One of the Bible stories I’ve always found intriguing, partly because my middle name is Esther and partly because of the rags to riches theme, is the story of Queen Esther. Esther was once an orphaned girl who found herself orchestrating the redemption of her people through a single act of bravery followed by a well devised plan that simultaneously required confidence and humility to carry out.
Early on, Esther’s fate could have been sealed at the death of her mother and father, the point at which she needed them most as a young girl vulnerable to the mandates of a patriarchal society. But, her first big break was being saved by Mordecai, a relative who by all accounts of the story, seemed to have had Esther’s best interests in mind when he chose to adopt her.
However, after she had been taken in and was assumingly safe from a “life on the streets,” a national turn of events dictated that she along with several other young girls would become a part of the King’s harem, a group of females to be groomed for the King’s own picking pleasure. The whole setup reminds me of our modern day TV show “The Bachelor.” Esther 2:17 says “Now the King was attracted to Esther more than to any of the other women, and she won his favor and approval more than any of the other virgins. So he set a royal crown on her head and made her queen instead of Vashti.” So, essentially, Esther had been ‘given the rose’ based on her exceeding external beauty and maybe a little bit of feminine flattery along the way.
As the Bible story takes what appears to be quite a shallow turn, I wonder what Esther must have felt and how she might have reflected on her life up to this point. I mean, she had no mother…no father. She was relying on the advice and guidance of a male relative (Esther 2:20) who apparently had the biggest influence on her life considering he was the one who had been providing for her since the death of her parents. And then she finds herself undergoing expensive beauty treatments within a wealthy Kingdom that had little knowledge of what was happening with the “real people” outside its walls.
Maybe Esther was scared. Or perhaps she saw this as her chance to emerge. It could be, that she was worried about her adoptive father, Mordecai – who had been left outside the Kingdom to contend with ordinary life. How could she possibly keep all of this from going to her head? Or did her life just seem like one continuous succession of being transferred from hand to hand, based on her outward appeal?
No matter what her inner thoughts and feelings were, we do know that after learning of the death plot against the Jewish people, Mordecai was prompted to get frank with Esther by reminding her that she was not exempt from yet another turn of tragedy in her own life. “Do not think that because you are in the king’s house you alone of all the Jews will escape. For if you remain silent at this time, relief and deliverance for the Jews will arise from another place, but you and your father’s family will perish. And who knows but that you have come to royal position for such a time as this?” Esther 4:13-14
It’s funny how life can get serious so quick–how we can be laughing or chilling out within the context of a shallow society that lives like death is never around the corner, and then suddenly be forced to suffer a family tragedy or worse yet, look our own mortality straight in the face. Within the snap of a finger or a blink of an eye–our manicures/pedicures, shiny cars, fancy houses and 401K’s can shrink into the distance to make fools of us.
Within the four walls of our “church Kingdoms” we’ve built to enclose the best of our intentions, we get shallow real quick—forgetting that we might actually be here for a reason, other than putting our names on the church role and participating in what often times becomes ritualistic and ultimately meaningless. It’s o.k. and “It’s life” for us to stumble upon a personal destiny that seems questionable in comparison to what we would all collectively label as “Christian” and “spiritual.” But it isn’t o.k. to stop there. It isn’t enough to attend church because it’s the convenient church on the corner. It isn’t enough to occupy a seat on Sundays because it makes you feel good about the rest of your week. It was o.k. that Esther stumbled upon the opportunity of competing in a beauty pageant to win the position as Queen. But ultimately she had to answer the question that led her to her true destiny—so that she could fulfill her purpose, not only in an earthly Kingdom, but God’s Kingdom.
So, I’d like to rephrase the question that Mordecai put to Esther. “And who knows but that you have come to exactly where you are for such a time as this?”
As it’s been said from the pulpit many times, it isn’t what’s happening inside our church walls that counts so much as what we’re doing for Christ and our community outside our little church Kingdom–that will ultimately make the meaningful difference.