I have always loved the story of Esther and have often gone back to it at different times in my life to find hope, inspiration and to build my faith. We can celebrate her beauty, victory, the status and power that she had, but it didn’t all come easy.
Her story is also one of tragedy, loss, confusion, loneliness, fear and threat on her people’s life as well as her own. She had to learn to adapt to new environments. She was an orphan who had been taken in by her cousin Mordecai. This was the family that she knew and grown up with that she was suddenly snatched away from them without a choice.
She gets thrown into a new environment with other women who were being prepared to go before the king. This is a place where there might have been competition, jealousy and bullying among these women as they strived for the king’s attention. I wonder if she felt insecure and self-conscious about her looks like many of us are. Did she ever think “I am not smart or pretty enough for the task ahead?”. I know I have felt like that many times at different stages of my journey. I felt so naïve and small when I started working, serving in a ministry at church, or when I had been asked to lead a group, event or a project. Being the only young person in the room among senior and mature individuals and having to find the confidence to share your ideas and thoughts. I sometimes felt so overwhelmed and wished I could run away, but sometimes you can’t.
Esther was raised in a Jewish home with cultural norms, traditions and expressions of faith that were not welcomed in her new environment. She had to hide her true identity from those around her for fear of what would happen. She must have felt alone, misunderstood and scared but God was with her throughout the entire process. She found favour among the leaders in her new environment as we see in Esther chapter two
“When the turn came for Esther (the young woman Mordecai had adopted, the daughter of his uncle Abihail) to go to the king, she asked for nothing other than what Hegai, the king’s eunuch who was in charge of the harem, suggested. And Esther won the favor of everyone who saw her. She was taken to King Xerxes in the royal residence in the tenth month, the month of Tebeth, in the seventh year of his reign.
Now the king was attracted to Esther more than to any of the other women, and she won his favor and approval more than any of the other virgins. So he set a royal crown on her head and made her queen instead of Vashti. And the king gave a great banquet, Esther’s banquet, for all his nobles and officials. He proclaimed a holiday throughout the provinces and distributed gifts with royal liberality.”
Even though she couldn’t reveal her heritage, the foundations established in her upbringing would still shine through despite the pressures and unfamiliar surroundings. How encouraging is that! We sometimes hide our true selves with the fear that people will not accept who we really are and possibly reject us. We don’t want to face rejection, so we conform and change who we are in order to belong and be a part of something. But God has made us all unique and we shouldn’t diminish who we are to fit in or find our place in the world. God created us to be who we are because we have a special part and role to play.
Esther did not know or realize that in all that she was going through, and had gone through, that God was preparing her for a very important role. She was picked out of hundreds maybe thousands of women to become the next queen after Vashti. The title brought with it power, but more so access to platforms and people she would not have engaged with outside of this position. Not knowing that there would come a time when God’ people would be threatened, and she would become the hope for the Israelites. I wonder if she was reluctant and scared when her uncle asked her to do something to help the Jewish nation? It is like Mordecai had to convince her to take action and not shrink back from the task at hand as we see in chapter four
"When Esther’s words were reported to Mordecai, he sent back this answer: “Do not think that because you are in the king’s house you alone of all the Jews will escape. For if you remain silent at this time, relief and deliverance for the Jews will arise from another place, but you and your father’s family will perish. And who knows but that you have come to your royal position for such a time as this?”
Something had to be done and it was possibly going to cost Esther her life to approach the king without being summoned, unless she found favour with him and extended his scepter to her. Most of us know how the story ends with her biting the bullet and approaching the king and later exposing the plot against her people that saves them. We must not forget that she went into this task cloaked in days of seeking the Lord through prayer and fasting, which she also encouraged the Jewish people to do. I have learnt that change, challenges and opposition will come. How we approach it may determine the outcome, so we need to seek the Lord at all times and clothe ourselves in prayer. We are uniquely created and are being shaped and molded for “such a time as this” despite the difficulties you might face. Take heart dear sister!
Women of Reverence welcomes guest blogger Dumile Pretty Ndimande
Dumile Pretty Ndimande is currently the Programmes Manager for an Early Childhood Development project for a non-profit company. The programme aims to strengthen the role of primary caregivers in developing future-fit children.
She has worked for Corporations in Financial Services and Faith Based Organisations around Youth development. She has also served as the main coordinator of an annual youth camp with attendees from across the southern SADC region.
Dumile has vast expertise in mentoring and coaching youth, facilitation, leadership and managing community development programmes by providing people-focused services to communities.
“I am passionate about supporting young people and providing them with the tools and resources to reach their ultimate potential. I enjoy mentoring and coaching youth and young adults through facilitated development programmes.”
She has headed up events, run workshops, done television interviews and hosted online webinars around civil society issues.
Dumile is also a Young African Leaders Initiative (YALI) alumni for the Regional Southern African Civic Leadership cohort 10