Why Esther? Part 3: The Sunshine State
(In case you were wondering, that drawing is illustrating Emily Dickinson’s poem, “Success is counted sweetest”…Yes, it’s even worse at second glance. And that is why I teach English and NOT Art.)
Anyway, Part 3 – The Finale (insert dramatic music – dum dum DUM).
2008. Tampa, FL. God had given me my dream job – teaching AP English at a Christian school. I wasn’t writing much at the time – unless, of course, you count corrections on papers as writing. Which, technically, I guess it is. But no book loosely based on Esther was being written in the margins of my students’ essays. Not intentionally, anyway.
That fall, the vast majority of my female students were completely enamored with a certain book series. The series isn’t important. Stop trying to guess. (Like you don’t know it – who am I kidding? But that’s not the point.) They were so enamored that I had to read these books just so I’d be able to have conversations with the girls at school. So I took them home three years ago this week and read them.
I got it.
I wasn’t halfway through the first book before I knew exactly why the series was so popular: it tapped in to a longing teenage girls – and grown women – have. A longing to be loved. Not puppy love. Not first love. Not even passionate love. Unconditional, you-are-the-center-of-my-universe, I would die for you love.
When I finished this series, though, I felt sad. Not because the books are “bad”, but because they are so right. We do long for that kind of love. But it won’t come from a guy, not even a great guy. I happen to have an amazing husband who does put his needs above mine and who loves me in spite of all my flaws. But he doesn’t meet all my needs. He can’t — no human can — because he isn’t my savior.
Jesus did love us enough to give his life for us. He is the one for whom our soul longs, the one who gives us purpose and hope and joy, the one who never disappoints, never leaves, never makes a mistake.
And, so, in December of 2008, I started thinking, “Someone needs to write a book where Jesus is the hero, the great love of a girl’s life. A book where romance with a boy is secondary – it’s a good thing, but it isn’t THE thing.”
And then I thought, “Maybe I could be that someone.”
(Disclaimer: I am in no way saying I am the first person to think of that. There are many wonderful fiction writers who point their readers to Jesus.)
But I knew this book shouldn’t be too preachy. I know my students get “preached at” enough. They need to laugh. But it needs to be full of biblical truth, too. I didn’t want to just entertain. I wanted more than that.
And then I remembered Esther. The study I had done several years before (See “Deep in the Heart of Texas” post). I had studied other books of the Bible since then, of course, but the lessons from that study stayed with me. God is always at work in the lives of his people. That is the theme of Esther, and that truth is played out every day in my life and the lives of everyone who knows him. So, I thought: “Hey, I could write a modern version of the Esther story!” But how?
My wheels started turning. I am a HUGE “Veggie Tales” fan. I mean HUGE. My kids all slept on Veggie Tales sheets in a Veggie Tales nursery underneath a handmade Veggie Tales quilt with hand painted Veggie Tales pictures surrounding them. I started watching Veggie Tales before I even had kids. I love what Veggie Tales did to Bible stories. They made us look at them in a whole new way – Joseph was a wild west cucumber, David an adorable asparagus. Those videos were funny, but they spoke truth and they pointed the readers to the author of truth.
That’s what I wanted to do. But in book form. For teenagers. Minus the veggies.
And that’s how it started. My desire as a writer is the same as my desire as a teacher – I want the young people God places in my life to know how much God loves them, to know the Christian life is exciting, a little scary, sometimes dangerous, but always fulfilling. I want them to know the love they are looking for isn’t lost at all. The love of our lives is right here with us, waiting with open arms for all who choose to accept him.
“For I am convinced that neither death nor life, neither angels nor demons, neither the present nor the future, nor any powers, neither height nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God that is in Christ Jesus our Lord. ” Romans 8:38-39