Through the years, I’ve had this burning question in my heart: What does it mean to be a Christian woman? It’s easy to get caught up in the swirling stereotypes, the rhetoric about virtuous women and the arguments about that dreaded word “submission.” Something about this talk always pricks my spirit.
I try to redirect to God’s Word for answers. When I dig deep into the stories of the women in the Bible, I quickly discover they were all unique, broken, imperfect women who God chose for a drop-your-jaw surprising purpose – to bring people into the fold of His Kingdom.
One of my favorites is the beautiful and messy story of Esther. In just 10 chapters, the book of Esther gives us a sketch of a woman God chose to save His people in a tumultuous time. Of course, what I love about Esther is she was an unlikely candidate. She was young, inexperienced, an orphan, a foreigner. Not exactly qualities you would put on your resume for an application to be queen. Then again, Esther wasn’t applying to be queen. She was chosen. And that made all the difference.
God chose Esther. He chose to put her in an incredible place of influence “for such a time as this” (Esther 4:14). She was chosen for a job filling the shoes of a strong-willed former queen who got booted out of the kingdom for refusing to show off at her hubby’s soiree.
Esther had a God-given gift – beauty. But she had to be more than beautiful to get noticed. After all, she was surrounded by beautiful women. “And Esther won the favor of everyone who saw her” (Esther 2:10). This tells me she was a woman of character and charisma. People were drawn to her. She exercised humility and discernment, following closely the wisdom of the king’s official who was in charge of all the women in the “Queen Beauty Pageant.”
The king chooses Esther as the next queen. This is her invitation into a place of influence in the kingdom.
Fast forward to the moment of crisis when Esther leverages this influence to help her people, the Jews. The king’s sidekick, brings his anti-Semitic views into policy-making. He convinces the king the Jews are different. They don’t bow down to the king and his officials. And they shouldn’t be tolerated. Haman is given the power to write an order to “destroy, kill and annihilate all the Jews.”
Esther’s Jewish uncle begs her to intervene. Esther makes the choice to do something powerful at this point in the story. She pauses. She invites her people to pray. She prays. For three days. Esther prays before she takes any action. Then she moves forward in obedience with a plan to fight for her people.
She wisely invites the king and his sidekick to a party. She uses her knowledge of these men and what they love (hospitality and good parties) to bring them into a place where she can petition for her people. She speaks with humility and confidence. Her courage and influence saves the Jews.
The story of Esther teaches me that God wants courageous women who understand the power of discernment, prayer and obedience. He uses unlikely characters who don’t fit into a mold or stereotype. He doesn’t care if we are materially rich or poor or Democrat or Republican. He doesn’t care if we come from a good family or if we have attended church all our lives. He uses women who are willing to step out of their own comfortable place for the sake of others.
My own Esther moment came in January 2010. Not coincidentally, I was deep in a study of the book of Esther at the time. My husband and I had been peripherally involved in work in Haiti with a ministry started by his grandparents in 1947. We had been on several short-term trips but our hearts weren’t committed. We had our own jobs, our own comfortable community, our own life goals.
On January 12, 2010, a devastating earthquake rocked the already-impoverished country of Haiti. Our phones rang, our inboxes filled with friends and others looking to us for guidance on how to get involved with relief efforts. God shook our hearts with that earthquake too. For the first time, my husband and I felt God calling us to a deeper commitment to serving in Haiti “for such a time as this.”
We decided to jump in. Neither of us felt equipped. We didn’t feel ready. We weren’t even sure of the job description or project assignment before us. We knew God was calling us to work on behalf of His people in need.
Today, my husband is the director of a non-profit, working to offer a hand up to Haitians. When we initially moved to Haiti, I met a group of ladies in one of the churches who wanted to start a jewelry business. These women needed a means to buy food for their families, send their kids to school, even build houses. I just happened to have a love for creating and making jewelry.
God had already been growing in me a gift for teaching and a heart for discipleship. I said yes, and His wild story began to unfold. Today I am the director of The Haitian Bead Project working with 60 Haitian artisans. I spend part of my year working one-on-one with them and offering dignity to women who have never tasted it before. The other months I live in the U.S. working to share the story of God’s redemption.
I leave you with a few questions: How will you use your voice and influence to speak up on behalf of people today? How are you making yourself ready for an “Esther moment” in your life? I would venture to say that along the journey of asking yourself these questions you might find yourself on the road to becoming more wholly the woman God wants you to be.
Image Credit: Dorina Gilmore, The Haitian Bead Project