esther v. vashti (a story about comparison)
Yesterday I wrote about how comparison, criticism and control can make us miserable and keep us stuck. This morning I decided to write a little more about comparison (which often leads to criticism), because it's something I've been thinking about a lot. Whenever I speak at women's retreats, I usually have a phone meeting with the organizers beforehand and ask them what the biggest issue is that the women in their church face.
An answer that comes up repeatedly is this: women in their church tend to segregate based on roles and demographics, and sometimes they even judge each other based on their choices. And because of those issues, it’s difficult to create unity.
There are the homeschooling moms and the moms who send their kids to public school. There are single women and married women. Women who have careers and women who stay at home. Those who get take-out every night and those who cook dinner from scratch. And the list of differences goes on and on and on.
When I hear about these schisms, my mind goes to the story of Esther and Vashti.
Vashti was married to King Xerxes, who threw a huge party, got drunk, and then commanded his wife to appear wearing her crown so he could show her off. Some scholars think he wanted to her to come naked, wearing only her crown and nothing else. Vashti refuses, and she’s banished from the kingdom.
In order to replace her, the king organizes a beauty pageant where women are paraded before him, and he gets to pick one to be his new queen. A Jewish girl named Esther competes in the pageant and wins the king’s affection. She becomes the queen, and uses her influence over the king to save the life of her people.
When I speak at women’s retreats, I ask women to imagine what would happen if Esther and Vashti went to the same church, and they bumped into each other in the lobby one Sunday morning.
Vashti would probably tell Esther she was a sell-out. How could she possibly sleep in the same bed with a man who objectified and demeaned women?
And Esther would tell Vashti that she’d made the wrong choice by leaving, that the right thing to do was to be married to Xerxes and use that influence to do good in the kingdom.
I would submit that both of these women made the right choice, but their choices were not only different from each other; they were exactly the opposite.
As women who follow Christ, we have to remember that we may have a conviction that is clear and strong, but it doesn’t mean that we can judge other women who don’t have that same conviction -- or who may even be convicted to do something completely different.
God didn’t call us to judge each other’s choices, but to love each other. He did not call us to organize fragmented affinity groups, but to be a unified body that reflects his love to each other and the world.
God calls us to value each other not only in spite of, but even because of our differences. Because just like God worked through Esther and Vashti’s opposite choices to save the life of the Jewish people, God is working through our differences -- through our varied lifestyles and circles of influence and choices and callings -- to reach the world he loves.