For Such a Time as This: Isolation & Esther
I still remember sitting in my 9th grade science class. I remember the old desks, the blinds discolored from age and sunlight, and the green and off-white tile floor. My teacher, Mr. McGraw, turned on the TV while saying, “Remember this moment. Someday, your kids are going to ask you where you were when 9/11 happened. You’ll be shocked how you remember every detail.”
He was right. I remember everything.
Now, here I am, 33 years old and living through another time in history that my kids will someday ask, “What were you doing during the coronavirus pandemic?”
My oldest child is 5.5 years old, so she may have vague memories of this time. But my youngest… my youngest child is 19 weeks young, still in the safety of my belly. While we are still wondering if we’re having a boy or girl, someday this same child will be assigned in history class to interview someone who lived through COVID-19. He or she will ask what the world was like at this time, how we passed our time, were we scared… The same questions my generation asked when we were assigned projects interviewing Vietnam Veterans. It’s a strange phenomenon to know you are watching history unfold.
I wonder if others knew they were watching history unfold when it was happening? Did the followers of Malcolm and Martin know their social movement would be discussed for years to come? Did Rosie the Riveter, whoever she may be, know she would become an icon for working women everywhere? Did Esther know her winning a beauty competition would place her at a time in history that would be read, studied, and learned from thousands of years later?
There is no way of knowing which moments in our lives will become imprinted on those in our immediate surroundings and which will fade into the background. But, what we can confidently know is that the lives of those who have come before us are there to be learned from and applied so we can do better for those we are leading with every decision we make.
Take the life of Esther, for example. Will most of us ever find ourselves summoned by a king, judged for our beauty, and brought to live the rest of our lives in a palace of misogyny, gluttony, and polygamy? No. Most likely not.
However, Esther’s story is so much more. Esther finds herself quarantined unless summoned to flaunt her beauty, unable to directly communicate with her family, and without any freedoms she has previously known in her life. She lives a life entirely uprooted from all she has known.
The beginnings of the transition prove tough for Esther. She’s unsure how to handle herself and she plays by the rules because that seems the best way to survive. Aren’t we all a little like this? We follow what we are told as we find our footing, but get a little braver once we are familiarized with the situation.
Then, suddenly everything makes sense. Esther’s placement is given purpose and all she’s endured fades away as she sees a bigger picture. The most famous verse in Esther’s story are the words of Mordecai encouraging her, “Who knows if perhaps you are here for such a time as this?”
Esther learns the unbeatable combination of careful planning, well-placed boldness, and faith in God.
Esther’s story of separation from the life she’s always known becomes one of purpose, bravery, and victory. We see spiritual disciplines that lead to direction from the Lord, courage that brings freedom, and hardened hearts turned from selfish desires to obedience.
Will this be the story of our experiences with 2020’s COVID-19? Maybe not. Or maybe so.
Church, perhaps we are here for such a time as this… A time to learn the disciplines of silence and sabbath. A forced time to wrestle with the thoughts we’ve pushed to the back of our minds. A pause in our busyness to re-discover what true connectivity is and to value things we have taken for granted. A forced time without the gatherings we’ve at times complained about, but in their absence have come to appreciate. A time to silence our inner-critics and take up gratitude and thankfulness.
As church planters and leaders, the gatherings we’ve always known have come to a crashing halt. Overnight, our worship strategies were turned upside-down and our theology of community is on trial. We are at a time in church history that is exposing our resilience as followers of Christ and changing how future generations will interact with the Church for years to come. The scattered Church of Acts led to one of the fastest growing religious movements in all of history. What will be the story of the scattered church in 2020?
When I’m choosing how to spend this strange time in history, my strongest consideration is how I want to one day answer questions from my children. Do I want to tell my kids that I let fear make my decisions or that I made the most of my time? Do I want to tell my kids that I looked out for myself or that I did my best to love our community, too? Do I want to tell my kids that I discovered how weak my faith in God actually was or that I learned to cling to Jesus more tightly than ever?
Will I find purpose like Esther? Spiritual growth like the early church? Is contentment in the Lord be enough for me?
My time in isolation may not result in something as epic as MLK Jr.’s Letter from a Birmingham Jail or the story of Esther, but the decisions I am making today can and will impact my tomorrow.
I don’t know how to live quarantine flawlessly, but I am committed to doing my best at living it intentionally.