Esther Chooses to Belong

Be All There

The story of Esther is one that sometimes feels foreign to me because of the vast difference in her culture and mine. To live in a place where she can be pulled from her home and made a sex slave to the king (my words, not the scriptures) at the whim of a ruler, seems such a terrible way to live. The word of the king is absolute law to the point that the people would live and die at the word of one man.

I don’t know what it would have been like for Esther to have to give up the life she expected to have to serve the king. She was the “lucky” one selected to be the Queen, so she lacked for nothing. Still, she was essential a servant who risked her very life when she entered the throne room without permission. Hardly what I’d call freedom even if it was the most lucrative position a woman could hold.

In addition to seeing Esther’s predicament, we see how it affected Mordecai, her uncle. The Bible doesn’t give us a character chart of Mordecai, but we can see how much he cared for Esther. In addition to taking care of her when she was orphaned, he visited the court of the harem to try to hear if Esther was doing alright. It doesn’t say that he was angry about Esther being taken, but it’s difficult to imagine that he’d not have any angst over it considering how much he seemed to love her.

Knowing all this about them, it would be easy to assume that they fought the system. It seems like they’d have the right to be angry and not listen to or help those who took away their chance at a “normal” life. She not only didn’t seem to sulk about her situation, she excelled during it. She gained favor and attention with those responsible for her. Of course, this was all a part of God’s plan, but God’s plan might have had to be very different had Esther ended up sulking and pouting about her life changes. She was where she was and she owned it.

After Haman’s plan was put in place to eradicate the Jews, Esther once again showed she owned her position. She didn’t whine and complain and demand. She handled the situation with grace and wisdom. She knew to approach the king in a way that would appeal to him, not necessarily in a way that appealed to Esther. Esther put her life on the line when she walked in to his courtroom without permission. That wasn’t an easy choice. She and her women helpers fasted for three days and she asked the all the Jews in Susa (where they lived) to fast and pray as well in preparation for her death walk.

Even then, she knew better than to ask the king her request in the courtroom. She knew the power struggle that was always present then. The Bible doesn’t say who was in the courtroom or anything else about the political posturing of the day, but those things have existed since Cain and Able and they were surely there as well. Esther knew better than to open up with her request right then and there.

Esther play it smart, and Esther owned her position. She didn’t cower; she didn’t demand. She used what she had at her disposal to better the situation for the Jews. She once again knew that she risked her life telling the king she was a Jew. She hadn’t told anyone the entire time she’d been in the harem or since she became queen. By admitting it now, the king had the option to dismiss her as queen the same way he’d dismissed the previous queen (or worse).

In this story, it all turns out well. The heroes are honored, the villains are destroyed, and the people are protected. Everything seems to have a nice bow on it. In fact, it’s easy to think that’s the point of the story. But I don’t think it is. As I look at this, that’s a perk of the story and it’s a good thing to keep in mind: we are the children of a God who has an angel army to protect us. Who then shall I fear?

The real power in this story, though, can be summed up in this quote from Jim Elliot: “Wherever you are, be all there!” No matter the difficult circumstances that Esther found herself in, she was all there in grace and dignity and beauty.

The Cost of Choice

In the movies, the bad guy has the good guy in a terrible place. You can save yourself or save the damsel in distress. Feeling close to victory, the bad guy demands, “Make your choice!”

This is the same for us. We are faced daily with choices that bring us closer to God or farther away and we alone have the power to decide what we will do.

What is Choice?

Choice is something that is so much a part of our day and our routine that we often don’t recognize what it is what we’re doing. Our choices range from the mundane choices about what to have for breakfast to life altering choices like what to study in college. The choices that make the biggest impact on our day are the ones that impact our daily routines.

Our daily routines are what build our habits and our habits reveal our character. Our choices are so powerful and so interconnected with who we are that it is important to understand the process of making a choice.

Watch your thoughts, they become words;
watch your words, they become actions;
watch your actions, they become habits;
watch your habits, they become character;
watch your character, for it becomes your destiny.

– Frank Outlaw

Merriam-Webster defines “choice” as: “the opportunity or power to choose between two or more possibilities.” That is the simplest form of choice, picking on thing when you’ve been offered more than one thing.

Yet making a choice is rarely that simple. Choice becomes complicated when there is some kind of a value put on each option until there is a cost for choosing one over the other. When there is loss implied with a choice, it is no longer as easy. So how to we begin to make the choices that we know we need to make even when the cost is higher than we thought it would be? Then, after fighting and winning, why do we so often go back and pick up the option that we thought we’d turned down?

It Felt So Decided

We are in the world of one and done mentality that tells us that if you have to redo something, you failed the first time. We are in a world of supercomputers that calculate complex mathematical ideas quickly and correctly the first time. We are taught through cultural expectations that once you get it right you’re done. Can’t run the track in the time limit? Do it again. Ran it successfully? You’re done.

Choice may or may not work that way. There are times when we have a figurative “come to Jesus” moment where something in our mind shifts and we just are different. My personal theory on that is the type of emotion and the level of catharsis: too little and there’s no motivation, too much and the mind says all the work has been done. Why this happens sometimes and not others, I can’t explain. If this happens, be grateful and live it out. (Not living it out can reverse the effects, so don’t take it for granted.)

In the times that choice doesn’t work that way, it because choice must done right once, and then done right again, and again. When we are making lifestyle choices, we have to be in the place to make them and make them again and make them again. If we are relying on self-control to make these choices, we will run out of fuel. There is not enough mental capacity in us every day and every moment to make us stay on track.

There’s a better mentality to have, one that keeps our choice ever in front of us without requiring self-control in every temptation to make it.

Changing Your Status

The temptation of choice is only there as long as it is a choice. Once it’s no longer an option, there’s no battle. The battle is the decision. If the battle is continuing, the choice hasn’t been made. You may be using self-control to override your impulses or ignore the waffling, but it doesn’t mean it isn’t there. You may only fight this battle under certain circumstances and haven’t recently encountered the trigger that sets you off on this waffling.

Another conflict that keeps us in a decision making loop is that we’ve made a choice and are lying to ourselves (or others, but that means we’ve lied to ourselves first in most cases) about what choice that is. We know what should go with this one, but deep down we want this one. We tell ourselves we’re OK with picking the “should” option. If, however, we are still thinking about it, still wanting it, no matter how small the desire, we will end up in conflict about it eventually.

To make a complete choice, to fully decide, we have to not only select the option that we want to purse, but we must close the door on all the other options on the table. We must not string out the choice or pick one with qualifiers.

Removing our interest in other options is commitment. It is dying to your past life. This is what it takes to change. If you were living in sin and you have been transformed and died to your old self through Jesus Christ, the choices from your old life are no longer an option. Why? Because you have to? No, because you realize that you are free for all things, but the only ones worth pursuing are the ones that bring life. The ones you choose means that there’s a whole lot that you don’t choose. If we only have one option in front of us that we’re told we have to take, then it’s not a choice. Choice means taking something from one or more things and letting go of all the ones we didn’t take.

“Any customer can have a car painted any color that he wants so long as it is black.” – Henry Ford

When we are faced with making the choice again, it is time to ask ourselves, what option have I left open (or what desire have I not been honest about) that has brought me back to this choice? It may take several times around to be willing to honestly and openly look at yourself and see what you have been desiring that is in conflict with your choice. Each time though, you have the option to fully and completely commit and choose.

Jesus said to him, “No one who puts a hand to the plow and looks back is fit for the kingdom of God.” – Luke 9:62 (NRSV)


The Effects of Removing Choice

  • Peace
  • Clarity on life choices
  • Success in what we’ve been called to do, by God’s standards
  • Loss of things we’ve long desired
  • Change in the perceptions of others/Loss of status from others

When the door has been closed, peace can come.

Another way of saying this is that the contentment with the current circumstances comes when we fully acknowledge that other choices that were available to us are no longer available.

When We Give Up the Right Choice

We can make a mistake no matter how long we’ve lived or how long we’ve walked with Christ. As we learn how to make choices more completely, our mistakes in making choices not only will have a deeper impact on us, but we might be less willing to admit we made a mistake. This is where having a God of mercy and kindness is an amazing experience because He will lead us back to places that we thought were long gone. He redeems our mistaken past choices, no matter how good our intent, so we can walk in the fullest freedom with Him.