Stewardship of Spouses
Xerxes is throwing a wildly extravagant dinner party. The only limitation on his guests intake is the boundary of their own desire. At the climax of the revelry, the king sends for his queen, intending to show her off as a status symbol. When Vashti commits the unthinkable by refusing, she subjects this megalomaniac to utter humiliation.
Author Robert Farrar Capon discusses the unrealistically high expectations we place on sex, romance and marriage. (He thinks we tend to make “religions” out of these aspects of our lives. The higher our expectations, the more like a “religion” sex, romance, and marriage become for us.) He also comments on the false expectations we place on these aspects of our lives and on the release valves we look for when the newness wears off. A quotation of his remarks on marriage:
Marriage exposes us to all of the unacceptable qualities of our spouses and ourselves with relentlessness those other two states sex and romance can never match–and because year after year it makes it clearer that what is unacceptable about us is not what we do but who we are–the religions we concoct to conjure with marriage are more useless than any others.
Nevertheless, rather than admit that the religions don’t work–that no such canny sacrifices can take the place of patience, manners, and ultimately, forgiveness–we go right on making sacrifices, up to and including the devastating one of immolating each other in divorce. If I had to assign a single, overarching cause to the high American divorce rate, it would be our refusal to throttle, or even to question, the religion of marriage. Our marital breakups are almost always seen by us–after a few token apologies for our own (pardonable) shortcomings–as due to our partner’s unpardonable offenses against the god of matrimony.
Capon’s conclusion brings home what God intends these relationship stages to mean in the Christian life. His insights are both sobering and profoundly inspiring.
Sex, romance, and marriage then; these three. Like everything else in the world, they are anamneses (remembrances) and prolepses (anticipations) of the Home from which we come and to which we go. But preeminently they are the grand sacraments of the fact that Home is the end of a relationship. We are not artifacts destined for an eternal mantelpiece; we are the beloved called the incarnate Wisdom of the Father, into the last relationship of all into the exchanges of the Godhead itself–into the Love of the Father and the Son in the unity of the Holy Spirit.
Esther 1:1-12 NKJV
Now it came to pass in the days of Ahasuerus (this was the Ahasuerus who reigned over one hundred and twenty-seven provinces, from India to Ethiopia), in those days when King Ahasuerus sat on the throne of his kingdom, which was in Shushan the citadel, that in the third year of his reign he made a feast for all his officials and servants—the powers of Persia and Media, the nobles, and the princes of the provinces being before him— when he showed the riches of his glorious kingdom and the splendor of his excellent majesty for many days, one hundred and eighty days in all. And when these days were completed, the king made a feast lasting seven days for all the people who were present in Shushan the citadel, from great to small, in the court of the garden of the king’s palace. There were white and blue linen curtains fastened with cords of fine linen and purple on silver rods and marble pillars; and the couches were of gold and silver on a mosaic pavement of alabaster, turquoise, and white and black marble. And they served drinks in golden vessels, each vessel being different from the other, with royal wine in abundance, according to the generosity of the king. In accordance with the law, the drinking was not compulsory; for so the king had ordered all the officers of his household, that they should do according to each man’s pleasure. Queen Vashti also made a feast for the women in the royal palace which belonged to King Ahasuerus. On the seventh day, when the heart of the king was merry with wine, he commanded Mehuman, Biztha, Harbona, Bigtha, Abagtha, Zethar, and Carcas, seven eunuchs who served in the presence of King Ahasuerus, to bring Queen Vashti before the king, wearing her royal crown, in order to show her beauty to the people and the officials, for she was beautiful to behold. But Queen Vashti refused to come at the king’s command brought by his eunuchs; therefore the king was furious, and his anger burned within him.
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