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Your Sacred Noes

~Michelle L. Torigian~

"But Queen Vashti refused to come at the king’s command conveyed by the eunuchs. At this the king was enraged, and his anger burned within him." - Esther 1:12

In Esther 1, King Ahasuerus asks for his wife Vashti to dance for him and his friends. His request for her to be willingly objectified is met with a resounding "no" resulting in Vashti’s banishment.

Would Vashti have repeated her “no” if she knew the consequence?  

Noes are complicated but not meant to be fluid.  They are a part of our everyday negotiating in each of our relationships. 

Pleasing others and the impact of saying no holds us back. Vashti was banished for saying no. Could this happen to us?

Then there are the times when we actually say the word "no" or physically indicate a refusal.  These noes are often ignored or misperceived.  Sometimes, we must say "no" repeatedly. With every decline our words begin to hold less power. Exhaustion sets in; we relent when all we want to do it tell our somewhat-manipulating neighbors to stop.

Currently, many #MeToo and #TimesUp conversations taking place. These discussions now include coercive dating and sexual experiences. Women are coming forward to express their exhaustion with being ignored.  They are shamed and questioned to why they didn't try harder to refuse the strong waves of coercion.

Your noes are sacred because you are made in the image of God. Keep speaking them and continue having conversations about the times women are pressured to concede.

For all of the times we have said no and were ignored and for our times that our noes held no power, God we ask you to strengthen our souls. Remove shame and the feelings of obligation. And more than anything else, give us a world in which our noes will be affirmed. Amen.


The Rev. Michelle L. Torigian is the Pastor of St. Paul United Church of Christ, Old Blue Rock Road in Cincinnati. Her essay “Always a Pastor, Never the Bride” was in the RevGalBlogPals book There’s a Woman in the Pulpit. She also has chapters in the books Sacred Habits: The Rise of the Creative Clergy and A Child Laughs: Prayers for Justice and Hope.  Torigian blogs at http://www.michelletorigian.com.
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This week I started thinking about what I might do as a spiritual practice for Lent.

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It's the opposite of what I'm doing these days, which is reading the Psalms and drawing in the margins of a Common English Bible designed for note-taking. I started at 51, just to mix things up; I'm noodling around, and writing names of people I'm praying for, and even though I'm not always a fan of the renderings of the psalms here, I'm getting something from reading them, if "something" is defined as a sense that there is God. 

I suspect that we all have times, no matter what our vocation is in a particular season, when we need to remember we are not just faith workers but faith people, when we need to remember that there is God, despite all appearances to the contrary. I'm in this with you.

Faithfully,

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