Esther: The Cost of a Calling
The story of Esther has always been one of my favorites, to be fair I have many favorites, but Esther ranks somewhere near the top of the list. When I was little, I found something glamorous about her story, an unknown Jewish girl plucked from obscurity to become the queen of a nation. I don't know about other little girls but I had a flair for the dramatic and an imagination to go along with it. I could get lost for hours in the stories that I created, stories where I was beautiful and glamorous and rich and brave. Compared to all the other Sunday School flannel graph characters, I thought Esther had it all. She was like who I wanted to grow up to be.
When I did grow up and began a genuine relationship with God, I quickly came across the most well-known verse in the book of Esther, “Who knows whether you have not attained royalty for such a time as this?” When I found it, it felt like a war cry to my soul. Through it, God reminded me that I was here for a purpose, that I was royalty for a purpose, and His timing was perfect in that purpose and it filled me with fire! It still does. I've realized that it's not just me, though, who connects so strongly with this verse. I believe it is a standard raised as a rallying point for everyone with a calling, everyone with a heart for the advancement of the Kingdom of God. It's not just my war cry but the war cry of an army. It's fiery and passionate and bold and only one part of a bigger verse!
Mordecai's message to Esther isn't just a hype statement said to motivate a chorus of 'amens' and bring up the energy in a church service. No! It is a call to action! He starts out, “If you remain silent at this time, relief and deliverance will arise for the Jews from another place and you and your father's house will perish.” That's the bit that we tend to leave out from our feel-good quotes. Your “such a time as this” comes at a cost, Esther's sure did.
All of the glamour and pomp that became Esther's world paled in comparison to the price that she was required to pay to get there. She lost her name and her culture, her family and her friends. The very essence of who she was needed to be hidden, in fact even the very name, Esther, means “hidden”. She grew up an orphan girl named Hadassah who was adopted by her cousin Mordecai. I don't think it's an unrealistic jump to assume that her dreams for the future had more to do with settling down with a nice Jewish boy than becoming one of the many wives of a Persian king. But when they came to take her away, her life was changed forever. Hadassah was left behind with all of her hopes and dreams; only Esther, the hidden one, remained.
While doing some more research into her life I realized how drastically the lives of not just Esther but all of the girls chosen to compete for the attention of the king would have changed. These were young girls, teenagers, girls the age of my own daughter, and they were taken from their homes never to return. This wasn't like some televised reality competition, that if they weren't chosen they got to go home to their families. No, once they were taken to the king, once he took from them what he wanted, they didn't get to go back to their old lives, they spend the rest of their days living as concubines under the guard of eunuchs in the harem of the palace. Even though Esther was chosen as queen she still had very little freedom but with even more scrutiny. I wonder if she questioned the purpose; if her crown felt less like an honor and more like a shackle? The hidden one was now living in the forefront.
But Esther wasn't the only one whose life was flipped upside down in order to fulfill the calling of God. There are many examples but the story of Daniel has so many parallels, yet they paid vastly different prices! I'm realizing as I grow and mature in my walk with God that it's unhealthy to compare what someone else has had to pay with what I have, it only leads to compromise or judgment depending on the circumstance. My cost is between myself and my God and yours is too. But just like Esther and Daniel, you can be sure that there is one to pay.
I get it, culturally it's obvious to see the cost that Esther had to pay, but I'm pretty confident that no one is going to come into your community tomorrow and round up the beautiful people to take away as slaves. So where does that leave us? With costs that look different but are still very much there. Maybe it is our reputation, our time, our finances, or our comfort. More than likely it will be all of the above.
“Again, the Kingdom of Heaven is like a merchant on the lookout for choice pearls. When he discovered a pearl of great value, he sold everything he owned and bought it!” -Matthew 13:45-46 NLT
That's red-letter, guys. Jesus said that. He also said, "If anyone desires to come after Me, let him deny himself, and take up his cross, and follow Me.” Jesus didn't pull any punches. He was blunt; He had to be. I'd rather hear something straightforward than have someone try to tiptoe around what they are trying to say. I love that about Jesus! Yes, salvation is a gift, no amount of works could ever earn it. But it is costly nonetheless, if you accept this gift you will pay with your life laid down in service to your King.
The man who found the pearl knew that giving up all to obtain it was a bargain. What he gained far exceeded what he lost in the process. I don't know what your price may be. I know what mine are, and some days I find my flesh wanting to hold out and not pay. Those are the days that I need to be reminded of Esther and the resoluteness of her spirit. Her response to Mordecai? “If I perish, I perish.” She had learned how to pay, and she was willing to go all in. Are you? Am I?
I find it easy to say that we would die for the Lord, but do we live for Him? Like Paul, do we die daily? That's where push comes to shove and our willingness to pay is put to the test. Are we willing to pay with a few hours of sleep to pray for our community? Are we willing to lay aside our agenda and help the one in front of us? Are we willing to die to ourselves so that Christ can live through us? That's the point, isn't it? Christ magnified? We must become less and less so He may become greater and greater. We start by paying the price, by surrendering again, and by saying, “Yes, no matter the cost I will follow, and if I perish, I perish.”
Written by Amanda Strauser