If you heard her story for the first time, it would bend your heart toward her favor. At a young age, she lost both parents and was cared for by her male cousin, Mordecai, who loved her as his own daughter. But even that situation wasn’t ideal, because the cousin -- like his fellow countrymen -- was being held captive. They longed to return to their homeland, but the exiles didn’t know when or if that would ever happen.
That introduces the story of Esther in the Bible, the young girl, who through God’s providence became the Queen of Persia. Her story of developing faith can encourage men and women who pour their hearts into rearing their children. Her story can guide us to accept our own paths with joy, to remain teachable no matter the outward troubles.
If God had advertised for a child star, he couldn’t have found a better one. Esther had stellar qualities for one so young. Her cousin had a hand in training her to behold God with awe instead of focusing on negatives in her life. She had many excuses to grow up bitter and resentful: her parents died; Esther, Cousin Mordecai, and fellow Jews were exiled; she lived in restriction not freedom.
Holy text says that God gifted Esther with rare beauty that she was “lovely in form and feature.” And she also grew to have a selfless spirit. These types of children continually exhibit traits that could be real assets to adults. When our grandson Adam was four-years-old, this easy going and adaptable child gave back a second Christmas present from his grandparent one holiday. “Here. You can have this back. I got plenty of presents this year.”
Even in captivity, Esther’s eyes focused on her blessings instead of turning toward bitterness at have-nots. Her eyes were trained to look for the wonder in life instead of focusing on the chains of confinement. When a generous adult can live out God’s generous love, even in unwanted circumstances, children do notice. What they experience may not really grab at their hearts until they’re a bit older. But genuine gratitude is one of the easier things to teach children by example.
If Esther’s story took place in 2010, the civilized world would rage against the atrocities. Her story would shock us. Stir up our sympathy. We’d mourn the passing of her youth in captivity and a second captivity when by God’s design the palace guard rounded up many of the young Persian virgins, also taking the young Jew Esther.
After banishing his former Queen Vashti (we’re not told if she left with or without her head), King Xerxes became moody and his advisors seemed to think a beauty contest to seek a new queen would pacify the king. From heads of state on down to peasants, an attitude of entitlement describes some of the people of which we come in contact. Pride filled people cross our paths and their pompous weather rains on our parades. We met one this week. I’ll spare you the details.
Even though held against her will in a foreign land, the child Esther lived in her less-than-perfect circumstances adapting to God’s nature. Many of our daily grumbles are about luxuries not really bad circumstances. Mike Huckabee, former Arkansas Governor (and ordained minister), said that the complaint that he hears most often from congregants is about the temperature in the church sanctuary. One congregation finally put up a fake thermostat so each cold or hot Christian could come along and move the thermostat up or down to suit their personal needs.
Jesus Christ said, “Blessed are the poor in spirit.” That means that people – 9 to 90 – are more content when they remain teachable. When Jesus began his ministry he welcomed small ones around him and called his adult disciples to become like malleable children.
Over the next few weeks, we’ll let the captive child Esther lead us. Her gracious accepting attitude will teach us trust, faithfulness, and reliance on a guiding light – for she learned an overall secret of focusing not on the gloom but upon the Light.