I started a Bible study this week on the book of Esther. It’s put out by an organization called “Women of the Harvest” (link to the left), which is like a community for women serving cross-culturally. I’m not overseas yet, but I’ve enjoyed their resources and look forward to that outlet when we get overseas.
We were to read the book of Esther with “fresh eyes” before beginning the study. I must admit, that was a hard task. I’ve just recently read through Esther and I know the book very well, so I honestly wasn’t sure I’d get anything new out of it. I really should stop thinking that when I read the Word!! Deep down, I know it’s never, ever true.
When I was done, I jotted down a couple things that stood out to me, then asked the Lord to show me something new. Boy, did He ever. I had underlined this verse, but wasn’t sure why until right then. Here it is (in the New Living): “She would live there for the rest of her life, never going to the king again unless he had especially enjoyed her and requested her by name.” (2:14c)
Probably like every good little Christian girl growing up, I thought the world of Esther. Just imagine being beautiful, winning a beauty pageant where the prize was becoming queen, and then living in the palace the rest of your life. Wow – exotic, huh? Romantic, fairytale-esk. Every movie (including the “Veggie Tales” one) portrays Esther as having just an awesome life in the palace. Yeah, she missed Mordecai, her only living relative, but man, she was Queen! It can’t get better than that, right?
This verse proves it all wrong. Yeah, she was the Queen, but she didn’t really get to enjoy married life, leave the palace, have a life of her own… she gave up a lot to be in that position. It was thrust on her, yes, but she could have botched the whole interview session, gorged on royal food and gotten fat, sabotaged the entire thing, and not been chosen. Instead, she did what she was told, did it to the best of her ability, and won favor with the King. And in the process, lost life as she knew it.
But, then Mordecai reminds her later, “…who can say but that you have been elevated to the palace for such a time as this?” (4:14c) Who can say that maybe she had to give up her life in order to save thousands of others?
You know, missionaries get put on a pedestal pretty frequently. I cannot count the number of times I’ve been told that we’re going on “quite the adventure” and “I wish we could do that – sell everything and move to a foreign country. How exciting!” and “wow – you must be so excited to get to live in South America! How cool is that?” Yeah, the life of a missionary has its perks. We’ll get to travel; we’ll get to see, eat, and experience brand new things; our children (and us) will be bilingual (I’ll be trilingual finally!); and we’ll see the Lord do things first hand other people will only get to hear about. But, there are parts of the missionary life that isn’t quite as glamorous. Kind of like Esther. Parts of her life were amazing – the clothes, the food, the housing, the husband, the job… And parts of it were probably pretty awful – moving, leaving everything behind, not being able to talk about her heritage, not being able to exercise marital rights, the fear for her life every time she wanted to talk to her husband… And yet, we pass along the story of Esther as if it was the most glamorous life and we forget to pass along the part where she gave up so much to be there. For such a time as this.
In order for us to reach people with the Gospel of Christ, we have to give up our life here. Trust me, our life was never glamorous in South Dakota, but I would daresay it was normal! It’s not normal anymore. But, like Esther, in order to save others, we have to give up ourselves, our wants, our desires, and even our “American” identity.
Maybe you’re not called to the field. Maybe you’ll never be a foreign missionary. But, you are called. You are called to reach others with the Gospel of Christ and in order to do so, you may have to leave your comfort zone, your safety, your haven of home – and walk across the street to your neighbors’, or talk to that odd person at work, or go on a short-term missions trip, or… you fill in the blank. In order to save others, you must give up yourself.
I definitely have already learned a lot from Esther. I look forward to the rest of the Bible study. Funny, though… I got more out of just listening to God this morning than reading something written by another lady. I hope you get those moments, too.