A childhood spent in Sunday school led me to believe that the story of Esther was the Bible’s version of a fairy tale. She seemed like a Disney princess to me – dressed in fine clothes, spending 12 months in a beauty spa and chosen by the prince as the fairest of them all. Surely it’s a story of true love, with singing animals and a fairy Godmother being the only things missing.
I never learnt in Sunday school that Esther was a refugee child of perhaps 12-16 years old. I never knew that she was not given a choice in the matter- a vulnerable young orphaned girl, taken from her home by soldiers. I never understood that she would have been groomed by her ‘teachers’ to bring sexual pleasure to a man she feared, or that she might only ever see him once and then spend the rest of her life among the other women considered the King’s sexual property.
Realising that Esther was more akin to a trafficked victim than a Disney princess makes me sit up and take notice – it makes me view her with a new- found respect that has made me read between the lines of this well-known tale and see what I didn’t see before.
Esther’s story is a message of hope, of purpose and of destiny for every one of us. There are universal principles and lessons at work in this story that apply to each of us and, if we learn from her, we too can become what she became – a voice for the voiceless, a defender of the weak, an ambassador for the Kingdom of God.
Even the fact that God is never mentioned throughout the story gives me comfort when I look at my life and can pinpoint seasons where I’ve felt far away and removed from Him. Yet, with hindsight, I can see His hand was all over those situations.
Esther went from reject to royalty and so can we. We can be those who don’t let our past determine our future. We cannot control what happens to us but we can control how we respond. Whatever our external circumstances, background or situations may be like, we can decide to respond to bad things from a good place.
“If you know that God is NOT the source of your pain,
He can become the resource for your healing”
Esther was marked out from the crowd, not because of her external beauty – she was in a crowd of the most beautiful women of her time – she was marked out because of her internal beauty. Our character and how we carry ourselves shines through whatever our exterior may be. Our life experiences can turn us into victims, wracked with bitterness, anger and unforgiveness, or we can allow Jesus to turn our pain into a pearl of great value.
If you know that God is not the source of your pain, He can become the resource for your healing. When you know who He is; His character, His nature, when you know that He is for you and that in His arms you will find your healing and your hope, you will discover that whatever your past has been – however rough the hands were that shaped you – in His hands your life is a masterpiece.
Esther 2:12 tells us that before she could go before the King, Esther had to complete twelve months of beauty treatments prescribed for the women- six months with oil of myrrh and six with perfumes and cosmetics. What is interesting to note is that myrrh was used to purify, to detox and to get out of Esther all the traces of her former life.
“We cannot control what happens to us, but we
can control how we RESPOND”
When God takes us through a process of healing, there will often be a season where we feel like he is detoxing us – dealing with our attitudes, our thought processes – causing us to look at what we believe and dealing with the remnants of our ‘old’ selves. He asks us to give Him our ashes, so he can exchange them for a crown of beauty. (Isaiah 61)
And when we submit to this process, we will find that He also takes us through a time where His presence is like a perfume, where the time we have spent detoxing on the inside becomes apparent on the outside, as we begin to reflect Him more and more.
And, like Esther, this is never just for our benefit, for our own position of wealth or influence. We cannot become those who enjoy all the benefits of Christianity – the eternal life, the love, the forgiveness, the grace, mercy and hope – without taking on the responsibility that comes with it.
Strength is for service, not status, and instead of simply enjoying the influence and position of royalty that we have attained through Him, we can become a voice. We can become vessels, ambassadors for freedom instead of merely ornaments in the house of the King.
Our lives are not fairy tales. They do not have magic wands and princes that wake us with a kiss, but we do have a Saviour. We have a God that takes our broken, vulnerable selves and calls us to be agents of change. He says to us the same thing spoken to Esther – you were born, set apart, called and commissioned for such a time as this!