When I read the familiar story of Esther, the brave queen most often arrests my focus. I ponder her behavior in a crisis and desire to possess her bravery to fulfill God’s purposes. However, far less often have I considered the important role that Mordecai and otherwise mentors in her young life played in this biblical story. In a small way, I first identified with Esther at age thirteen. During my growing up years, my parents nurtured the longings of my young heart to stay connected to God. I desired to do something great and noble for Him and imagined myself standing up to “the crowd” when it came to making right decisions, but I always found the security of my parent’s presence nearby in moments when I faced peer pressure—until one rainy Sabbath afternoon after a potluck.
Local youth leaders, in an effort to rally the church’s young people from a placid meal, organized a group activity. Before long, voices shrieked and the sound of footsteps pounded up and down the stairs of the house as the game ensued. Something about this game didn’t seem right to me—not for the Sabbath, anyway. I resolved in my mind that I would stay apart from the rest of the group to avoid being questioned about it, but a youth leader found me a short while later in the library. “Come join the rest of us,” she beckoned with a wave of her hand.
“No thank you,” I nodded with a smile and turned to look at the book in front of me.
“Come on, it will be fun. If you say no, I’ll be back to ask you again for a different answer.”
My inner nature desperately wanted to please. In the past, I shrank back from confrontation when at all possible. For a moment I wondered if half-heartedly participating in the game would be the easiest route to take. Would my peers think I was self-righteous for not playing? Maybe I could be a better witness if I simply joined in. Maybe God would give me grace, given that a church member in good standing required my participation.
No, I decided. This decision is about honoring the Sabbath and being true to conviction. If I don’t stand up now, how can I expect to ever stand up for God? When the familiar figure paraded into the library a second time, I gave her my reason and she nodded an acknowledgment. “That’s understandable,” she said before turning to leave. With a sigh of relief, I slowly wandered into the kitchen where several adults conversed in the corner. “Why aren’t you playing, Abby?” my younger sister brushed my hand with her own small one and gazed questioningly at my face.
“I don’t feel that this game is honoring God on the Sabbath,” I explained. “It’s a personal decision.” “If you don’t play, we won’t either,” my youngest sister chimed in. Just then, the familiar youth leader spotted us three there. After seeing that we wouldn’t be persuaded to join in, she pointed her finger in our direction and asked each of us the same question. “Are you going to be a bump-on-a-log and refuse to play?” When she reached me, I fought my nervous inclination to crawl into a corner. “Yes,” I responded with all the confidence that a young thirteen-year-old could muster.
All the while, a young man in his twenties sat on a stool nearby and listened to the exchange. The youth leader moved on and I took a seat nearby with my hands nervously clasped in my lap. It was then that the young man turned to me and said four words that would impact my young life forever: “I’m proud of you.” He said that it wasn’t easy to stand up in a crowd, that it wasn’t fair to be pressured to ignore conscience—but that God would bless me for being faithful. The young man’s words were a soothing balm to my soul. Little did he realize the powerful impact that his encouragement had on my heart. From that day forward, my desire to do something great for God doubled, and I realized that I would rather live like a “bump-on-a-log” with Jesus than to cave into my weaknesses without Him.
This desire drove me to my knees in prayer and to my Bible for study; through teenagerhood, the promise of my heavenly Father’s blessing for faithfulness preserved me from a flood of evil. Ten years later when I found myself in the tropical forests of Africa fulfilling a personal mission for Christ, the impact of a few words to a thirteen-year-old was still with me. I am forever convinced of the power of godly mentorship and encouragement, especially for the young and often fragile of faith who could be changed forever by the power of a few words. I am inspired by the bravery of Esther to stand up for the right, but I can’t forget the quiet and effectual witness of Mordecai who encouraged her to fulfill her mission with faithfulness.
Take a personal interest in mentoring young people in the faith. Encourage them to seek for heavenly blessing over peer approval. Remind them that no matter how alone one might feel—whether walking down a palace corridor to save a nation or standing up for conviction in a humble kitchen—God’s blessing is more than enough of a reward.