Two of my closest friends—in my teen years—didn’t have mothers. One had lost her mother in a car accident and only knew her from stories and pictures. My other friend’s mother died of cancer as her daughter entered her teen years. Last week, we considered the motherless Hadassah, biblical heroine Queen Esther.
Even though Hadassah grew up in the care of her male cousin, he instilled solid concepts that guided her entire life. Like many today, Hadassah didn’t grow up in a traditional home with her birth parents, but her godly training showed up in the way she later conducted herself.
Even under the additional trial of her and her countrymen’s captivity, Hadassah thrived. King Xerxes reigned over 127 provinces stretching from India to Ethiopia, plus many captives. When the king needed a replacement queen, his staff robbed the young beauties from every province so the king could have first dubs on gorgeous. The Persian version of the “The Bachelor” was about to begin. During the seizing, they accidentally picked the young Jewish girl Hadassah and deposited her into the care of Hegai, a eunuch in charge of the king’s harem. The harem was in the citadel of Susa surrounded by a moat.
“Every day,” her substitute parent, Mordecai “walked back and forth near the harem to find out how Esther was and what was happening to her” (2:11). Her cousin somehow got word for her to not reveal their heritage, and Esther complied. Esther’s story also reveals that during the confined year of required beauty treatments that Esther “continued to follow Mordecai’s instructions as she had done when he was bringing her up” (2:20). This says a moat load about her character. Even away from her guardian, her heart would not betray family instilled goodness.
Esther was already a captive of the Persia and Media Empires, so in the harem she became a double captive of the system. For her, she was most likely moved from bare-existence living into luxury. It would be like a teen of today moving from the streets to a shopping mall, where she could have her choice of clothing and a food court where nothing had a price tag.
Any girl in Esther’s position might go a little crazy if plunged from poverty to palace—but not Esther. She was so compliant that she immediately won the favor of Hegai and he gave her seven personal maids from the King’s palace. These weren’t mere scullery maids, and she and her servants were given the best harem accommodations.
The young Esther was obviously not bedazzled by her lavish treatment. When it came time for any of the virgins to go to the king, she could pick whatever garment, perfume or beauty treatment she desired. Can you just imagine the razzle-dazzle that some of the girls chose, or what about the costumes that some of today’s teens might chose. But when Esther’s time came, she asked for nothing other than what the attendant suggested.
It’s simply human nature to be impressed with better-than-what-you-have. David and I won a night at the Hyatt Regency downtown Houston, and we were housed in an oversized room near the top with our own terry bath robes and a lovely hospitality room on that floor.
After his shower that evening, my husband said as he was drying off on the thick-as-carpet towel, “I didn’t realize how nice it is to have fluffy towels without raveled strings on the sides to catch my toes.” (I replaced our towels soon after).
Whether living in prosperity or through difficulties, the young Esther remained true to her identity in God. She embodied integrity. I like to imagine little Hadassah’s mother hearing her child’s story one day and delighting in her character. As we honor our mothers this weekend, even if your mother has stepped beyond this world, be the person she longed for you to be.
Happy Mother’s Day.