One of my favorite lines in the Bible comes from the story of Esther.
If you aren’t familiar with the story of Esther, here is the background: The Jews have been occupied by the current World Super Power. The King of this nation gets all of the women in his kingdom to dress up and look pretty so he can choose a wife. And he chooses a young Jewish girl named Esther.
During this time, the King’s right-hand-man gets angry with Esther’s uncle for now bowing down to him. So he decides to wipe out the entire Jewish nation. Like you do. Esther’s uncle catches wind of this, so he gets in contact with Esther. And here is what he says:
Mordecai sent this reply to Esther: “Don’t think for a moment that because you’re in the palace you will escape when all other Jews are killed. If you keep quiet at a time like this, deliverance and relief for the Jews will arise from some other place, but you and your relatives will die. Who knows if perhaps you were made queen for just such a time as this?”
That’s the line: Who know if perhaps (can you feel how definitive he is) you were made queen for such a time as this?
So here is why I love this verse:
- Mordecai is paying attention. Mordecai realizes that Esther is in a particular time and place and has a distinctive ability to something amazing. He is paying attention to what is going on the world and to the unique places he and his family find themselves.
- Mordecai doesn’t assume God is a puppet master. He is paying attention. He sees potential. And he wonders if perhaps God wants to do something through the position Esther has. Mordecai is wondering: Could it be possible that Esther simply being where she is might save thousands of lives?
- Mordecai is asking Esther to risk. Esther has to put herself in danger if she is going to use her unique position to stop the genocide.
- Mordecai understands who Esther is. Esther may be removed from her people physically, but their story is her story. Their pain is her pain. Being a Jew is a huge part of her identity. Mordecai reminds Esther to be who she really is, no matter where she finds herself.
So what does all of this mean for us? Why am I fascinated with this verse in 2015? What in the world could this do with being “pure in heart?’
I have had so many conversations with people who assume that doing something for God, following Jesus, extending the Kingdom, however you want put it, requires doing something really big and going somewhere else. The assumption is God only deals in the fantastical and probably only does real work in places other than where we are now. God has little concern for my mundane daily existence.
But remember, the Beatitudes want to help us see the world in a whole new way.
Being pure in heart means being true to who we are and where we are. God has given you unique talents and gifts. And while there may come a time where God may be nudging you to move on from the place you are currently, right now you can only be where you are right now.
Pretty profound right? God made you. You are where you are.
But most of the time, we don’t think this is good enough. We need to be doing something bigger, better, and sexier if we want to advance the Kingdom of God. Big things happen in other places. But not here.
But what if….
God could do amazing things right where you are?
What if being true to your own talents, gifts, skills, passions, desires is exactly what God wants for you?
And no matter where you find yourself, God is right there with you. That is part of the Beatitudes. God is with you right where you are. Which means God is up to something right where you are. What if embracing where you are, rather than looking at the greener grass on the other side, is exactly what you need to do in order to co-create something new and life-giving with God?
This may take courage. It might ask us to risk. Being who we truly are is much more vulnerable than it often sounds. Doing something new and beautiful in the world always takes struggle. Especially if we have gotten in the habit of just floating through life assuming big things are happening somewhere else. Because often our assumption that life is happening somewhere else keeps us from doing anything worthwhile right now.
And sometimes it takes courage to engage in the mundane. Sometimes being true to who and where we are is not sexy. Sometimes it is found in the every day, unappreciated tasks. This often takes greater courage than doing the big, sexy things we associate with advancing the Kingdom.
So how do we do this?
We pay attention.
We pay attention to what we are good at doing, to the things that give us life, to the things we are curious and passionate about. We ask deep, meaningful questions about the unique things in our lives and we pursue them.
We pay attention to the unique places we find ourselves. We ask questions about where God is already at work. We ask questions not just about injustice and sin, but about beauty and life. We assume that because God is who God is, there is already something at work right where we are, and God is asking us to join.