My grandmother recently passed away, she was 98, very influential in my life, and there is A LOT I could write about her. One of my favourite grandma stories is how she reacted to Hollywood. One time someone said something to the effect of how glamorous and wonderful Hollywood actresses lives appear to be, you know, how many of us might like to trade places with the rich and famous…anyways, my grandma didn’t miss a beat, “who would want their lives??? They have to kiss men they don’t love on tv!!!” Grandma was not out to impress the world but to live as she saw fit.
The book of Esther has one of the bible’s more memorable characters who struggled with an inner need to impress the world, a man named Haman. Haman’s story has deep irony and much we can learn from. At one point he has a lot of power and prestige, he is confident and has “arrived” so to speak. And yet there is one person who has nothing but disdain for him, a man who looks at him with open disregard. Mordecai is but one person not looking up to Haman, but that is one too many for Haman who needs literally everyone to look up to him.
Haman might remind us of some of the more fragile egos we see on the international stage today, Xi Jinping Donald Trump’s Iranian leaders signing off on death sentences for those who protest and the like. That is the easy route to take, to read the bible, find a character in flaw in someone and then sling mud at obvious targets. This is not how my grandmother would proceed, and nor should we.
More important, for those of us who would be forgiven through the actions of Jesus, is to ask ourselves where we are like these deeply flawed characters. Do we have more than we thought we would in life and yet want more?
Do we generally receive approval and love and yet let one person ruin our day?
Are we good at work and undermined by a single colleague who makes us wonder if we are any good at our jobs?
Are our egos more vulnerable than we think or like to admit?
Do we need a fancy car, big house, impressive title, successful kids/grandkids in order to feel accomplished, loved, or loveable?
The world is full of people who will take advantage of this.
Mordecai on the other hand has very little, we would walk right by him in normal life. He is a member of a minority group that struggles to gain political traction and general acceptance, he seems a little lonely, and very ordinary. But he is unique in that he lives up his own standards and isn’t bothered if doing so is risky for him because to abandon his principles would be riskier still.
Today I am wondering whose approval I still need? Family, friends, and colleagues? Maybe a professor or partner from the past? Maybe an old nemesis that I still dialogue with in my mind?
As long as we let anyone have any control over us we are like Haman and no amount of accolades will suffice, we will find ourselves kissing people we don’t love on tv, so to speak.
In the story Haman says of his success, But all this gives me no satisfaction as long as I see that Jew Mordecai sitting at the king’s gate. The people around him say he ought to have Mordecai killed (killed!?! What a world). I would suggest that even if he did this (spoiler: he tries but Haman hangs on the gallows he set up for Mordecai, I told it was ironic) a new Mordecai would have arrived because the work that needed doing was internal.
Haman’s, and our, insecurities have nothing to do with the world outside and everything to do with inner wellbeing. The healing, the sense of being loved, the “Satisfaction” Haman desired and which we all need, is found in Jesus Christ who offers us a divine love. I find regular scripture reading, time with fellow Christians, prayer and meditation and journalling all help me foster this. I have not arrived yet, I suppose few, if any of us do in this life (maybe grandma got close), but I am confident I am heading in the right direction and I (and more importantly Jesus!) invite you to a new life, a life of satisfaction. Don’t try to impress anyone, just receive the gifts of love and grace and only kiss people you love.