’m not. Every time I read the Bible, I see something I didn’t notice before. It speaks to me in different ways at different times, not because the Bible changes, but because I change. It’s new to me because I’m new to it.
Estelle: To me, reading the Bible is like reading a novel. It talks about a lot of people I never knew. So they might as well be characters in a novel.
Vivian: When I was a girl, the Bible talked about a lot of things of which I had no experience. But over the years, I’ve been through many of the same things. Suddenly, it’s as if that part of Scripture was written just for me, with me in mind. With my name on the envelope. Like a letter to a friend.
Estelle: Such as?
When I read about Abraham, Joseph, Jacob, David, Elijah, Anna, Elizabeth, Esther, Mary and Martha, Ruth and Naomi, Sarah and Hagar, or the woman at the well, I enter into their lives, and they enter into mine. I’m following in their footsteps. Seeing the world through their eyes. We’re on the same journey. Headed in the same direction. They had a head start, that’s all.
Estelle: It isn’t real to me.
Vivian: It wasn’t real to me either. Not when I first set out.
Estelle: God doesn’t speak to me. No angels appear to me.
Vivian: Maybe you’re looking for God in the wrong place. Every day of my life is a story that God wrote for me to act out. Every morning I know that God wrote that day’s story. I read the story by living the story. When I go to bed at night, I close that chapter, and begin a new chapter the day after. So every day is an adventure. A chance for me to discover what God has planned for me from all eternity. Just for me. For my little life. For the life he gave me. Which is why I never get bored by life.
Estelle: No angels?
Vivian: No need. I sense his presence everywhere I look. He told my story. The story of my life. His story for my life. And he has added my story to the story of Adam and Eve. Moses and Noah. The Apostles and prophets. It’s all one continuous story. I’m just in a later chapter of the same book. And, at the end, there will be a family reunion.
Estelle: You mean, when you die?
Estelle: What do you think death is like?
Vivian: You said that, for you, reading the Bible is like reading the novel. For me, it was just the opposite.
Estelle: What’s that got to do with it?
Vivian: For me, death is like a storybook character coming to life. When I was a girl, I tried to be a good Christian. Like an actress. Learning my lines. Playing my part.
When I first read the Bible I felt as if I was peering through a window. Looking in from the outside.
But as time when on, I began to feel that I was on the other side of the window, looking out. I became more like the men and women I read about. More real, if you will.
Estelle: And when you die?
Vivian: When I die I’ll leave the old me behind. She used to be the real me. But she’s more like a fictional character now. The girl I used to be. When I look back on my life, it’s like reading a novel. About someone else. Was that me?
Estelle: And now?
Vivian: And now I no longer play a role. Because I am the role I used to play. The actress is dead. The character has come alive. I poured my life into my role, like hot wax in a mold. When I die, I’ll leave the old Adam behind, and step out into heaven as the new me, the true me. What I was meant to be.
Estelle: Well, it’s about time for dinner. Tuna casserole on Tuesdays.