Hold on to religion, even when it’s just in the way
Mordecai sent this reply to Esther: “Don’t think for a moment that because you’re in this 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.” — Esther 4:13-14
You may be like Esther in that sometimes you choose to follow your religion, and sometimes you don’t.
It doesn’t seem as if young Esther has a problem listening to Mordecai, her cousin, guardian and mentor, when her father-like figure tells her to keep her Jewish religion quiet. After all, when Mordecai gives her this advice she is one of many prized young ones the king is considering to make the Queen of Persia. Let’s not let history (or a little thing like faith) get in the way of great success, right?
But later, religion comes back through the lips of Mordecai. Esther, whose long not mentioned Jewish name is Hadassah, has not kept a kosher diet. She also married outside her faith tradition, yet, despite these two big strikes, religion still reels her into task. This non-practicing Jew, when faced with a life or death ultimatum, engages one of the oldest practices of faith. She fasts.
I get that your middle school Sunday school program may have been painful for you. I get that your teenage confirmation may have been drudgery. I also get that the pastor of your youth was okay for a while, and then, about the time you earned your driver’s license, religion became a thing of your past.
Religion itself may not have been bad, but for the next ten to fifty years, you decided there were way more cool things to do than listen to old hymns on a pipe organ once or twice a month. Religion? Really? What’s its relevance?
You can’t argue this: Esther is a classic example of a young person who picks up religion when needed or expected and then drops it when it gets in the way.
You can’t argue this, either. Religion does have relevance, or can have relevance, when you use it during particularly challenging times. Esther, while stymied, did have options. She chose what she knew just like you can choose what you know (or can know)—and that’s religion.
What do you do when you are out of options and your future, the very thing you’d rather not face, is grim? Do you drink more? Get angrier? Isolate yourself? Are you the fed-up guy who glares at your neighbors when they pass, hoping your snarl will somehow ruin their day?
I’ve got another idea. Practice religion.
In the Book of Esther, Mordecai wears a sackcloth and sits in ashes and, as mentioned earlier, Esther fasts. These religious practices may not mean anything to you, or they may not mean anything yet, but when your problem is SO FAR BIGGER than you are, tap into the One who is SO FAR BIGGER than you are.
Give God a go. Don’t just dabble. Don’t just “get your toes wet.” Jump in. 100%. Sure, your religious history may have been SO FAR from perfect, but let something from that past enable you to see what Esther saw (and lived into), and that’s a far better future.
PRAYER: Lord, do it. Help me fast or find a way to sit in ashes so that I am one with You. I open myself to religion so that I can be open to You, my God, my life, my source. Amen.