I’m doing a Bible study this year in Esther – a book about a Jewish orphan who defies the odds to become the queen of Persia through marriage to King Xerxes. During Esther’s reign, a decree is issued for the entire Jewish population to be exterminated, but God uses her royal influence to thwart the plot and save the Jews. In the penultimate chapter of the book we read this: “On the thirteenth day of the twelfth month, the edict (to annihilate the Jews) was to be carried out. On this day the enemies of the Jews had hoped to overpower them, but now the tables were turned and the Jews got the upper hand over those who hated them.” According to study facilitator Beth Moore, the “most pronounced theme of the Book of Esther is the reversal of destiny”… And about this reversal she says: “God can’t turn a table that was never set against you.”
It’s a fairly obvious point but still a striking one. A story like Esther’s is compelling and inspiring because of its drama- the threat of annihilation, the fear Esther must conquer to intervene, and ultimately her brave “risk-it-all” act of approaching her husband, the king. The triumph and relief that accrue to Esther – and all the Jews- come in the face of otherwise fatal circumstances. They anticipate evil and destruction; they get rescue and life. God swoops in and saves them through Esther and her cousin Mordecai. God responds to their cries, fasting, and prayers. He hears them. He reverses their destiny.
But what if we never faced any misfortune? What if Esther and the Jews hadn’t? No threat, no danger, no tears and desperate prayers… and no reversal of destiny. No profound gratitude at the goodness, mercy, and responsiveness of God. No drama… and no celebration or deepened faith.
“God can’t turn a table that was never set against you.” Suppose (as Moore asks) God answered every prayer I prayed for myself and my family. Suppose my marriage was always smooth; kids were easy to conceive, deliver, and raise; no health problems ever emerged for me or anyone I loved; my husband never faced vocational or employment challenges; money was always abundant; we lived where we wanted in the perfect house. What kind of life would that be? Or more to the point: what kind of faith would that produce? What would my love for God – my trust in his sovereignty – look like? I would be a spoiled brat, spiritually speaking, and have a weak and shallow faith.
It got me thinking about parenting. I don’t think of myself as a hovering “helicopter parent” in the traditional sense… I’m not paranoid about our children’s safety or consumed with helping them succeed academically. Overparenting in our culture’s standard ways – removing every germ from my home, signing kids up for a hundred extracurriculars, doing their homework for them – likely won’t be my problem. But I wonder: is there such a thing as spiritual helicopter parenting? Because that I could see being much more of a temptation for me.
My kids are only 4, 2, and 9 months old – and I can already see how difficult it is to watch them go through hard times. It’s awful. I see, though, that all the childhood woes- not excelling at preferred activities, being left out socially or disliked by admired peers, getting made fun of – it’s all coming. Sad fact is that things will not always go the way I’ll wish in my kids’ lives. They’ll face tough times; they will hurt. I’ll want to protect them from the pain, to make it go away. I’ll rail against the fact that I can’t “make it all better for them.” My prayers for them will not always be answered.
But I also see that a healthy kid who grows up in a nurturing home, introduced to Christ and His love at a young age still needs some reversal of destiny in his life. If anything, he needs it more than the kid who grows up neglected, destitute, or disabled. Because without facing some adversity and pain, how else is the kid going to see God working in his life? How else will he experience the sacrificial and table-turning love of Jesus? Without experiencing some pain, how will he know our destiny-reversing God? He won’t. His faith in Christ – if he has one at all – will be weak and immature. And this fate is infinitely worse.
God save us – my children, me, all of us – from such a shallow and lukewarm faith. Jesus wants none of it, and neither do I. Forbid, Oh God, that I should become a helicopter mom in the realm of the spiritual. Rather give me faith to trust my kids, misfortunes and all, into Your loving sovereignty and Your big picture plans for their lives.