The Cost of Beauty
To be loved is to be lost for often we forget who we are in the intoxication of its beauty. I have heard from many that they love someone or something, yet how it is expressed and interpreted by others is quite often different. Sometimes it is not love at all, yet in an effort to get what we want we lust, obsess, manipulate, or control others. We become angry or jealous when we see others out of the lens of our flesh and not out of the lens of Christ. Sometimes it is to receive some level of immediate gratification and other times it is to fill a void we cannot fill ourselves. I have often thought one of the most dangerous weapons of all time is beauty in all of is ravishing humility and purity. It simply exists. Beauty attracts and is magnetic for attention. It persuades us to do things we may not normally do. It is something to be beholden to, yet when one is rejected by beauty the person vying for its acceptance suffers a great deal. This leads me to reflect on the Jewish holiday Purim. It is a Jewish festival commemorating when the Jewish people were saved from Haman an official of the Persian King at the time. They were saved because of one brave bold woman, Queen Esther, who laid at her Kings feet weeping for her people to be saved. In her boldness and bravery her plea was heard by her King. There is a famous sentence that is often spoken by preachers when ministering to their congregations on meaning and purpose and it is, “You were created for such a time as this”. Queen Esther was created to be Queen at this time, she stood in her purpose and boldly took a risk to save the Jewish people. It is often taught that it is her position in the book of Esther that woman should aspire to emulate. For she is juxtaposed to the Queen she replaced, Queen Vashti. Queen Esther was pleasing in the eyes of her king. Her beauty and amicable nature fast-tracked her to be the position as Queen. She was created for such a time as this, to be put in place of leadership to ultimately save her people. While the role of Queen Vashti in this story is overshadowed by the monumental victory of Queen Esther it is worth taking a closer look at Queen Vashti with open eyes, minds, and hearts.
In many Christian circles Vashti is disregarded or painted in a bad light to the congregation. She represents a spirit of disobedience and rebellion. Some churches who practice deliverance will try to bind and cast out the Spirit of Vashti out of woman who they believe have been infested with her spirit, that is rebellion and disobedience. After reading the book of Esther through this new lens, you will come to realize, at least one can hope, that the casting out of her spirit is as though these Church leaders are looking to discourage women to express themselves and that expressing oneself is rebellion and witchcraft. It is as though they wish to stifle and cast out courage, integrity, and knowing ones identity out of the very women who were born for such a time as this to lead, serve, and love their communities in a bold and beautiful way.
That being said, let’s take a look at the book of Esther and at the brief mentions of Queen Vashti. For seven days the King and his nobleman are drinking and feasting. On the seventh day Queen Vashti dishonors the king and does not submit to him when he demands she appear before the court with her royal crown on her head. He demanded she come so he could show off her beauty to the other nobleman. The King became angry and the nobleman outraged at her refusal to entertain them. In this moment of standing her ground it is misinterpreted as rebellion and disobedience to authority. Is her rebellion and disobedience a bad thing or perhaps is she displaying different traits all together? Is man’s fear and un-Christ-like desires usurping her rights as a woman to preserve her body between herself and the king? Did Vashti really rebel and disobey in a negative way or was she standing up for her rights as a human being? Was Vashti protecting herself from the trauma of sexual and verbal abuse by a room full of drunk men? It appears that her choice to not come to the room caused panic among the nobleman and the King to the point they demanded she be dethroned. They feared other women would catch wind of what she did and that they would be disobedient to their husbands as well. In other words, they were scared her refusal to strip naked before the men would send a statement across the city to other women that they had autonomy and rights to their physical bodies, and therefore had rights to make decisions for themselves. They did not want women to have a voice in their homes. They did not want females to know they had purpose in life beyond pleasuring men.
I believe their is something so Christ-like about Vashti, dare I say it, she is worthy of celebration as much as Esther. Afterall if Queen Vashti did not know her identity and risk losing it all Queen Esther would never have been Queen and the Jewish people would have with a doubt faced genocide. She teaches us in this moment that we must know when to hold onto things and when to let go. It is in knowing our identity and listening to Holy Sprit our obedience to God ( regardless of what it looks like to man) will bear great fruit. Here is this woman, a beautiful Queen. She knows by not coming to the court room to display her body she could be punished severely. She is courageous enough to take a stand for herself and not be subject to man’s demand for pleasure at her expense. She stands for purity against the pressures of man, even in the confines of marriage. She sees the perversion of her husband looking to denigrate her beauty to the lustful desirers of drunk men. I am filled with compassion for Vashti both in the story, but also how she is scripturally painted by contemporary Christians. Her willingness to stand up for herself risked her loss of it all. While Vashti may have lost her seat at the Kings side, she gained her freedom and dignity. While she lost the luxury of the life as a queen, she gained the luxury of preserving purity and having her voice echo to all women centuries later. While her life may not have been any easier living at those times as a woman outside of the kingdom, she stood up for woman at a time that they did not have a voice. Her story moves me to tears. While some call her rebellious and disobedient I call her righteous and true. She stood up for herself and her truth, she protected her heart and her femininity from a room filled with ravenous foolish drunk men. She may have lost her shot at a financially easier life, but she gained a life she could call her own. She didn’t sell out to fame or fortune. She didn’t sell out for power, for a crown encrusted with jewels nor did she bow to man. She teaches women in todays world, that your worth more than what your body can do for men, and bowing to mens orders doesn’t make their orders good and your disobedience bad. When we actually read this story through the perspective of a woman not wanting to be sexually harassed it starts to make you wonder how for so long men only preach on how to be like Esther. While Esther’s story is also powerful in its own right, it’s often cast in a way to overshadow Queen Vashti’s unique expression of integrity and courage. It goes to show how men have changed and in many ways how they have not changed at all. It teaches us that man will forever be afraid of a woman who knows her worth. The kind of woman who can’t be bought, and is willing to walk away from it all. So to anyone who tells you to be more like Esther, yet Vashti resonates with you more. Don’t be ashamed to share it. After all, Vashti means Lovely. And their is nothing more powerful and lovely than a woman unwilling to denigrate her body for the sake of man’s fleshly desires. To be lovely is a powerful thing, and there is truly a cost to beauty. It is not always what it is cracked up to be. It scares men so much, that to be rejected by it means a failure on the man’s part. It highlights the man’s inadequacy to be honored by beauty’s presence and it harkens a man’s desire to raise his standards to be worthy. And for man, that is often met with great resistance within. They will crush any signs of rejection, especially by something so beautiful and lovely as a woman. Furthermore, it says so much about the integrity and character of Vashti in the context of this story. To brave the world. To go from having to having nothing, yet gaining everything virtuous and important. Most stories that people fawn over are the nothing to something stories, yet hers is a something to nothing, and it so powerfully makes a statement. In all of our lives we are called to various platforms of leadership. It is through Queen Vashti and Queen Esther, not only one of them. We learn what it means to have a strong sense of identity and that there is a wisdom in knowing when it is a time to embrace and when it is a time to let go of the things that do not align with who God created us to be.
As women called to lead, it starts with our own minds, bodies, and souls. Do not bow to man at the expense of who God called you to be. Do not bend or break your moral and value system to appease others because when you do that is when you’ll lose yourself. We should never allow others to lead us into situations that we should not be in, but in those times that we find ourselves in precarious situations it’s okay to stand up for yourself. You may get rejected or dethroned from your position but you’ll never be rejected or dethroned from the Fathers heart. He will never deny you to sit at his table. We must know who we are and lead in the same manner as we serve the Lords people with purity and humility at any cost. Amen!
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