Summary: A profile of courage in the person of Esther
The Woman Who Got the King’s Attention
I began a new job on October 1, 2013. On that same day, many of my friends and any number of U.S. citizens were told to stay home. For sixteen days, my friends and any number of people unknown to me were told to stay home. Uncertainty became their “new normal”. For some, this time at home meant a few less days of vacation travel this Christmas. For others, those sixteen days were the beginning of the short sale or foreclosure process. And still for others, sixteen days hastened the end of their food supply.
It did not have to be that way, but as we learn in the opening chapter of the book of Esther, sometimes our best efforts to live peaceably can be upset by empowered persons who recklessly abandon their duty. Like King Ahasuerus, the power brokers who control the levers of our time are prone to act before bothering to survey the landing zone. They issue decrees or cast votes without accounting for the real people, the real families, who are often reduced to being spoken of as collateral damage.
That is what happened to Queen Vashti, who became a victim of reckless policy. But, that is also what happened to women throughout the Persian kingdom. They had to be controlled, silenced, put in their place…forgotten about until some need for satisfaction arose.
Queen Vashti became a footnote, cast aside like junk mail. We don’t know much about Vashti, but we know her self-respect cost her everything. Into this prehistoric mentality comes Mordecai’s cousin; some young lady who got the king’s attention. She was available, but in no way was she free. She had a name, but it didn’t matter. She was merely the lucky one out of many. She just happened to be the one the king chose – to be seen whenever the king got ready for her. Let’s be honest, in the eyes of some, Mordecai’s cousin was a token.
At some point, it would seem that the oppressor would run out of necks on which to step. It would seem that at some point enough would be enough. Not only do the powerful fail to discharge their duty equitably and fairly, but they also have Hamans who promote their own self-serving agenda. These are corporate backers, puppet masters, hangers-on who have bad, or at the very least self-serving, intentions that do not include you; these are the ones who have the king’s ear. And bad turns to worse.
I’m convinced that Haman’s offspring are the pushers, the d-boys, who won’t leave our children alone. His offspring are the chauvinists who will not enforce equal pay laws, but will fight to ensure they get paid while the rest of government is shut down. His offspring are those who fatten the pockets of their corporate masters while denying WIC funding to some of our neighbors so they can keep food on the table. And, based on his suggested approach to life and his suggestion to the king, Haman may have very little regard for the king himself. But, Haman has the king’s ear. So, not only is the king prone to self-destruction, but Haman is his advisor. I’m reminded of the old saying about the black community: “When the economy catches a cold, we get pneumonia.” Bad, meet worse.
But wait, here comes the token – Esther, by name. She is in a position to stop the madness. At the very least, she can give voice to those who would suffer at the loss of voting rights and those who would suffer at the loss of quality education. At the very least she can be the face of hunger; she can be the poster-child of underfunded arts programs; she can be the spokesperson for those with childhood diseases who lack quality healthcare options. She can be all of that. But here is what I like, she can also be Esther.
She can be a person. She does not have to be pregnant and barefoot unless she wants to be. She does not have to be content with pseudonyms. She does not have to laugh at jokes that demean her personhood. She can be Esther. And from that lofty place, she can also be concerned enough about others to do something when her opportunity presented itself.
As we get to Esther Chapter 4, we see her as she was meant to be. No longer was she only Mordecai’s cousin. She was no longer only a winsome young lady with untapped potential. This is Esther: the one who orchestrates the strings of a king’s heart. This is Esther: the one who seizes the day, seizes the opportunity, and seizes the hand of imminent death for her people and made it retreat. This is Esther. See her. Look upon her. Take in her essence. Hear her voice. Take note of the beat of her heart – it alternates between the snare’s drumroll, the tympany’s anticipation, and the bass’s declaration. Here she is, Esther, the Queen. She is a woman. She stands on her own. She is alive!