Synopsis Esther 2:9-21 11/12/2020
King Ahasuerus ruled over the Persian Empire. But, Queen Vashti rebelled against his rule. And so, the king deposed her. Accordingly, she no longer served as queen. As a result, the king began an empire-wide search for a new queen from amongst the most beautiful, young women from throughout the empire.
Esther was selected as a candidate to enter the king’s harem. But there was a clearly defined preparation process before a young woman could be presented to the king. The women were secluded in a special part of the palace. There, they received treatments and learned the ways of living and working in the courts of power.
Esther distinguished herself with the king’s attendants. Specifically, she sought out advice from people who knew the king well. And she deferred to their judgements over her own preferences.
As a result, when her time came to be interviewed by the king, she stood out from all those the king had interviewed before. He knew instantly that she was the right person to become queen. And so, he placed the royal crown on her head.
Esther recognized that nothing in her childhood could have prepared her for palace life. And so, rather than attempting to impose her own, limited understanding on the situation, she made it her business to learn the ways of the king’s court. What’s more, she chose to learn from the people who understood it best.
For example, she didn’t attempt to distinguish herself by being different. Instead, she sought to harmonize and optimize the processes by which the palace already operated. And, in a curious paradox, this caused her to stand out amongst her peers. In this way, she became the obvious choice to become queen.
Prepare Ye the Way of the Lord
When I was in college, I once studied under a professor who said, “Everyone seeks significance. But it is harder to improve your mind than it is to get a haircut.”
Now, he was an academic scholar. So, his purpose was to improve the minds of his students. But the point remains. Personal formation is preparation for life, both here on earth and eternal life.
Now, don’t let me confuse you because I don’t explain things very well. I know that I am not saved because of my efforts to prepare. But, I am saved for some purpose. And, the greater part of that purpose is eternal life. So, it stands to reason that formation’s purpose is preparation for that life.
From this singular truth, it follows that I am also in the place of Esther and her peers. As a result, my choice is similar. I can prepare myself be seeking to emphasize my own unique significance and personal contribution. Or, I can prepare by seeking to harmonize with the long-established ways of the kingdom. Again, I can seek to blaze an unknown trail that emphasizes my personal significance. Or, I can seek to optimize a well-known process informed by a community of saints.
I have to make this choice everyday. But, in the end, it seems clear the latter is the truest way of excellence.
“A voice of one crying out in the desert: ‘Prepare the way of the Lord, make straight his paths.’ John [the] Baptist appeared in the desert proclaiming a baptism of repentance for the forgiveness of sins.” Mark 1:3-4