Memos from the Middle

Smack-Dab in the Middle of Living

Positioned for Purpose

I had successfully dodged my principal for days. I knew what she wanted. After all, I had already said “no” to the person she’d sent my way to coax me into service. I had heard the complaints about our principal and the snide remarks about her leadership decisions. While I was above the fray enough to distance myself from outward aggression or public discontentment, my eyebrows raised more than a few times. That’s only natural, I guess, when you perceive someone else to be “the one in charge.” Now, though, she wanted me to assume a leadership position. But I didn’t want the hassle. It was hard enough just being a colleague. “English Department Chairperson,” a quasi-leadership role over 27 other people, was not my idea of a fun work experience. But there I was, standing in a crowded hallway with her during a passing period, kicking myself for choosing that moment to head to the Attendance Office.

After the obligatory pleasantries and fussing principals dole out to students in school hallways, she turned to me.

“I don’t want to,” I confessed, more honestly than I had intended.

“But I need you,” she said, perhaps more honestly than she had intended.

“Doc,” I countered with an earnestness our mutual confessions elicited. “They don’t want a person like me to be their chairperson. I care too much about the work.”

“That’s why you should do it.”

“No.” I said, shaking my head and almost pleading with her to withdraw the request.

“Look,” she offered. “You may want to be a principal one day, and this would be a great opportunity for you.”

“Absolutely not,” I laughed. “There is no way I would ever do that job! I see the crap you go through. That is not for me.”

“You don’t know what God has for you, Marilyn. You’re saying “no” to something He may have in His plan for your future.”

“Doc,” I whined like a child being forced to clean the kitchen again. “I don’t want to do it.”

“I know you don’t, but I am asking you as a personal favor for me.”

The last thing I wanted as a wife and mother of two small children was to add more responsibility, pressure, and conflict in my life. I had a 1988 Chevy Celebrity that leaked every time it rained and had holes in the floorboards. I missed my husband, who drove 50 miles round trip to his job every day and often had to work double and triple shifts, leaving me alone with our girls more often than I liked. Life definitely wasn’t “sweet,” but I was comfortable. I knew what this change at school could bring, and I was not looking forward to it. It was going to make my life harder.

Studying the book of Esther this week reminded me of this transitional period in my life. Esther ascended to the throne as queen. Yes, she was arrestingly beautiful. Yes, she was pampered and catered to all hours of the day. And yes, she was the most powerful woman in the kingdom (even though this is oxymoronic at best). But life wasn’t all roses for her. The king’s harem may have consisted of about 400 women. Esther was also a Jew in a Persian-ruled land with a Persian husband as king, and she had to conceal her faith strategically for her safety and for God’s divine plan. Yet these contradictions didn’t erase the fact that overall Esther was comfortable.

When Mordecai sent word back to Esther that she should appeal to the king to save the Jews who were doomed to be slaughtered at Haman’s insistence and the king’s unwitting agreement, she was reluctant. Esther feared for her life: “All the king’s servants and the people of the king’s provinces know that any man or woman who goes into the inner court to the king, who has not been called, he has but one law: put all to death, except the one to whom the king holds out the golden scepter, that he may live” (Esther 4: 11, NKJV).

Mordecai, the same man who raised Esther as his own daughter when her father and mother died, the one who counseled her about discretion in the foreign court, the one who daily paced outside the women’s quarters to check on her well-being once she was taken into the king’s harem, reminded Esther of her humble, Jewish roots. His faith was so strong that he knew that God would use someone to deliver His people, even if Esther refused, but he also warned her of her ultimate destruction if she did nothing to help. She had been positioned for purpose, and as Mordecai famously questions, “Who knows whether you have come to the kingdom for such a time as this?” (Esther 4: 14, NKJV)

Friend, we all have our comfort zones. It doesn’t mean that we are elated 24 hours a day, seven days a week, but familiarity does bring a measure of reassurance, ease, and cheer. It is not easy to step into the line of fire. It is not easy to open oneself up to added hostilities, negativities, and uncertainties, but as God’s chosen, wherever we are positioned, it is for His glory and for the uplift of His people. It’s not about us!

When we are confronted with the truth of our God, we have a choice to make: Will we surrender all to Him? It’s really just that simple, Friend. Not easy, but simple. Are we willing to give up our comforts, fears, inclinations, habits, desires, and plans to do what He wants us to do for Him and His kingdom? Can He count on us to be brave enough to do what is right in His sight even without the luxury of assured success or public backing? Or will we take our chances doing the same things we’ve always done, believing the same things we’ve always believed, and being the same people we’ve always been?

I looked at her blazer covered shoulders and the customary walkie-talkie, keys, and clipboard in hand, not realizing how close I was to donning this exact ensemble. I remembered the word she had put in for me at the request of my aunt that got me the interview for the teaching position I held. I remembered her wisdom she shared with me about effectively and professionally navigating the politics of school culture as a new teacher. I remembered the kindnesses and coaching she provided when she had so much other work to do.

“Fine!” I acquiesced. “But I’ll never be a principal!” I added.

“I eagerly expect and hope that I will in no way be ashamed, but will have sufficient courage so that now as always Christ will be exalted in my body, whether by life or by death.” (Philippians 1: 20, NIV)

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