My mother, Evelyn, was one of the most timid women you’d ever meet.
But I remember seeing her do something very brave.
I was just a little girl when we lived in Texas, but I still recall the day Mom asked for my help.
She wanted me to watch our tiny blonde neighbor girl, who was even younger than me, for just a minute.
Did I watch her?
Yep. I watched her ride her tricycle down the driveway and into the busy street in front of our house.
Mom raced into the street.
And although years have blurred my memory, I still remember my mother hovering over that child and protecting her from the cars that whizzed around them.
My mom later said she was scared, but she was going to protect that little girl.
How do we be brave amid scary circumstances?
I think one of the greatest examples of bravery in the Bible is found in the story of Esther.
Please don’t write off this true-life account as just a story about a young woman who becomes a queen.
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The story of Esther has political intrigue and backdoor, bad boy politics.
It’s also a great story of faith in the face of fear and how God works behind the scenes – even when we don’t think he’s doing anything.
Esther is a Jewish orphan raised by her cousin Mordecai.
After King Xerxes of Persia deposes his first wife, he has a harem of beautiful women assembled from which he’ll select his new queen.
Esther becomes that queen, never telling the king that she’s a Jew.
A few years later, the king’s right-hand man — the evil Haman — plans to have all the Jews in Persia killed.
So Mordecai sends word to Esther pleading for help.
There’s just one problem.
It’s against the law for anyone to go before the king unless he has summoned them first.
And he hasn’t called for Esther in 30 days.
Sounds like this queen is yesterday’s news and with a harem full of concubines it’s not like the king can’t get a date.
So in a real case of “Don’t call me, I’ll call you,” Esther knows the king could have her killed for coming to see him without being asked first.
She tries to relay this news to Mordecai, but he doesn’t back down.
He tells Esther not to think she’ll escape death just because she’s in the king’s house.
And Mordecai says these words: “For if you remain silent at this time, relief and deliverance for the Jews will arise from another place, but you and your father’s family will perish.”
Mordecai adds “who knows but that you have come to your royal position for such a time as this?”
Yeah. Who knows Esther?
Maybe the reason you were taken away from your cousin and everything you’d ever known….
The reason you didn’t get to marry a nice Jewish man, who would have cherished you…
And you alone …
All this is because you were meant to help save the Jewish people in Persia from certain death.
Esther sends word to Mordecai that she’ll go before the king.
And in some the bravest words I’ve ever read, she says “If I perish, I perish.”
If you know the story, you’ll remember that she asks Mordecai to have the Jews fast. She and her handmaids fast, too, for three days.
Then she dons her royal robes or in modern terms, puts on her business suit, and goes to see the king.
Esther is literally risking her life to see a king who might not be in a favor-granting mood.
Yet when the king sees Esther in the outer court, he’s pleased.
He extends his gold scepter, meaning she can come see him.
Does she unload the entire problem right there?
Instead, she invites the king and Haman to a banquet.
Why didn’t she just get to the point?
I’ve wondered about that.
And I think if she’d blurted out the whole problem in front of the king, he might have looked stupid among the noblemen for being unaware of Haman’s plot.
No leader wants to look clueless, especially a hot-tempered one like Xerxes.
So Esther, Xerxes and Haman have a meal.
During that meal, I wonder if Xerxes wasn’t reminded of why he married Esther in the first place.
She was a beautiful woman and probably a good hostess.
So Xerxes asks what she wants.
She wants another banquet at which she’ll make her request.
The king agrees.
And here’s where we see God working behind the scenes.
That night, the king can’t sleep so he asks that a book of records be read to him.
Aww. He wants a bedtime story.
And that story just happens to include a reminder of how, years earlier, Mordecai helped expose a plan by two men who sought to kill the king.
Mordecai never received recognition for his help and in an unusual turn of events Haman ends up being the one who must honor him.
Haman hates Mordecai and has a gallows built. He’s going to have Mordecai executed.
But before he can do that, Haman is rushed off to a banquet with Esther and the king.
This is where Esther exposes Haman’s evil plot — which if carried out would mean her death, too.
The king is enraged and has Haman hanged on the same gallows he had built for Mordecai.
Xerxes can’t reverse an order to kill the Jews that he unwittingly allowed earlier, but he can let them defend themselves against their enemies.
And they do.
In the end, Mordecai becomes second in command in Persia and the holiday Purim — which commemorates the saving of the Jewish people from Haman — is established.
One woman — Esther — saved an entire group of people from annihilation in Persia.
My mom didn’t save a group of people, but I think she probably saved that little girl’s life.
The motorists going down that street might not have noticed a tiny child on a tricycle had a small, dark-haired woman not been hovering over her.
Until recently, I never thought of my late mother or even Esther as a heroine.
Yet they were.
My mom became brave within minutes.
It took a little longer for Esther, but she certainly was courageous, too.
Before he went to the cross, Jesus said: “Greater love has no one than this, that someone lay down his life for his friends.” (John 15:13)
Neither my mom nor Esther died for their bravery, but they put their lives on the line.
And I’d like to think that God was — and still is — very pleased with both of them.
Tammy Real-McKeighan is news editor of the Fremont Tribune. She writes a weekly faith-based column.