By Katie Delp
Katie Delp, our Executive Director, recently preached on Esther’s response to Haman and what it can teach us. This is Part 4, the final post in a series exploring Esther’s rooted response. You can start with Part 1 here.
We’ve read in the Book of Esther about how Haman wanted to destroy the Jews. We’ve watched as Esther responded to this injustice by connecting with God and with her community. And now we come to the part of her response where she is risking her life and approaching the king. As I studied this passage, I was struck that the first step in Esther’s plan for saving her people started with kindness and hospitality to those in power.
She invites Haman and the king to dinner.
In our noisy world of outrage and constant negativity, something about Esther’s kindness seems to me the most radical part of the story. The king stated she could have anything she wanted and her request was to host dinner for the King and Hamam. She chose to lead with hospitality rather than outrage, and in response to her kindness, the king’s posture is immediately more open to Esther’s requests.
Over the past year, I have found myself in more places where I have been leading groups through hard and emotional issues. Lines have been drawn around issues, and emotions lead to everyone drawing negative conclusions about one another. The temptation to write off those with whom I disagree has been a very real struggle. I want to defend my stance, protect my emotions, and stay on the what I believe is the “right side” of the issue.
At FCS, my team and I talk a lot about leadership guru John Maxwell’s rule of leadership that states “self preservation destroys influence.” This has been my mantra for the past year when I find myself in the these hard spaces. I try - and I fail a lot - to find ways to not preserve myself and defend my “right-ness.” One way I’m finding to do this is by extending radical kindness and vulnerability. And it is hard. But the more I do it, the more I’m discovering myself healed in the process, and I’m seeing my influence grow. It’s the upside-down nature of the Kingdom of God. Loving our enemy is where our power and influence begin.
So I’ve been trying to practice more kindness when I find myself with hard people and situations. When trying to make change, you often hear the saying “that they squeaky wheel gets the oil.” I don’t believe that’s really true.
The squeaky wheel is just annoying, and in our already loud world, it is easy to ignore. Kindness and authenticity are so disorienting for people that they can’t be ignored. Simply sitting across a table from someone, looking them in the eye, and sharing your true self in the situation shifts everything.
This is how change begins. It begins when we start having hard conversations face to face and when we extend radical kindness to each other and prepare a meal together. It was around the table that the King responded to Esther’s petition for her people and where Haman’s plan came crumbling down.
We can react or we can respond to the Hamans in our midst. Esther’s story offers us an example of a response that did not materialize out of thin air, but was born out of steady preparation as she stayed rooted - in her faith, in her community, and in radical kindness. Roots take a long time to develop. How are we cultivating our roots today that we may be prepared to respond when our time arises?