I was watching Brave with my kids last night. If you’ve seen it you know that the underlying story is about the fate of Princess Merida, specifically as to whether she will be forced into a marriage or choose her own path. In one scene she boldly declares, “I’ll be shooting for my OWN hand”. This got me thinking about, well, fate. Does everyone have a certain fate in life, or just red-headed Disney princesses? Are we all destined to some great achievement, to which every decision we make in life directs us invariably toward that end? Or are there no specific things in life we are destined to achieve, but whatever we may or may not accomplish is of our own doing outside of any super-natural force?
I can see the positives in holding either position. With the former, it’s nice to think of an ultimate goal, a “reason” to have been placed on this earth. A specific task we are destined to carry out. With the latter there is an emboldened sense of independence, a higher degree of freedom perhaps in letting your choices shape your life rather than an ultimate “destiny” shaping your choices. Princess Merida was explicit in her belief that her life was fated in a certain direction. But she also clearly believed she could change her fate. She even convinced a witch to cast a spell on her mother, believing that if her mother weren’t so stubborn then she could change her fate.
This is an interesting question to ask yourself as a Christian: Is your life left to fate, or do you choose your own destiny? I’m not entirely sure where I fall in the debate, I’m not even sure it matters. My ultimate goal, as is every God-fearing Christian’s, is to spend eternity in heaven with Jesus. I certainly believe that my decisions in this life can affect my destination in the next, but when it comes to a worldly destiny, my fate (if indeed I have one) on this earth is an entirely different question. For example, when God formed Abraham Lincoln and placed him in this world, did he have it in mind for him to free the slaves? Or was Alexander destined to conquer the globe and effectively make Greek the universal language, conveniently not long before the Gospel was to be spread? Am I meant to… (fill in the blank).
While thinking on this with my 3 yr. old on my lap and my 5 yr. old sipping his cup next to me, watching a red-headed rebel fire off a few arrows, a passage from the Old Testament book of Esther came to mind. Esther was a beautiful Jewish girl, orphaned at a young age and taken under the care of her older cousin, Mordecai. At the time, the Jews were in exile under the Babylonians. Esther found favor in King Ahasuerus’s eyes and eventually became his queen. This was followed by Mordecai angering one of the King’s servants, Haman, because he would not bow down to him or pay homage (a lesson in itself!). Haman sought to destroy all of Mordecai’s people, the Jews, which would have included the new Queen Esther! An edict for the destruction of all Jews under the King’s reign was ordered and Mordecai pleaded with Esther to intercede on behalf of her people and reason with the King. Esther is hesitant and afraid for her life at first, but then Mordecai councils her, “Do not imagine that you in the king’s palace can escape any more than all the Jews. For if you remain silent at this time, relief and deliverance will arise for the Jews from another place and you and your father’s house will perish. And who knows whether you have not attained royalty for such a time as this?” (Esther 4:13,14)
I don’t know if Mordecai is inspired in speaking these words to Esther. This is a common mistake people make. Many events in the Bible are simply a recording of human history, not necessarily giving God’s approval of specific actions or statements. However, his words were certainly inspiring to Esther as they sprung her into action. Two things jump out at me: One, Mordecai had faith that God’s people at that time, the Jews, would not be utterly destroyed whether this edict was allowed to stand or not. They would be delivered, one way or another. Secondly, Mordecai’s position in regards to fate: “who knows whether you have not attained royalty for such a time as this?” Isn’t it curious that the queen of the land which was ready to exterminate the Jews was a Jew herself? Isn’t it curious that although she was an orphan, she had Mordecai and his wisdom to give her council and encouragement? Even more curious is that although she was (placed?) in this position of authority, she still had the free-will choice to protect her people or remain silent. Her “fate” was not out of her control.
I think the lesson in this is that God’s plan comes to fruition whether we play a part in it or not. And our part in that plan is up to us. We can “kick against the goads” as Paul did for so long (Acts 6:5). Or we can spread the good news to all we meet, serving each other in humility as we reflect the love that Christ has shown us. After all, what better fate could one have than to lead others to eternity with The Father in His glory! So, whether you’re a red-headed queen rebelling against the traditions of your kingdom, or an average Joe talking about God with a friend on a long car-ride, remember the words of Mordecai. Who knows, you might be right where you should be, at the exact right moment to do God’s will.