Almost 8 1/2 years ago, my husband and I were church hopping – just having fun really, exploring about 4-5 different churches in our city, once we were engaged and planning our wedding, my husband chose what would come to be our home church. It’s been one of the best decisions we’ve made, and I’m proud that I didn’t pressure him into one of the other churches we were hopping around to. If he was going to be leading, I knew that he had to make this decision as our spiritual leader, and yes, this meant me giving up one of my favorite churches to attend so that, as a couple, we would follow his lead.
A little background here, the church that was probably my favorite was also admittedly very strange, it was scary to new believers at times because it was heavy on the Spirit, speaking randomly in tongues, wild dancing in the front, prophecies declared at almost anytime… you never knew what was going to happen in a given service. I didn’t mind… I’m very laid back and the Holy Spirit was so strong there that I would almost always cry during a service. Before taking my husband there, I gave him an out and let him know that the last girl I tried to take with me (a good, timid Baptist girl from my denomination) was scared out of her mind there and actually wanted to leave mid-service!
My mom was a church hopper… even though we had our home church in our small town, she would frequently take us to other ones that had a certain sermon she wanted us to hear, or to the Messianic church to make sure we stayed in touch with the Jews (my husband and I still go back during special Jewish holidays, it is a wonderful, beautiful congregation of amazing people). She was the spiritual leader in our family, and so I knew that I wanted to be different in that I would allow my husband to lead me where our family would go. Through the years we’ve been in our church, it has been amazing to watch and experience how many people we’ve come to love and who love us – we have grown so much here, both spiritually and in our relationships with the church family.
No matter where we are, we are called to Grow Where Planted. In my study on Esther, I’ve been reflecting on the fact that the story revolves around people who are exiles, foreigners, in an extremely exotic Persian Empire. They were so out of their “place” here, in fact many had chosen to go home when King Cyrus let the captives go, and yet at the same time, they were exactly where God wanted these Jews to be. And yet, God expected them to not only survive there, He expected His chosen people to be a positive influence on wherever He had placed them.
“Seek the welfare of the city where I have sent you.”
Jeremiah 29-7 God’s instructions to the exiles in captivity
Mordecai, Esther’s older, male cousin who adopted her after her parents (either at the same, or different times) died, and “brought her up,” held a special position of being a man who sat at the King’s gate (Esther 2:19;21). According to Beth Moore’s study, men who sat at the King’s gate were akin to government employees “who acted as the eyes and ears of their ruler.”
The JPS Bible Commentary on Esther, a book awarded the Prize of the Minister of Science, Culture, and Sport of the State of Israel, for classical literature for the year 5762, takes this historical research even further, asserting that Mordecai was more than likely a member of the King’s secret police during that time. After the romantic story of Esther and the King falling in love, after the King throws a banquet in her honor, Mordecai discovers, while he sat at the King’s gate, a plot to assassinate the King.
Mordecai was a Jew in a foreign land where just a few generations ago, they were brutally crushed by King Nebuchadnezzar, and forcefully taken there as captives. And yet, he was one of many who faithfully served the city they remained in. Instead of going back to rebuild Jerusalem like many Jews did, he (like many others) decided to stay and make a life as a productive, loyal citizen. He protected and guarded King Xerxes’ life by taking this threat of assassination seriously, and when the threat was investigated (and found to be true), the men were hanged, and Mordecai’s name was written into the Book of Chronicles in the King’s presence.
Sometimes we find ourselves in positions of political unrest or sensitivity, and yet we are called to “Seek the welfare of the city where I have sent you.” We are children of God that are citizens of another world, not ourselves of this world, and yet, we are expected to live faithfully and loyally, even going so far as to look out for our rulers’ best interest, even when we disagree with them (Daniel anyone?).
We are in the midst of an election in our city that will affect the police force and fire departments in either a positive or detrimental manner… during this politically sensitive time, many in our city understand the weight of carrying this creed God gave to His people, to “Seek the welfare of the city where I have sent you,” while many simply do not.
We are faced with a choice of going towards the direction of the possibility of a Baltimore-like existence, or remaining in a somewhat stable environment for our police force.
No matter what is decided, we will grow where planted, as long as God ordains.