Sunday, May 24, 2009

Esther and God's good purposes (by Ali)

As Nicole has already mentioned, the two of us shared some personal reflections on the book of Esther at the end of EQUIP conference (2009). To give you a few brief snippets of the conference, for those who were unable to attend, Carmelina Reid gave the first talk titled The God who Delivers. She began with the story of Esther Staines, whose brothers and father were burnt to death in India, and asked the question “where was God?” and where is God when his people suffer. Carmelina then took us through the book of Esther, looking at the way God was working behind the scenes in all the seeming coincidences to deliver his people for a time, but how at the end of the story the Jews were still under Persian rule and waiting for further deliverance. She concluded with the story of Jesus, another Jew, who brings us the ultimate deliverance, both now in working all things for our good, with that good being to make us more like Jesus (Romans 8:28-29), and for eternity (Rev 21:1-5 and 22:1-7).

Di Warren then took us on another walk through Esther, this time looking at it from Esther’s perspective, with her journey from rags to riches, from fear to courage and from silence to action. She showed us how Esther is a type of Jesus in the risk she took to work the deliverance of the Jews, how Esther shows us something of Jesus’ fear and his courage in submitting to the Father’s will in dying on the cross and how Esther also serves as a model for us: in being humble, because we don’t know how God has written the script; in being excited, precisely because we don’t know how God is working through us in the ordinary circumstances we find ourselves in; in being courageous for the gospel; and in being purposeful as we don’t waste the position we are in but use it for Jesus. Di's key text was Esther 4:14: "Who knows but that you have come to royal position for such a time as this?" (from the NIV).

So, here is my personal reflection, which no doubt worked better as a verbal response to the talks given on the day than it does as a blog post, but I will write it much as I said it (give or take bits I left out or added in or scribbled over) and include the prayer:

I think one of my temptations when I look at my life is to try to join all the dots and write my own story, as though I can see and know everything that’s happening and make sense of it all.

And sometimes in life you have seemingly significant events, which you think ought to mean something, or work some obvious spiritual outcome, so you go looking for that — but you can’t always find it. In my case, my father died when I was four, my sister was six and my Mum was six-months pregnant with my younger sister — and in all honesty, none of us can see any good that has come from that — yet. But it’s not hard to spot a few bad consequences. So if I am having bad day with being single — because being single and childless is not what I wanted for my life, and I can’t pretend otherwise — I can start wondering why and thinking: my father died when I was four and I grew up without any men particularly involved in my life, and that’s probably why I seem to have a problem somewhere in relating to men, and men don’t seem to understand that I am only independent because I’ve had to be, and so on and so on … and a few minutes later I have lined up all the causes and effects, concocted a whole scenario and it’s all bad.

But even worse, most of the time it’s all about me, and the fact that my life today isn’t the way I wanted it to be.

So I was challenged to be humble as Di mentioned and remember that it’s God who is writing the story, that I actually can’t see everything and join all the dots and the end has not yet been told. And, as Di and Carmelina reminded us, my father might have died in an accident, but God was in it and the life I have subsequently is not an accident, and there are reasons for things I may never know this side of heaven — but I can know that in them God is working for good.

And it’s not just my good either, but the good of his people and the work of the gospel.

And so for the times when, because my life isn’t the life I wanted, I don’t really feel like making good use of it for Jesus, I was convicted that even though I am not Esther, or Jesus, I still need to say “not what I will, but what you will” in all the details of my life. And I need to be responsible for making the most of the circumstances I am in to work for the gospel and point people to Jesus.

Dear Father,
Thank you for the story of Esther and for what it reveals of your hidden involvement in the lives of individuals and in the salvation of your people. And Lord when we don’t understand what eternal plans would be disrupted if your ordered our circumstances as we desired, and instead they go in directions other than those we hoped, help us not to revolt against you in our hearts, but to trust you and your plans, to humbly submit to your work in our lives in making us more like your Son and to truly believe that you are our only good.


Anonymous said...

Thanks Ali - this was really helpful to me as i was unable to attend on the day. Thank you for you honesty and insight. Are the talks available for purchase yet?

A Linguistic Life said...

I too was enormously encouraged by this on the day and it's great to be able to read it again. Thanks to both Ali and Nicole for sharing so openly and honestly in front of us all. It can't have been easy! I thank God for you.

Ali said...

Thanks so much Liz and Claire. It's very encouraging to receive this in response.

The talks were to be available for purchase almost immediately I thought, through Matthias Media Hope that helps ...