May my spirit be brave. She stood before them, ten thousand warriors strong. Her heart thumped wildly beneath her breast as she gazed upon their stone-cold faces. Their heavy-set brows bore deep into her as a fragile hope fluttered within her spirit. She set her mouth into a determined line, knowing full well that it was her they all looked to. As certain as the sun rises in the East she knew what she was about to do. She was to send her countrymen to war, to kill. Brothers, fathers, lovers, and friends would be sent out on her command for justice. The flesh and blood of life that left families and long-endeared love would stand and fight for her. She knew there would be sacrifices made this day and that she would be responsible for all that is lost. She regarded heaven and as the sun’s warm rays gently kissed her face, she knew that she was always meant to be brave and lead these men. Not far from the battle there lies a tent. A woman sits silently listening intently for the muffled sounds of war that drift upon the breeze. Her muscles tense and tighten as her mind lingers on the sounds of those dying men. Her body comes alive, consumed by a thirst for vengeance; she will see justice this day. The urgency of her passion propels her to the tent’s entrance. She pulls back the fabric of her home and peers across the valley and spies a man making haste. As he approaches she recognizes him as the commander of the Canaanite army; a war lord. Her heart thumps in her throat with an intensity she never felt before and she knew what she must do. Heat flushed her face as the blood-lust raced through her veins and she knew that to be brave was to be calm. So with the elegance and grace of a queen she met him outside the tent and with the coolness of a wet cloth on a burn said, “’ Turn aside, my lord, turn aside to me; have no fear’” (Judges 4:18). Every move is made with a calculated measure of deceit. She covers him with a rug to wrap his shuddering body and when he begs for water, brings milk instead. As his trust lulls him to rest she approaches again, a formidable force of silent power, heroically delivering peace from a violently chaotic place. Then, “She put her hand to the tent peg and her right hand to the workmen’s mallet; she struck Sisera a blow, she crushed his head, she shattered and pierced his temple. He sank, he fell, he lay still at her feet; at her feet he sank, he fell; where he sank, there he fell dead” (Judges 5:26-27). And so the day was given into the hand of woman. I may be afraid of the dark, get a little jumpy around sudden noises, and retreat in disgust when I see an insect but these are not the things that I am terrified of. It is not the things that quicken my step and cause me to double-check to see if I have locked my door at night that truly cover my heart in shadows of fright. There are many challenges in my life that force me to be brave and to be brave is a terrifying obligation. This is what sends my heart to skipping beats. So many times my spirit is made weak and frail; I cannot muster the courage necessary to see these dreams through, to do the right thing.
Yet, here is a gift given to us by the ancients of these warriors, these brave women. I wonder what must have been going through Deborah’s mind as she gazed upon her brothers, the very men she was about to send to a very possible violent end. What of Jael? Was her heart beating wildly in her chest as she poised that peg above the head of one of the most powerful men she knew? Was she scared? I would like to think so because otherwise their stories would mean so little to me. These women risked death in order to do what they believed was right; could I not be expected to do half as much? The fact these stories recount the glorious victory of women makes a difference to me and I hope it makes a difference for you too. But I don’t want this to become a reflection where the only thing we’re given is, “As a woman you should [insert some stereotype of what it means to be feminine].” Let’s just forget for a moment that we have skin: that we are dark or pale, that we have breasts or that we don’t, what color of hair we have, if it’s straight or curly, and break these mirrors of glass that reflect nothing meaningful at all. Let our hearts, for just a brief space in time, finally come to the surface and be spoken to. These stories tell us to be brave, not just as women, but as people of God. These stories tell us to be calm in the face of danger, to lead all types of people, to be fierce, to love justice, to risk, to take charge, and to have a spirit of bravery, of courage. Deborah and Jael were not defined by their anatomy but by their response to the call of the Lord. Perhaps they were shaking and unsure but they acted in spite of their nature and became brave. May my spirit also be brave.