Hildegard of Bingen once said, “Secrets make us sick.” For that reason, I’m glad that Dr. Christine Blasey Ford is speaking publicly. No longer will she hold in what she remembers as a terrifying incident.
This Sunday, Esther’s story will be read aloud in churches across the country (Track #1 in the lectionary). It is an important story, and Esther ranks fourth on the list of most words spoken by women in the Bible. But given this moment in history, it is Vashti, Esther’s predecessor, who intrigues me.
Her story, found in Chapter 1 of the Book of Esther, goes like this:
Vashti, the first wife of King Ahasuerus of Persia, is suddenly outsted from her post as queen for not obeying the king’s orders to “show the peoples and the officials her beauty” during a celebration to commemorate “the great wealth of his kingdom.” Although we don’t know exactly why she objected, here are some good reasons:
- She was tired of entertaining, as the party was at the end of 187 days of feasting;
- The king’s eunuchs arrived to “collect” her, probably somewhat undiplomatically;
- The king was drunk (the Bible says, “merry with wine”) and;
- Ahasuerus’ order for her to wear her crown apparently made her wonder if that was all she would be wearing.
Her refusal to answer Ahasuerus’ command humiliates the king in front of his subordinates, causing him to send word throughout the country that such behavior will not be tolerated. Every man, says he, should be master in his own house! Vashti disappears, never to be heard from again. We don’t know what happened to her.
And that is where Esther comes into the picture. Plucked out of the countryside to join Ahasuerus’ harem, she so “pleased” him that she was named Queen of Persia, eventually saving the Jewish community from annihilation.
It is possible, although not documented, that Vashti was killed. We will never know. But we do know this: she stood up for herself, refusing to parade before dozens, if not hundreds, of drunken men. She had had enough.
Similiarly, we do not know all the details of Dr. Ford’s story. For that matter, neither does she. But after keeping her story largely to herself for years, I believe her soul is healthier for the telling of her story–and I pray our collective soul as a people is healthier because of her courage.
Secrets make us sick. And that is why generation after generation of brave women have gone before us in Judeo-Christian history, telling their stories–and often putting themselves in harm’s way as a result.
We cannot control the outcome. But we can, like our spiritual grandmothers in the Bible, must work toward the restoration of our souls–and that of our culture’s soul as well.
Thanks to Dana Wirth Sparks!
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