One of the things I love most about the Christmas season is waking up to a clean, newly decorated and arranged house. In the Caribbean, we have the habit of throwing everything down in piles; and this is the alarm to all a sundry that the gruelling task of putting the house in order has begun.
I have never understood why we create a heap of a mess to clean the house, this makes for long days and nights, and into the wee hours of Christmas Day, of sorting papers, throwing out waste, wiping windows, scrubbing floors, and putting up panels of curtains.
But when this process is through, you can guarantee that there is beauty to behold, the house has been made new. On Christmas Day and as the New Year ensues all visiting friends and family marvel at the royal curtains in colours of gold, copper, or wine red; and at the softness and the exquisite design of the complementary carpets.
It is an extravagant affair, moving from house to house seeing how some spaces are transformed like never before (literally).
The story of Xerxes
It is this cultural experience which helped me to appreciate the length at which King Xerxes sought to introduce himself to his Persian subjects. Leaders early on in their careers need to establish rapport with their servants and subjects to ensure a successful reign. There must be no hint of lack, laxity, incompetence, or disrespect.
People look to leaders as the epitome of perfection â someone who can do what they are incapable of. Considering even that the voting patterns for church ministry follows popularity not only because of charisma but because those leaders get the job done.
When a leader is up for re-election the defining line of him resuming his office depends on the answers to these questions: How did he do? What did he do for me? And, or we any better as a country from his leadership?
Xerxes on the other hand was new to this position of leadership; there was no track record by which his leadership could be judged. He could only give the impression of his wealth and in that initial moment when his authority was questioned, he was expected to give a response which would paint the reputation of his character and leadership for years to come; and which would establish or dismantle the footing of his house.
Over the years, I have realised that a man can have everything going for him in the world, yet there is that one thing, person, or situation that proves to be a thorn in his life. This is especially true of leaders, for even though they are admonished to keep their houses in order so as to maintain their influence, their spouses and children have minds of their own (e.g. Job, Eli, Samuel, and David). Some leaders have families who do not serve God or lead lives that dishonour their values and authority.
Christmas time can be a hectic time for those who seek to make their holiday and home perfect. It is hectic because there is so much to do in so little time, especially if you work a full-time job or have exams which conclude a few days before the Big Day.
But even more, it is hectic when there are few hands to make light work. Not every spouse or child is supportive or compliant in making the house ready for Christmas. So, in some cases there is that one person bearing the load of clean-up and preparation; and there is danger here for the lack of support, obedience, and love displayed in this season, mirrors a problem which can be exasperated in the years to come. It can manifest itself in further rebellion and public disregard, when a leader does not address something as simple as "helping out around the house."
It is for this reason that Queen Vashti's disobedience to a royal order should not be taken lightly. To disregard her husband and king in front of the representatives of 127 provinces indicates that there could have been underlying issues in their relationship which reached the climax at this significant occasion in the kingdom's calendar.
My question has always been: How does a leader be a husband, wife, father, or mother, in the public sphere? All eyes are glued to the ins and outs of family life, with comments and suggestions as to how to manage the home.
The Book of Esther highlights that leaders are not exempted from family conflicts; also that their lives are personal but not necessarily private. For instance, the wise men who instructed Xerxes to put away Vashti advised him from an objective point of view. They suggested that Vashti's defiance would lead a rebellion against the authority of men in the home and advised that he deal with the potential source of this breakdown to prevent further irreverence in the empire.
Ultimately, they were concerned about the authority and influence of the king. If he was unable to lead his home how then could he rule this great empire? How could he protect them from invasive cultures and imperialistic opponents?
The heart of the matter
As mentioned, leaders' spouses and children do have minds of their own; yet the solution in all of this is to establish a firm footing within the home in the early stages. This footing constitutes frequent communication, shared values, and an appreciation for rules and figures of authority.
Also central to the management of the home is Scripture. We need the counsel of God's Word to lead persons in our sphere of influence. Scripture encourages discipline which "produces understanding; drives out foolishness; produces obedience; and develops reverence."
Scripture also advises discipline to be executed in love and without anger. There is no mistaking that a leader's house should be in order. At times there will be family conflict which will emerge in the public light; however, these issues must be dealt with in such a way not to cause friction within the home and hinder the ministry of the respective leaders.
Janine Williams is a fulltime theology student, passionate about the word of God which is powerful to transform the lives of individuals and nations.
Janine Williams' previous articles may be viewed at http://www.pressserviceinternational.org/janine-williams.html