Through Matthew’s muddling

Five years ago, a fifth-grader named Matthew entered my life. I ignored him for too many years, but he’s been taking center stage lately. This morning I finished him off.

Strictly speaking, I didn’t finish him off completely. I only finished the second draft of the first manuscript in his series, Matthew Muddles Through. It seems the time was right to work on this because I was able to maintain momentum and make many improvements.

The manuscript is still a bit long for juvenile fiction, and I plan to whittle it down during the revision process.  I also hope to get the book published while it’s still of interest to the grandson to whom it’s dedicated.

That reminds me of the dedication C.S. Lewis wrote in The Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobe  to Lucy Barfield:

My dear Lucy,

I wrote this story for you, but when I began it I had not realized that girls grow quicker than books. As a result you are already too old for fairy tales, and by the time it is printed and bound you will be older still. But some day you will be old enough to start reading fairy tales again. You can then take it down from some upper shelf, dust it, and tell me what you think of it. I shall probably be too deaf to hear, and too old to understand a word you say, but I shall still be

your affectionate Godfather,
C.S. Lewis

Lucy Barfield around 1953
Image found on ownbarfield.org

I’ve read that dedication dozens of times, but this morning I realized for the first time that Lucy must have been the daughter of Owen Barfield.

A quick online search proved that true. And I learned what a difference this dedication made in Lucy’s life.

A happy and active child, Lucy learned to dance and trained for ballet. She became a dance teacher and music instructor. She was also interested in her father’s work and accompanied him during a visiting professorship in America.

Barfield was a philosopher, author, poet, and one of the Inklings. According to the Owen Barfield site, Lucy was a poet as well. Two collections of poems reflecting her “faith and fortitude” are kept at the Marion Wade Center in Wheaton (I wished I’d known when I visited two years ago!).

Sadly, Lucy was diagnosed with Multiple Sclerosis at age 28 and lived for another forty years with the debilitating disease. Before her death in 2003, she spent several years as a helpless invalid in a nursing home.

The highlights of her days came from hundreds of letters she received from children all over the world. This website credits Walter Hooper, secretary to Lewis, as saying that Lucy told him, “What a wonderful oasis of pleasure I have in this pretty terrible world, being recognised as Lucy. I have often thought how fortuitous it was that it turned out that way.”

The website quotes Hooper’s thoughts on the unforeseen benefits from the dedication: “It is like having something in the bank that your godfather has put aside to help you in lean times. It was just a compliment made by her father’s friend but it turned out to have greater significance than anyone could have guessed, including Lewis himself.”

Who could have imagined that a brief dedication in a book would have reached so far into the future to brighten a difficult life?

We can’t know—and we may never learn—how God might use the words we write to help others.

As I think about finishing up the first of my Matthew books, I pray that God will bless the grandson to whom it’s dedicated and many other readers. Whether I ever know it or not.

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