Yesterday, I took my daughter to uni for the start of term. Always a bit of a wrench driving away and leaving her there, but such is life, eh? Sometimes you just have to pull up your big girl pants and make the best of it.
Rather like Esther, who probably had very posh big girl pants to pull up, and possibly a gold-plated loo, which reminds of something that caught my eye while I was dropping my daughter off at her new halls.
The building is on an weirdly-shaped plot and rooms are crammed into the awkward floor plan, but the public loo opposite her flat is the epitome of making the best of what you’re given.
For a start the room is almost triangular, the side walls pointing steeply inwards. It is far longer than it need be but only wide enough for a hand dryer at the far end, and has no windows and no light. Yet some creative genius has made this broom cupboard into a fun, sassy delight (as much as loo can ever be).
The longest wall is filled with a slightly undulating, gold-tinted mirror. Your face changes shape slightly as you move, which means you can fix your hair while getting fairground hall-of-mirrors vibes. The tiles around are a jaunty jumble of patterns and shapes. The lighting is bright and modern, the fittings slick and spotless. The designer made everything look great.
And then there’s the poop pipe.
Running along the main wall, wide and very visible, is a plastic soil pipe that carries the – ahem – detritus from the toilet. It really spoils the look.
Could the builders have routed it in a different direction? Perhaps. But they didn’t.
Could the plumber have boxed it in? Perhaps. But they didn’t.
Could someone have done something to mean the poop pipe didn’t wreck the whole room? Perhaps. But they didn’t.
So the designer did what they could with what they were given. They painted the poop pipe gold.
It’s like Esther. She was in a bit of a crappy position. Being the trophy wife of a fickle despot is not exactly a job for life. Well … maybe for life, but not in a good way. Esther was well aware that if she said the wrong thing, her life was not worth the snap of her husband’s fingers. But not speaking out was just as dangerous. Esther was Jewish, and a whim of the king had condemned all Jews to death in a few months’ time.
What to do? Paint the poop pipe gold. Do what you can with what you’re given.
Esther could not defeat the evil plot herself. She had no power. She could not raise an army. She was a WAG. Her job was to look pretty and be sweet to the king’s guests. She probably even wore false eyelashes.
But she did what she could with that she was given. And what God had given her was false eyelashes, which she could flutter at the king. So flutter them she did!
God is not mentioned in the book of Esther at all, but I have no doubt that Esther shot many prayers upwards as she revealed the reason for the elaborate banquet. Esther told her husband of the impact of his careless edict and pleaded for the lives of her people. The king reversed the dastardly plot on as easy a whim as he instigated it. (Not a great quality in a leader. Nothing much changes.)
No-one else in the kingdom could have persuaded the king to listen. As her uncle Mordecai had noted, “Who knows but that you have come to your royal position for such a time as this?”
Sometimes we are in positions of choice, and we can change stuff and fix things. Sometimes we feel powerless in the face of huge problems. The little we can do seems so insignificant and useless.
I expect Esther felt like that too. In the face of genocide she gave a dinner party. But she prayed to God and painted the poop pipe gold. And that was enough.
Esther 7:1-6, 9-10, 9:20-22
So the king and Haman went to Queen Esther’s banquet, and as they were drinking wine on the second day, the king again asked, ‘Queen Esther, what is your petition? It will be given you. What is your request? Even up to half the kingdom, it will be granted.’
Then Queen Esther answered, ‘If I have found favour with you, Your Majesty, and if it pleases you, grant me my life – this is my petition. And spare my people – this is my request. For I and my people have been sold to be destroyed, killed and annihilated. If we had merely been sold as male and female slaves, I would have kept quiet, because no such distress would justify disturbing the king.[a]’
King Xerxes asked Queen Esther, ‘Who is he? Where is he – the man who has dared to do such a thing?’
Esther said, ‘An adversary and enemy! This vile Haman!’
Then Haman was terrified before the king and queen.
Then Harbona, one of the eunuchs attending the king, said, ‘A pole reaching to a height of fifty cubits stands by Haman’s house. He had it set up for Mordecai, who spoke up to help the king.’
The king said, ‘Impale him on it!’ So they impaled Haman on the pole he had set up for Mordecai. Then the king’s fury subsided.
Mordecai recorded these events, and he sent letters to all the Jews throughout the provinces of King Xerxes, near and far, that they should celebrate annually the fourteenth and fifteenth days of the month of Adar as the time when the Jews got relief from their enemies, and as the month when their sorrow was turned into joy and their mourning into a day of celebration. He wrote to them to observe the days as days of feasting and joy and giving presents of food to one another and gifts to the poor.