Still Advent, but I wonder if you’ve ever considered Esther. Twelve months of beauty treatments before being presented before King Xerxes for consideration to replace the former queen.
Esthers’ Hebrew name was Hadassah which means “Myrtle” and implies “sweet fragrance”, but the name we know her by, has more interesting implications. Esther has been linked to Persian origins, and those of us who have sat under sermons about her, in pews for many years might have heard that she was wise to change her name to something less Hebraic in order to fit into palace life. Esther may be a play on one of the names of a female goddess in the local region, and now has come to mean star.
However, as I was doing research; I also found that Esther is also close to another Hebrew word ‘hester’ meaning “Hidden”. So there is also speculation in the Jewish scholarly world that using that particular name, she was still retaining her roots, although at the time it would only have been been obvious to those who knew the language (as now).
This girl had real nous. She was not stupid.
The famous line in the book of Esther comes from her uncle Mordecai and is pivotal.
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?” Esther 4:14 (NIV)
So now, if we look at Elizabeth and Mary, (several years later…!) what was it about these two women that God was so interested in?
They weren’t important people in their cultural position or families. They weren’t exactly in a position of safety either. Elizabeth was older, and with our knowledge of medicine now, we know that there are risks to pregnancies for older mothers, both for the mother and the child. Mary was young and although betrothed, She and Joseph were not yet officially married. This could have been for any number of reasons. She could have been young, he could not have finished building the family home; engagements were as long as it took the man to build a suitable house/place to live in, usually attached to his fathers’ house. I don’t know what the survival rates for infants were, or for mothers. Let alone under those circumstances in an occupied country.
I think that as I read the stories about both Elizabeth and Mary, in their roles as the mothers of John the Baptist and Jesus, that these two women also had strength and wits. In Luke 1, Luke recounts the circumstances around these two women and their experiences, and you can see that neither of them wasted the time that they had been given.
It seems to me that times of preparation could be viewed as the most important part of any activity.
Inside my actual literal house, over this last week, I have spent some time with one of my sisters and her kids. She was amazingly generous in her time to come and help me in the process of continuing to clear out what is unnecessary in the space. This is so that when the time comes, it will be ready for painting. I have had stuff in storage for several years, and with multitudinous moves, I am finding I own several of one thing and not enough of another, and in an old house that needs renovating and cleaning and painting, all these preparatory things take time. (The kids read books, played on the x-box, ate snacks, and all kinds of other things that you do when you’re still responsibility free *sigh*…)
The payoff from busting our boiler for two days was that I have several rooms completely sorted out. There is nothing left to do in there except paint and save for the essential renovations and rewiring that this poor old house needs.
I am in no way finished. There is still a lot to do, but already there is a significant gain for time spent. In time, there will be nothing left to do except maintenance.
What a payoff we have had from the time Mary and then Joseph spent in preparation. They stood their ground so that the child she carried would be sheltered by a nuclear family. They allowed themselves to be directed by God so that they were in the right places at the right time. Then, their task as protectors and nurturers was done, and we reaped the reward of their labour, along with them, when Jesus fulfilled the Law at the Cross and Resurrection.
“…for such a time as this.”
I wonder what it is that God is calling you and I to? What is your Esther moment? None of us is here on this earth by accident, and while not all of us is called to royal position to save a nation at the risk of our physical death in exactly the same way Esther was, something you do may mean that someone on the other side of the world meets the Jesus we know.
It may be that He is calling you to literally walk into situations of danger. It may be that your task is one of hidden prayer that upends nations. It may be that you are called to a task a month, or a year. You may be called to train the next generation, either in your own family or in a wider circle. There could be so many things He could calls us to. All of these things are necessary and important. None of these things go unnoticed by God, because He is the one who calls us to our purpose in the first place.
I don’t want to waste any of the time of preparation. The battle, the task, the point of the whole exercise, is important, but the most important bit is the preparation. Apprentices don’t (usually) get their ticket until they’ve been proven competent. Don’t waste your time of training. The fitter we are now, the easier the task is to complete. Also, you get so much more done when you get on with it!
Y’all Are Warriors. Warriors can look like Esther, Elizabeth and Mary, and they can look like Moses, Joshua, Jeremiah and David. Men and women, both have tasks to do that can be visible or hidden, peace-making or peace-keeping. What looks like small potatoes from the outside can often ring the loudest bells in heaven, don’t underestimate your contributions or despise your task.
When push comes to shove, Mary grew and looked after a baby, she was “just a housewife” …
God Bless You Very Much.
(nous just in case you wanted to know...)