Thursday, March 12, 2009

Esther Lessons

I am sad that tomorrow is the final day of my Esther Bible study by Beth Moore. It has been such a lovely study for the last few months as I have transitioned from one phase of my life into the next. And Tuesday, crazy enough, was actually the second day of Purim, the holiday that commemorates the deliverance of the Jewish people from the hands of Haman as recorded in the book of.. (drumroll please)... Esther.

So, in honor of Purim, Esther and transitions here are five of my favorite Esther reminders:

1) God is specific. I am always so tempted to look at what seems like a series of random events in my life and say, “Wow, what a coincidence.” But when I’m reading the story of someone else’s life, someone like Esther, it’s obvious that none of those things are coincidence but that God plots things out specifically in our lives to take us down the roads we need to go down. It’s just a little easier to see it when it’s someone else's story.

2.) Some things are worth losing face over. When Mordecai, Esther’s cousin/adopted father, finds out that the Jewish people are to be annihilated, he “tore his clothes, put on sackcloth and ashes, and went out into the city, wailing loudly and bitterly." (Esther 4:1) He saw no need to save face. He saw no need to keep the mask on and pretend that something did not need to be done. He was at the ultimate point of vulnerability because he knew that the cause he was weeping over was more important than any pride that he would hold on to by pretending not to be in need. There are moments when God needs me to be vulnerable. There are moments when God needs me to put aside my pride and be open to the possibility of hurt/rejection/judgement of others because something greater is at stake.

3) Moments that feel insignificant may be the biggest piece of my puzzle. Mordecai told Esther that she was not allowed to sit pretty in the palace and watch her people be annihilated. She may have been created for this very moment, for a "time and a place such as this". (Esther 4:14) Certain moments in my life feel like assignments that could have no divine significance. But when I look back (as Esther did) I can see that God placed me in that moment because He needed me to be there.
Beth Moore said: "At strategic times of internal war I stop and ask myself, 'What if this is a critical moment? What if this very thing, this very decision, is the most important piece of the puzzle comprising my purpose?'"

4) There are simple inconveniences and there are authentic tribulations. Mordecai sends a message to Esther who lives in the palace that she must speak to the king in order to stop the annihilation of the Jewish people. Esther sends a message back saying that would put her life in danger (in other words, "Sorry, I can't help.") and Mordecai sends ANOTHER message to her telling her "Do not think that because you are in the king's house you alone of all the Jews will escape." (Esther 4:13). Ouch. Then he tells her that she could have been created for this very moment.

Beth Moore makes the point that perhaps Esther's life had become so privileged as a queen that she was completely detached from the needs of her people who were condemned to die: "If we distance ourselves long enough from real needs, we replace them with those that aren't. Pretense becomes the new real and suddenly a delay in the delivery of our new couch becomes a terrible upset. We are wise to force ourselves to keep differentiating between simple inconveniences and authentic tribulations. The more detached and self-aborbed we become, the more we mistake annoyances for agonies."

5) "If I perish, I perish." (Esther 4:16) Esther went before the king knowing that doing so was risking her life but she knew that her life was not her own and she did it anyway. The greatest battle has been fought and won by my Lord and Savior. Death's sting has no power over me. If I fail/hurt/am rejected/go broke/lose my life, so be it. I do not have to live this life in fear of those things because I do not even have to fear death.

Happy Purim.

P.S. Photo by tanakawho from Flickr.

P.P.S. Two Days until Morocco.

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