<<“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."??>>
For her part, Ester keeps her racial identity as a Jew secret from her husband until “such a time as this” which is how she saves all the Jews – men, women and little children, as well as all of their property – in all of the 127 provinces of King Ahauerus’ kingdom.
I feel called to tell you about one of my Hospice patients. Most of you know that I am a Hospice Chaplain. A while back, one of my patients was a 94 or 95 year old woman who, at first, was a little leary about my role. Eventually, she grew to like me and, more importantly, trust me.
One day when I went to visit she asked me if I heard confession? Yes, I said. Well, did I give absolution. Indeed, I said. Well then, said she, I have a story to tell you.
She took a deep breath and said, "When I was 15 years old, I was raped by my uncle. I didn't even have a word for it. I just knew that I was violated. A few months later, I found that I was pregnant. I was scared. I was terrified. I didn't know what to do except to lock myself in my room and cry."
"One of those times, my aunt, my mother and uncle's sister, came into my room and saw me in tears. She asked whatever was the matter and, against my better judgement, I told her. The whole story spilled out. My aunt listened carefully and then announced that she would take care of everything but I was not to tell anyone. Not even my mother. Not ever."
"So," she took a breath and continued, "I had an abortion. This was 80 years ago. It was illegal. But, my uncle was the 'star' of the family. The whole world was his oyster. Nothing could interfere with his future or his success or the family name."
"You know, I had no choice. Not about anything. Not about the person with whom I would have sex. Not whether or not I would get pregnant. Not whether or not to have an abortion. All of those choices were taken from me."
"And, " she said, "I told no one. Not my mother. Not my father. Not my husband. Not my children. My Aunt was the only one and she took that secret to her grave."
"So, here's my question for you: When I get to heaven - IF I get to heaven - will the soul I aborted hate me?"
I was quiet for awhile as I took her story to my heart and listened deeply to her question.
I looked deep into her eyes, past the tears, past the pain, and into her soul and said, "I know this much to be true: There is no hate in heaven."
A tear fell from her eye as she smiled and said, "Thank you. I don't need absolution. I got everything I need from you. I feel suddenly free - liberated - from the burden of this secret. Now, I can meet the one who created me with a clean heart. Now I can meet that soul and greet her in love. Thank you."
This – what Buechner has described, of getting to the truth of our lives – is what I would name as being “salted with fire”. Jesus says, “Everyone will be salted with fire.” I hear this as a statement about the preservation of human souls through the salt of truth.“I have called this book Telling Secrets because I have come to believe that by and large the human family all has the same secrets, which are both very telling and very important to tell. They are telling in the sense that they tell what is perhaps the central paradox of our condition – what we hunger for perhaps more than anything else is to be know in our full humanness, and yet that is often just what we also fear more than anything else.It is important to tell at least from time to time the secret of who we truly and fully are – even if we tell it only to ourselves – because otherwise we run the risk of losing track of who we truly and fully are and little by little come to accept instead the highly edited version which we put forth in hope that the world will find it more acceptable than the real thing.It is important to tell our secrets too because it makes it easier that way to see where we have been in our lives and where we are going. It also makes it easier for other people to tell us a secret or two of their own, and exchanges like that have a lot to do with what being a family is all about and what being human is all about.Finally, I suspect that it is by entering that deep place inside us where our secrets are kept that we come perhaps closer than we do anywhere else to the One who, whether we realize it or not, is of all our secrets the most telling and the most precious we have to tell.”