I have a round wooden token on my desk that I received while attending a seminar. It was at least 20 years ago, and I’ve long forgotten the subject matter. The token has the words printed on one side: “Round Tuit.”
Reasonable guesses as to the theme of the seminar would center around urgency. That is, moving from an attitude of “When I get around to it” towards a greater sense of urgency. Here again, the play on words is powerful. Now that I have the “round tuit” I was waiting for — the time to move forward is now.
I remember an interview with Dr. Brené Brown where she described the culture of her family environment as a “lock and load” mentality. The inclination seems to suggest that her family was action-oriented with little or no planning ahead of time.
Another phrase that illustrates this tendency to respond without first looking at consequences is “ready-fire-aim.” Consultants seem to never run out of slogans that remind us of essential points.
Admittedly, I’ve collected numerous slogans over the years, trying most of them on for size and either adopting or discarding them along the way. I’ve also left for trips without so much as a map or a plan. And I’ve missed opportunities waiting for the right time. It’s hard to get the timing just right.
This reminds me of another favorite — a good plan well executed is better than a great plan waiting to get started. The goal is to find a balance between fact gathering, planning, and moving ahead.
If only it was so easy.
Who else has discovered very rational reasons for hesitation when it comes to risk? Behavior psychologists, fascinated with researching why some of us are risk-takers while others are risk-averse, have written volumes on determining where we fit.
One of my favorites is a mother-daughter duo, Katharine Cook Briggs and her daughter Isabel Briggs Myers. While their contemporaries criticize their lack of scientific rigidity in their research, their observations opened up a century of debate on the subject. Are we born as either risk-takers or risk-avoiders?
The Book of Esther is a fascinating story about risk-taking and timing and was written sometime after the fall of Jerusalem when Jews were scattered.
Sidnie Crawford, in her commentary, describes Esther’s story as “an exciting, fast-paced story…with all the elements of a popular romance novel.” The writers leave God’s role in this story to the imaginations and faith of the reader. But the storyteller’s ability to use drama and humor to expose themes of racial hatred, pride, vanity, and the threat of genocide makes this novelette a must-read. It seems fitting that Sidnie would dedicate her interpretation of Esther to her mother, who she declares is likewise a heroine. 2
The story’s setting is ancient Persia during a time when King Xerxes ruled over 127 provinces from India to Ethiopia. The king loved to show off his wealth and was generous with his guests, which sometimes included all of his subjects, whether rich or poor. His parties featured an open bar with no limits.
One day the king sent for Queen Vashti to show her off to his guests, but the Queen refused to come. The king was furious at the Queen’s rejection. So he issued a mandate naming men the head of their households with total authority over everyone in their homes. And with the urging of his advisors, Xerxes authorized a search for a new queen.
Esther was a young woman at the time and became one of the chosen candidates. She attended charm and beauty schools, along with the other candidates, but stood out among all of the others. Esther kept her heritage a secret at the advice of her older cousin, Mordecai, who adopted her as his daughter. Esther’s relatives were among the thousands of Jews living throughout Persia.
Esther becomes Queen, and Mordecai is given an administrative position in the palace with access to the king’s top advisors. Hearing two officials plotting against the king, Mordecai tells Esther, who exposes their plans to the king, who launches an investigation that validates the plot.
Meanwhile, the king appoints a new Prime Minister by the name of Haman and orders all subjects to bow to him. But Mordecai refuses to bow. When Haman demands an explanation, Mordecai explains that he is Jewish and their customs prevent showing such allegiance.
Haman is furious and goes to the king with a plan to justify arresting and executing anyone of Jewish descent. His approach is straightforward and gets repeated by candidates and politicians throughout history. These people are not like us and pose a threat so let’s rob and eliminate them for our own protection and peace of mind.
Yet who knows—maybe it was for a time like this that you were made queen!
When Esther learns that Mordecai is protesting, she sends messengers to try and convince him to stop, but he refuses. Instead, Mordecai sends back a message often repeated by persons knowledgeable of this story and facing a difficult decision.
Mordecai acknowledges the great risk that Esther is facing if she chooses to confront the King about his decision. And then, as though it was simply an afterthought, Mordecai adds, “Yet who knows—maybe it was for a time like this that you were made queen!”
Hundreds of years later people of Jewish faith celebrate the Festival of Purim. This celebration remembers the heroic acts of Esther who saved her people through her willingness to take action with urgency, despite the risk. And her story is retold year after year as part of her people’s celebrations.
Perhaps you are not faced with an act of heroism or even a decision that comes with great risk. On the other hand, life often presents forks in the roads we travel. Our choices may be between multiple options or not. But no choice is still a choice.
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1 Much of the content of this series is based on the book: Danielle Bean. You are Enough: What Women of the Bible Teach You about Your Mission and Worth. West Chester, PA: Ascension Publishing, 2018.
2 Sidnie White Crawford. “The Book of Esther,” The New Interpreters Bible, Vol III. Nashville: Abingdon Press, 1999.