I'm going to make a shocking confession. As a woman and as a Christian and as a Christian woman...are you ready?
For nearly 16 years, I HATED the Book of Esther. Ok, hated might be a strong word, or it might be pretty spot on, but the fact is that I really, really disliked a section of the Bible. There was a part of God's word that I didn't want anything to do with.
I had seen over the years that many women fell into the same camp that I was in concerning this particular book. Or they LOVED this book. Something about the book of Esther brings out pretty strong emotions in women.
Recently, I decided that it probably wasn't a good thing to really just not like a book in God's word, so I decided to do something about it. In my own weird, uneducated, not-a-pastor kind of way, I prayed about it and had some things revealed to me about why it might be so hard for women to get the most out of this book.
1. Esther was beautiful. Now, I don't know about you, but beauty makes me uncomfortable. To be someone that people say is beautiful is beyond me. Copious research has been done regarding women and the idea of beauty. Beauty is often seen to be unattainable, unrealistic, or even just impossible. Women, since time began, have used aids to assist in making themselves beautiful. For pity's sake, at one point in history women used arsenic to make themselves pale, which was considered beautiful. Anorexia, bulimia, plastic surgery, air brushed photos, make up, corsets...the list goes on and on of how women have worked to achieve beauty. So when someone is called beautiful it has a tendency to put backs up. Or at least my back.
Do not take me wrong here, beauty is not bad, nor is it impossible to achieve! Beauty is in the eye of the beholder. Perhaps we, as women, need to redefine beauty in order to be more comfortable in our own skin. Perhaps then hearing another woman called beautiful won't make us so uncomfortable.
2. She was like by everyone. My first reaction is...Ugh. She's one of THOSE people. The people no one can say a bad thing about. The one that is good to everyone, makes no waves, offends no one, brings a smile to faces worldwide, and is just...UGH. What is it about those good people that make us roll our eyes and just want to go in the other direction? So many of us have this reaction and questioning ourselves about that is uncomfortable.
Most of us like to think of ourselves as good, decent people. Most of us like to think there are people out there so much worse than ourselves. Thinking anything other than that brings on some pretty intense feelings of guilt or shame. No one likes that, myself included. So why go there? Esther, however, makes us confront that. I figure, though, God put this book in the Bible for a reason. God's not comfortable all the time and neither is His word. I suppose that means I should stop rolling my eyes as I cruise past the book of Esther.
3. She was a good daughter (niece). She did what she was told, she didn't get into trouble, she didn't tell her Uncle to get lost when he asked her to risk her life...the list could go on. Now, I don't know about you but I was NOT the best of kids. Defiant was me. (Don't cringe...I know it's poor grammar...go with it!) You see, Esther just makes us confront all sorts of things about ourselves.
I know this one can be a touchy subject. Not all parents or guardians are good ones. Some are abusive, and some are just plain crazy. We assume that Mordecai is a good man - he's certainly an honest one. At the end of the day though, I'm not always sure that matters. Esther was a good daughter doing what was asked of her, never complaining, belly aching, stomping her feet, refusing or ignoring what was asked of her. I'll admit to you here that after I had kids I apologized for being a terrible daughter and have tried to be better since then. She laughed at me. I'm assuming all is forgiven.
4. She admitted she was afraid. She didn't say it out loud, as least in my version, that she was afraid, but she quietly told her uncle that she could die if she confronted the king. Afterwards she asked the nation of Israel to fast for her and pray. She was scared. She could die and the king could make it very unpleasant. She could say or do the wrong thing and everyone could die anyway. She could fail and there was no one there who could fix it. She was alone and she was afraid, but she wasn't afraid to admit it.
Our culture frowns on admitting to fear. We are supposed to be brave and bold and fearless. We are supposed to look death in the face and laugh. Ok, maybe that's an exaggeration but maybe not. In a culture where women are supposed to be all things, admitting to fear is something we are conditioned not to do. I mean, we don't even admit when we are sick half the time! Tell people we are scared and asking for prayers?? Out of the question. But Ester did it, and Ester is an example for us in the Bible. It just slays us to be confronted with the fact that all this time we could have and should have been admitting to our fears and asking for prayers, but we haven't because the world says we aren't supposed to be afraid. Or maybe it's just me.
There is so much in this short, simple book and yet it has such a strong reaction from women world wide. There is so much we could learn from Esther, but only if we are willing to confront what stands in our way. I pray I find the strength to do so, and to take example from a women God found worthy enough to dedicate a whole book to.
Next time, I'll get into the commands of Esther...stay tuned. :)