Wednesday, February 3

Images of Esther

"[Mordecai said] "If you don't speak up now, we will somehow get help, but you and your family will be killed. It could be that you were made queen for a time like this!" Esther sent a message to Mordecai, saying, "Bring together all the Jews in Susa and tell them to go without eating for my sake! Don't eat or drink for three days and nights. My servant girls and I will do the same. Then I will go in to see the king, even if it means I must die."" (Esther 4:14-16 CEV)

We all have our fascinations with concepts, ideals and even those dreams that are so far beyond the concept of our own reality that we know that they'll never come true even as we reserve that small part of our hearts for the possibility of the impossibility. We want to be policemen, firemen and doctors as we progress through our childhoods, see white picket fences and two car garages with the a-typical two point five kids and a life stretched out before us full of more joy than sorrow, more peace than chaos and more happiness than pain's embracing touch. We conceptualize, idealize and mold the form and function of everything our future will hold; the deep sea-green eyes of our better half, the twinkle of their laughter and the generosity of their profession as well as their bank accounts. After all, the opportunity to experience the American Dream doesn't cost, but its realization does.

Even in the Christian circles, we strategize with our friends and have conversations with our friends about how and what we should look for in a spouse, that significant other that will be the impus of our dreams and the center of our world…..someone who will whisper in the nighttime terrors that all will be alright and who will love you no matter what, no matter how badly things go….someone who will give us value, meaning and life. Some of us are graced with a God who requires other lessons for us to learn than the totality of missing the mark in this vital and necessary part of our lifetime 'goals', finding that one person that is our other half of the complete image of God that He designed marriage to be……..some are blessed to be so deeply in the relationship with God that they are set aside to be single, double-portioned in blessings for the sacrifice they've been called to live…..and others, far too many others, sign on for the 'idealized, secularized and socialized' institution of marriage and ,whether in months or even years, hit that moment in their lives when the windshield is shattered by the projectile of betrayal, mistrust and/or greed and the world they were once so protected against comes rushing into the compartment of our American dream and forever shatters that which was meant to be unbreakable…..we lose more than a piece of ourselves in that destruction, we surrender a piece of the complete image of God….…..there is a reason the bond of marriage were not meant to be broken; our fragile security is only a small part of it; the broken image of God that results is the largest part.

Most of us dream of the Proverbs 31 woman…..a super woman if there ever was one in the biblical text. And these women are in the church pews, in the background working, and in a multitude of other locations being the very essence of God's image of a nurturer and relationship builder… their husbands, their families and friends, even the grocery packer at the local market. They take what they have and use it in wonderful and glorious ways….not for a feminist declaration of what a woman can do, but because they have soaked in the presence of God and know His image He has set aside for them to radiate. I have known such women and am amazed at the powerful testimony that stands in the work of their hands and the relationships of their hearts.

But I have discovered that the Proverbs 31 woman isn't for me….the dream of that woman 'made for me' is not such a woman, though the image of such strengths and powers and sacrifices are but part of her……………….and the realization that she may not exactly exists in this world, in this time, has caused an uneasy, uncomfortable realization that I may not be able to ever find someone that will not leave or betray me…..for I am not a simple man, with a simple life, as much as I have been desperate and misleading sometimes in my hope to be.

Life has been a process, a step by step journey. There was no realization when I was young about the 'woman' I wanted to marry. My birth mother had left us at the backdoor entrance of the supermarket on five mile and telegraph (now an AutoZone) after calling our Dad to come get us……we would see her some ten years later for about three or four hours. My mom, step-mother in the parlance of the world, would raise me and my siblings…and be felled by the specter of my father's infidelity. The 'replacement' woman in my father's life would cause more scars and damage than anything else……the only image I had of a real woman for any long term was my grandmother on my father's side……

If I could find a woman like my grandmother, hopelessly devoted to my grandfather (as he was her), and capable as my mother to love children not biologically her own….well, that was enough for me. But quantifying those qualities…that was the kicker. While a Proverbs 31 woman is a wonderful ideal….but there is so much more to the 'woman' of my dreams that is necessary…..that special something that is beyond the scope and breath of Proverbs 31.

No disrespect to that Proverbs 31 woman I have known……she continues to amaze and defy those around her with her strength, compassion and conviction.

I think I realized when that Proverbs woman was gone that I wasn't looking for the 'checklist' type of woman. I was looking for a woman who was designed, shaped and molded by the forges of this world; its sorrows, its joys into a woman impossible for the times……and me. I figured I'd be as capable of finding her as making the Red Sea part on my own.

There was no such thing as a modern-day Esther.

Esther has always fascinated me, not only because it is the only book in the bible that doesn't have God in its story….at least in mentioning Him by name or utterance. It isn't the fact that here was a beautiful woman…..drop-down, awe inspiring, "Helen-of-Troy" trouble kind-of-beautiful woman……who was from humble beginnings that would guide her into the realms of power and influence because of her physical beauty. It isn't the fact that she saved the entire nation of Israel…..under decree to be eliminated because of one man's evil desires.


No, these things are the surface that anyone who can read and comprehend can understand about Esther…..a Jewish orphan who became the Queen of one of the greatest Persian Kings of historical times….Xerxes and who is forever attached to a time of Israel's deliverance from destruction……"a star" that shone in the Persian skies. That doesn't take into account her clear judgment, self-control and firm decisiveness that you see a step below the surface as you read one of the greatest sub-stories of love in the tome of the Greatest story of Love……..nor does it take into consideration the simple fact that Esther was a woman of discernment and prompt, deliberate, intentional action.


Esther is a woman who may have been expected to live under the context of her beauty and simply protective of her status as Queen, especially seeing how the previous Queen was quickly and quite effectively removed from that position…..but, above the love she felt for the King and the love she had for her life…..she had a connection with God and a determination to be His 'woman for times such as these….'


Her uncle tells her what will happen if she turns away and tries to protect herself, and there is no hesitation…….she goes to prayer, immediately……and promises action to be borne from that prayer. Even if the result was that she would die, after setting it right with God, she wouldn't hesitate……and as the story shows, she navigates love, heritage and faith with a complexity borne of discernment and grace through the Persian laws and traditions, bringing about Israel's protection from the genocide and visiting vengeance born of God's hand back upon the one who would have destroyed them…..with the reveal of her heritage and the protection of her love to the King.


A complex woman for the times she was needed…..forever linked to one of the most powerful, God-protecting moments in Israel's history…….


That is the woman for me. That is my Esther.


And, I think I've found her……….



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