“I Believe You” by The Rev. Stephanie Kendell

September 27th,2018 Categories: Stephanie Kendell Letters, Weekly Letter

Beloved Church,

I hope you all had a wonderful homecoming! We are so grateful for each and every one of you and the many ways you inspire the ministries of The Park. Remember to follow The Park on all social media platforms to stay connected during the week.

Monica Lewinski waited 3 years. Anita Hill waited 10. Dr. Christine Blasey Ford waited over 30. Our Queen Esther waited somewhere around 5. These numbers aren’t the amount of time that it took women to speak up or realize that what happened was wrong. It’s the amount of time they were willing to carry a burden, a secret, an irreversible pain, until the source of that pain would directly affect other people and they could no longer carry that burden on our own. According to the National Sexual Violence Resource Center, “One in four girls and one in six boys will be sexually abused before they turn 18 years old.” And this is just based on those that report their abuse but, in this day, and age, I find it hard to believe that sexual assault and abuse hasn’t affected every person in one way or another. Make no mistake about it, this type of pain is not a one-time thing, but after the initial pain begins to fade, a deep ache lingers and almost never goes away. But we can combat that ache, and hopefully stop the pain of others, by speaking out and believing others when they tell their truth. A truth that at minimum brings up the pain and hurt of the original trauma, but at worst could cost one their life.

That is where we find our Queen Esther this week. Charged with the courage to speak her truth and save others from a fate of death in its many forms. This week let us stand with Queen Esther and believe her truth, as we read a part of her story, a part of her testimony of violence, from the Book of Esther.

“The next day, as they were drinking their wine, Ahasuerus said, “What do you desire, Esther? Anything you say will be given to you.” Esther replied, “My sovereign, if I have found favor in your eyes and if it be your wish, I ask you to spare my life, and the lives of my people. That is what I desire most.  For we, my people and I, have been condemned to be destroyed, slain and turned into chattel—ourselves and our children. Had you merely intended to make us slaves, I would have said nothing. All this has been told to me by a reliable source. Our enemy brings shame upon the imperial court.”

This book, like everything else in the bible, is the inspired word of God at work. It teaches us how to live and shows us how to live with each other. Explicitly sharing the gifts and expectations of our communities of life and faith.  But sometimes in real life, it helps to know a little backstory, before what we are called to do is clear. And I don’t mean the history of the victim, I mean the history of the abuser. Before Esther was queen, there was Queen Vashti, a fiercely independent Queen who refused to bare her body to others at the request of the King. The response to this action had dire consequences for all women, so it stands to reason that at 14, as just a young girl, when Esther was brought into the household of the King, she would be the victim of similar, if not worse, requests. She was not removed, so she more than likely complied with every demand of the King, carrying the wounds of sexual assault and abuse with her every day. She also carried the fear of revealing her true identity to society. A pain that the women I mentioned earlier can probably relate to. The dull ache of pain and anxiety becoming a new way of life for every person carrying a secret, and not being able to speak their truth. But what this scripture shows us is the power of being able to tell your story. The power of one person saying, “Tell me and I will believe you.” For Queen Esther, the possibility of helping others outweighed the personal risk she faced by revealing her truth, and in the end the safety of her and her people prevailed. And thanks be to God for that.

However, that is not a true story for every person. Dr. Christine Blasey Ford is currently being threatened and verbally attacked for speaking out and Monica Lewinsky jokes are easily found on the internet. The wounds caused by the abuse of power, never fully heal. This is why the gift of listening and believing people who find the courage to share their truth, is a holy gift that as Christians we are called to continuously offer. Sharing pain is not about pointing fingers at the abuser, it is about stopping the cycle of abuse from happening again. I would love to say that since the time of Queen Esther, it has become a much easier place to share our experiences, but unfortunately, it’s not…at least not yet.

Friends, if God is calling us to do one thing in this story, it is to believe people when they share their pain. The pain of sexual abuse and violence is not one that needs to be carried alone. If we start believing it, only then can we start to see the end of the cycle of abuse. I believe Esther. I believe, Anita Hill, Dr. Christine Blasey Ford, Monica Lewinsky, and I will believe you too.

Shalom Y’all.
Rev. Stephanie