Being the day before my monthly fast, my question was, “What should I fast for?” My scriptures fell open to Esther chapter 1. I thought immediately, Esther and her people fasted so this will be easy to find my answer. I began reading, and read the entire story to the end still not completely sure what my answer was. Esther was fasting for courage to go before the king, and for the King to accept her request and spare her life and the lives of her people. I am not in any similar situation. But as I began writing in my journal hoping to gain clarity I received it.
I learned that I must take courage to move forward in the mission God has for me to do. I have not always recognized my calling, but God does have a work for me to do, and I must show courage to do it. Like Esther, I need the encouragement and guidance of a mentor to press forward, so that when there is work to be done, I will act.
Esther is orphaned and raised by her cousin Mordecai. When King Ahazerus seeks a new queen, her uncle encourages her to go with the other young maidens and compete for the honor. When her time to go before the king arrives, “The king loved Esther above all the women, and she obtained grace and favour in his sight more than all the virgins; so that he set the royal crown upon her head, and made her queen.” Meanwhile, King Ahazerus has promoted a prince, named Haman who expects everyone to bow down before him. Mordecai refuses, because as a Jew he bows only to God. Haman is so bitter about this that he seeks the kings permission to have everyone that won’t bow before them (meaning all Jews) killed. Then Mordecai dresses in sackcloth and ashes and comes before the kings gate. Esther sends the chaimberlain outside to find out why, and Mordecai replies with the plans of Haman and a charge that “she should go in unto the king, to make supplication unto him, and to make request before him for her people.” This is where Esther is called to her mission. She has been brought up and mentored by Mordecai, and followed his counsel until now. She has been prepared and positioned to have impact on the world.
Esther then responds to Mordecai “All the king’s servants, and the people of the king’s provinces, do know, that whosoever, whether man or woman, shall come unto the king into the inner court, who is not called, there is one law of his to put him to death, except such to whom the king shall hold out the golden sceptre, that he may live: but I have not been called to come in unto the king these thirty days.” Esther is rightly afraid for her life as the king has previously disposed of a queen who displeased him.
Here Mordecai replies in the words of a mentor and a prophet, “Think not with thyself that thou shalt escape in the king’s house, more than all the Jews. For if thou altogether holdest thy peace at this time, then shall there enlargement and deliverance arise to the Jews from another place; but thou and thy father’s house shall be destroyed: and who knoweth whether thou art come to the kingdom for such a time as this?”
Esther now remembering all she has been taught, recognizes a calling to serve, and summons up her courage to act with this faith filled response: “Go, gather together all the Jews that are present in Shushan, and fast ye for me, and neither eat nor drink three days, night or day: I also and my maidens will fast likewise; and so will I go in unto the king, which is not according to the law: and if I perish, I perish.”
As a youth I had no concept of mission. I did not really understand or believe that people, everyday people like me, could have important work to do. I loved to read about heroes, like Esther or Nephi, Ghandi or Mother Theresa. I remember yearning to be more than the average, mediocre, “nobody” person. I wanted to do something important, but I didn’t know how or what it could be. Then after I left college, and began to slowly gain a real education, I learned that anyone who chooses can do a significant, important work on this earth. In other words there is a mission for every person who chooses it. There is no such thing as an average “nobody.” In the words of Matthew, “Many are called, but few are chosen.” I have learned that to be chosen, we first must choose to act. We have to prepare ourself, and prove ourself obedient and trustworthy, then God chooses us to carry out His work on the earth. Esther was prepared, she had been obedient to God and followed the counsel of her mentor, and so she was chosen. Chosen for what?
Her mission was not the glamorous role of being queen to Ahazerous. Mission is never about self. It always is about serving others, and in doing so we become. We reach our own potential. Esther’s mission was to save her people, the Jews, from death. This required risking her life in a bold action of going before the king uninvited. All of us has a mission, many have some exciting and glamorous side effects, but the heart of the mission, is a test of courage, faith, wisdom and strength, all of which is excercised for the benefit of others. And all of which will be given to us through the atonement of Jesus Christ if we accept it.
I think it interesting that Mordecai tells Esther that her people will be saved in another way if she refuses the call – only she and her family will suffer if she fails to accept. That is often how God has orchestrated things. His work will move forward with or without us, it is our own salvation and that of our family, that suffers the most if we do not live up to our potential.
We do not have all the details of Esther’s upbringing or education. It is clear from the story, that Mordecai is a statesman. He is continually in and around the King’s gate. He goes out of his way to warn the king of a threat on his life. He is true to his beliefs in refusing to bow to Haman. Mordecai comes with the writing of the Decree to show to Esther the situation. I see also a Type like unto Abraham and Isaac, of Heavenly Father’s sacrificing his Son. Surely Mordecai loves Esther, and he knows of the risk it is for her to go before the king. But courageously he asks it, because he knows it is God’s will. And Esther, submissive like Isaac, who is submissive like Christ, goes of her own accord. In mission there is always a great sacrifice and risk to be made.
You, reader, and I were both put on this Earth with the ability to change things around us. You can choose to see a need and make a difference or to go about being acted upon and only passively interacting with your situation in life. If you consistently, listen and obey to the voices of Good: God, prophets and mentors, you will be called to a mission.
We live in a day of much darkness in the world, where there is much need for light. The story of Esther taught me that I do have a mission and it is time for me to accept the call. To use my voice, my understanding, my gifts, my energy in the service of others. If I am to make an impact for good, I must put faith in God, and stretch outside my comfort zone.
But without a doubt I was put here for “such a time as this.” Were you?