Monday, May 14, 2012

A Sanctified Imagination - V. Nesdoly

With our minds still full of praise for mothers, I am reminded of a Bible mother who was not only a good mother-figure (she was called a "mother in Israel"), but also an inspiration to those in any vocation, especially writers.

 "Thus let all your enemies perish, O Lord! But let those who love Him be like the sun when it comes out in full strength" was the prayer of judge Deborah (Judges 5:31). She was a woman leader of Israel who also had a vivid imagination. The "Thus" in her prayer refers to the details of her victory over Sisera as we find them in her song (Judges 5:1-31). This victory ballad is full of imaginative specifics.

Deborah describes in gory detail the incident of Jael killing Sisera with the tent peg and the hammer. She imagines Sisera's mother waiting for her son to return from battle. When he delays, Deborah envisions how this woman and her maids will explain his lateness to themselves:"Are they not finding and dividing the spoil: To every man a girl or two; For Sisera plunder of dyed garments..." (Judges 5:30).

But Deborah's most inspiring use of imagination is in Judges 4, before she ever has reason to sing that song. Then the situation is still dire. Israel under the thumb of Canaanite King Jabin (and Sisera, his army commander), hasn't seen a ray of hope in twenty years (Judges 4:3). Yet Deborah says to Barak (the commander of Israel's army): "Up! For this is the day in which the Lord has delivered Sisera into your hand. Has not the Lord gone out before you?" (Judges 4:14). Her faith in God fuels her imagination so that she sees the victory before it ever actually happens.

Deborah's use of imagination demonstrates three ways we can use our imaginations.

• To affirm our faith: 
We sanctify our imaginings as we use them in the service of faith like Deborah did when she challenged Barak to go to battle with her. This is building a visionary future on God—His person and promises—and then going into action to make it a reality.

• To communicate the human experience:
Deborah's description of Jael's actions is imagination put to use in the service of story and poetry.

• To deal with misgivings and worries: 
Deborah's speculation of how Sisera's mother is handling her son's delay shows how imagination can supply us with feelings of well-being. However this kind of imagining can easily disintegrate into worry when we  fuel it with pictures of the bad things that may be happening.

How do we employ these facets of imagination in writing?

Our articles, stories, poems, and scripts begin in our imaginations. If we write at God's bidding, we lean on Him for vision and strategies on how to go forward with our ideas, and then we take those steps with faith-filled imagination.
We use our imaginations to communicate the human experience via story, poem, script, or anecdote. Writing is using imagination to  inhabit our characters. Words are the gestures. The page is the stage.
We resolve to use our imaginations in ways that help us. What are the chances of us finishing a story or a book if we nurture the negative pictures our imaginations so readily supply, of editors throwing our submissions in the garbage, or our books garnering one-star reviews? Rather, we must choose to use imagination positively to envision (and pray into) our projects being accepted, our books published,  and our efforts making a difference in someone's life.

May we as writers use our imaginations in all the positive ways that Deborah did.

(Adapted from "A Sanctified Imagination" published on Other Food: daily devos November 20, 2011)

 - Violet Nesdoly


Peter Black said...

Violet, Deborah's inspiring ministry to her people and her encouragement to and coaching of Barak, resulting in God's granting them that amazing deliverance of Israel from their oppressors have been an inspiration to me since boyhood.

Thank you for your *imaginative* application of the narrative to those of us who write! :)

violet said...

Thank you so much, Peter. Some Bible characters just keep on catching the imagination of generation after generation. Deborah is one of those. (I think she's especially inspiring to women.)

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