Take Time to Imagine
Written by Karen Meeker
There is great benefit in slowing down and digging into the Scriptures. But is there a benefit in “imagining” the things we read?
An advantage of growing older is that life is slowing down as I am slowing down. One might think this is a disadvantage or something to be lamented, yet I think not. Here’s why:
I now have the time to savor my morning cup of coffee.
I have the time to stop and smell the roses.
I have the time to think.
And I now have the time to imagine.
The importance of imagination
Merriam-Webster.com defines imagine as “to form a mental image of (something not present).” Taking the time to envision or imagine adds such a rich texture to my Bible study—especially when it comes to an understanding of the warp and woof of the lives of women in the Bible.
It recently occurred to me that I have spent much of my life glimpsing only the surface of many things, including the stories about these remarkable women.
Now I have the time to examine the life of any woman I choose.
I have time to ask questions and seek answers. I can explore her environment and, in my imagination, envision her at work and watch her deal with the daunting and the mundane.
Over time she will become a sharper focus for me, thread by thread, each distinct and unique but adding to the whole.
Gathering the threads of Esther
Some time ago, my friend Mary Hendren and I decided to explore the intriguing life of Esther. We both enjoy research and writing, so we agreed that Esther would be a good subject for a series of posts for a blog we had going at the time.
Mary investigated the backdrop of life in a harem—its inhabitants, organization and beauty requirements. I explored the times in which Esther lived and some of the personalities affecting her life.
We consulted study Bibles, Bible commentaries, Bible encyclopedias, history books and even YouTube videos. We searched the Internet for specific topics, such as harems, ancient cosmetics and beauty aids. We regularly discussed our findings and noted any questions we still had. Our efforts yielded five blog posts, one of which, Mary’s “Esther’s Make-Over, Fit for a Queen,” consistently garnered the most interest.
One of my posts is titled “Imagine,” which I include here to illustrate how my research and imagination finally coalesced.
Imagine yourself as a beautiful Jewish virgin named Esther living in Susa under the domination of the Persian Empire. Are you old enough to care that King Darius the Great is dead, and his son, Xerxes, now reigns?
Xerxes put down rebellions in Egypt and Babylon in less than a year! And now he has a grand design to conquer Greece. Perhaps Mordecai has spoken to you of these things. Do you worry that Xerxes is amassing a 100,000-man army, and some of your friends could be conscripted? What will become of them? Where is Greece anyway? Do you know?
Chances are you’re thinking about something much more intriguing to your young mind. Can it be that Queen Vashti defied the king and refused to answer his summons? It’s being whispered everywhere. Are you relieved to learn that she was only deposed and not executed? After all, no one dares to disobey the king!
Are you watching this fateful day as King Xerxes reviews his troops amid fanfare and ceremony and moves them toward Greece and victory? The roar of the crowd must be deafening. You’re amazed at the sheer number of men and boys, wagons, horses, armaments and supplies as they pass by and slowly fade from view.
Since there are no newspapers in your day, word of their progress travels on the lips of travelers and merchants or by royal dispatches, rehearsed at stops along the way. Men like your uncle sit at the gate with ready ears, hungry for news, some of them undoubtedly reliving glory days and heartache of battles fought long ago.
Does Mordecai share news of the Hellespont disaster? A storm destroyed the bridge over its waters. Xerxes became so angry he ordered the scourging of the sea with a giant whip and yelled, “Miserable monster! This is the punishment which Xerxes your master inflicts upon you because of the unprovoked and wanton injury you have done to him.” How horrified you must be to learn the fate of the bridge engineers and workers—all of them beheaded!
The king worships pagan gods. It is common knowledge. So, when he decided to summon the gods to assure success before crossing the Strymon River, he offered five white horses to the river, and then he offered human sacrifices—nine young men and nine young girls—burying them alive. Are you a fearful, beautiful foreigner?
It is years later. The king returns in defeat and turns his attention to choosing a new queen. Suddenly you find yourself one of the many beautiful virgins sequestered in the harem precincts. All await the king’s decision. Are you delighted with your new regimen—the months of preparation with oils, potions and perfumes? Surely you luxuriate in the most delicate garments and dazzling jewelry. Do you ever wonder if this is a blessing or a curse?
Then it is your day, the day you become queen. Xerxes, king of the Persian Empire, has chosen you, Esther, to reign by his side. You have your domain, servants and your duties to attend. Life seems good.
Where there is power, there is intrigue, particularly in Xerxes’ palace. You are forced into a confrontation with the wicked Haman. Much hangs in the balance, and you must act wisely.
I see you more clearly now. I better understand the urgency of your calling for a fast to seek divine help and you are committed to moving forward to save your people. I have an added dimension—the historical backdrop of your declaration, “If I perish, I perish.” We both know that could be a genuinely distinct possibility.
Slowing and growing
Slowing down while growing older has given me time to read carefully, dig deeper into the Scriptures, and . . . imagine.
The poet Robert Browning once penned, “Grow old along with me! The best is yet to be, the last of life, for which the first was made: Our times are in His hand who saith ‘A whole I planned, youth shows but half; trust God: see all, nor be afraid!’”
I find myself affirming his prescient words. What a joyful place in life to be!
For more on the relevance of digging deeper into the Scriptures, read “Why Study the Bible?”