On Living in Castles and Staying Silent and Saying Yes…

On Living in Castles and Staying Silent and Saying Yes…

Several weeks ago, I was reading in Esther. My big girl and I love Esther, so she wanted me to read the story to her.

Then Mordecai told them to reply to Esther, “Do not think to yourself that in the king’s palace you will escape any more than all the other Jews. For if you keep silent at this time, relief and deliverance will rise for the Jews from another place, but you and your father’s house will perish. And who knows whether you have not come to the kingdom for such a time as this?” Esther 4:13-14

Mordecai uses strong words with Esther. I love reading this same passage in The Message.

When Hathach told Mordecai what Esther had said, Mordecai sent her this message: “Don’t think that just because you live in the king’s house you’re the one Jew who will get out of this alive. If you persist in staying silent at a time like this, help and deliverance will arrive for the Jews from someplace else; but you and your family will be wiped out. Who knows? Maybe you were made queen for just such a time as this.” Esther 4:12-14

There’s a strong message for me in there too. I could feel the Holy Spirit speak it to me while I read these words to Lydia. Here I am living in the king’s house. Because three bedrooms is a mansion when you look at how the vast majority of the world lives. Buying coffee from Starbucks is the stuff of kings when you look at the poverty of so many people in our world. Decorating your house is crazy talk for so many who don’t know where their next meal will come from or whether their house will keep out the rain. So, for these reasons and a thousand more we. cannot. stay. silent. God will bring help and deliverance for His people, but my family and I will miss out on seeing miracles if we stay silent. What if we were given this position, these funds, these resources, this voice for such a time as this? 

I don’t know what this looks like for you. But I know Mordecai was serious. And Esther was serious. And the Holy Spirit speaking to me seemed pretty serious too. Just a few verses later, Esther sends a message to her uncle asking him to gather people and fast and then in three days she will go before the king. And here’s the kicker in verse 16, “If I perish, I perish.” There it is. That’s the part that makes us cringe and stay closed up in our castles watching our Netflix and eating our Talenti and pretending there isn’t a broken and dying world out there that needs to know the LOVE of Jesus. (In case this hits too close to home, I took a glimpse right out of my world. So, I’m crushing my toes way more than anyone else’s.) Because it means risking everything! I’ll be honest and tell you where God is wrestling with me. Over a retirement account and college funds (or the lack thereof) and moving into a house with one more bedroom. Because all those things are taking a back seat right now to some things God has asked us to do. I’m 31 years old, but this thing called a retirement account sounds like a funny combinations of letters and numbers (401K) but feels like SECURITY. And I love security. It is warm and fuzzy like my favorite blanket, the one I curl up underneath most nights (to watch Netflix and eat Talenti). But, did you know that God talks a lot about our inheritance? Every day I pray Isaiah 61 over our adoption and our child and our birth parents. And every day, God reminds me where my inheritance comes from.

The Spirit of the Sovereign Lord is on me,
because the Lord has anointed me
to proclaim good news to the poor.
He has sent me to bind up the brokenhearted,
to proclaim freedom for the captives
and release from darkness for the prisoners,[a]
to proclaim the year of the Lord’s favor
and the day of vengeance of our God,
to comfort all who mourn,
and provide for those who grieve in Zion—
to bestow on them a crown of beauty
instead of ashes,
the oil of joy
instead of mourning,
and a garment of praise
instead of a spirit of despair.

And then go a few verses down, and Isaiah writes…

Instead of your shame
    you will receive a double portion,
and instead of disgrace
    you will rejoice in your inheritance.
And so you will inherit a double portion in your land,
    and everlasting joy will be yours.

This is the kind of inheritance my God talks about. He talks about me being busy proclaiming good news to the poor and binding up the brokenhearted and proclaiming freedom to the captives. How can I speak freedom if I’m too scared to trust God in what He promises me? How can I comfort and provide for and praise if I’m locked in my castle afraid to open up my hands because I don’t want my warm, cozy blanket to go away? I don’t know what the double portion will look like, but I know I want an inheritance in heaven far more than I want one on earth. If I perish, I perish. Esther knew what it meant to risk it all for the sake of God’s people. And God keeps pressing on my heart, “Are you willing to have less so you can give more? Will you be content with your lot, whatever it might be? Will you trust me and find your security in me?”

When Charlotte was a baby, Matt started praying that she would be like Esther, that she would not let fear keep her from doing whatever it was God wanted her to do, that she would be willing to risk everything to tell God’s people about His unending love. (Side note: on days when Lottie’s particularly feisty and I think I can’t handle it another moment, I like to blame Matt because he’s prayed this for her. Just kidding, of course. Well, sort of.) But let’s be honest. That is a SCARY prayer. It makes my pulse quicken and my hands sweat. I don’t know what God’s asking you to do. I don’t know what step He wants you to take. But I know that He’s asking me if I’ll trust Him with everything. If I’ll remember that heaven is forever and earth is but a moment. If I’ll say yes with open hands and a contented heart.

Because the only thing scarier than saying yes to God is saying no. 

He’s not my king. I’m not his queen. 

He’s not my king. I’m not his queen. 

“The fair only comes once a year, and it isn’t October so stop moaning,” my elementary teacher used to say to us when we were complaining about something not being fair. I have this pesky little problem with wanting fairness. I’ll find myself in a foul, snippy mood and realize I’m counting what I’ve done compared to my husband to see who’s pulling more weight. I, of course, find hundreds of noteworthy things for my side of the list. But then my memory conveniently fails me when it comes to his side. Marriage being this 50/50 relationship makes sense in addition, but it doesn’t work. And it’s not what we are called to.

This morning I was reading in Esther. The short version of the story goes like this. Esther is queen, and her uncle Mordecai overhears about an assassination plot against the king. He alerts Esther who alerts the king. Meanwhile, bad guy Haman, who works for the king, notices Mordecai isn’t bowing down to him like he’s supposed to. Haman’s pride runs rampant, and he plots Mordecai’s gruesome death and the death of all Mordecai’s (and Esther’s) people, the Jews. Esther goes before the king to save her people, and the king asks her, “What is it, Queen Esther? What is your request? Even up to half the kingdom, it will be given to you” (Esther 5:3).

This is how kingdoms and kings and queens worked, a tenuous balance of egos. Because any more than half would have made her more important than him. The balance of power would have been thrown off. And it seems this is how many of our marriages are functioning, each of us making our demands and offerings up to half the kingdom. But a King would come later who wouldn’t look like any king prior. He would look like a man sawing wood. He would look like a man breaking bread. He would look like a man washing feet. He wouldn’t look like a king. He would look like a servant. And he wouldn’t act like the kings they had known either. He would be powerful but self-controlled. He would be just but always loving. He would come not to be served, but to serve (Matt. 20:28). He would come to give his life away–all of it, every last dying breath. Not up to half. No, God would give everything, His one and only Son. And that Son would give everything–every right, every shred of dignity, every last drop of blood for us.

And then after the Son was resurrected, and He returned to the Father sending the Holy Spirit to dwell within believers, Paul would put the pieces together for us in Ephesians 5 and forever raise the bar for marriage.

Wives, submit to your husbands as to the Lord. Husbands, love your wives, just as Christ loved the church and gave himself up for her. 

That’s not a 50/50 arrangement Paul is speaking of, and there’s no half my kingdom going on. That’s two people breaking every selfish desire and pouring every ounce of their service into another person, two servants forming one body.

It takes no effort at all for me to be selfish. (Exhibit A: my grumpy attitude when I get woken up in the middle of the night by one of our children, but he sleeps peacefully right beside me never hearing a thing. My true colors are usually very clear.) It takes daily time in His Word and prayer (and for this very stubborn person, a lot of learning the hard way and saying I’m sorry) to love with a love that is patient, kind, and does not envy. A love that does not boast and is not proud. A love that is is not rude, self-seeking, or easily angered. A love that keeps no record of wrongs and does not delight in evil but rejoices with the truth. A love that always protects, always trusts, always hopes, and always perseveres. A love that never fails (1 Cor 13). This is way more than half the kingdom.

I mess up (a lot) but God is faithful to transform our hearts when we bring our hearts to Him. There isn’t a day that goes by that God doesn’t show me some area of selfishness. I never like it when I see the ugliness in my heart, but I’m glad He brings it into the light so He can mold this messed up person into something beautiful. Every time I pray Scripture for my husband, God binds my heart closer with his. Prayer makes saying I’m sorry easier. It makes forgiveness easier. It makes holding my tongue easier. (Notice I said easier, not easy. The struggle is real when you’re feisty and stubborn like me.) I love looking back at the prayers I’ve prayed for Matt and seeing how faithful God has been. If you aren’t already, could I gently nudge you to claim a verse and pray it over your husband today before you close your eyes for bed? (If you don’t know which one to choose, you could start with 1 Corinthians 13:4-7.) Take a picture of the verse, and make it your lock screen on your phone. Write it on a sticky note, and stick it in your wallet. Use a dry-erase marker, and write it on your bathroom mirror. Pray that verse every single day for him. God promises us that His Word will not return void. I’m convinced our greatest act of service to our husbands is to pray for them. Not halfhearted prayers, but prayers from a heart surrendered completely to the One who first loved us.