I have been meaning to write this post for months, and I’m sorry it’s taken me this long to get around to it. At the start of last term my mother called me long-distance, urgently; when I told her it was probably costing her an obscene amount of money, she said she had something spiritually vital to communicate, something that she’d gotten from others and from God over the past few days.
She sent me an illustration that she’d found of a female knight kneeling down in the armor of God – she said it struck her because she had never seen this passage illustrated with a woman, and she felt like it was supposed to be me. “Satan is trying to attack you with untruths about yourself,” Mom said. “You’ve got the rest of your armor on. You’re in basic training right now, but you can slay the beast. All you need to do is pick up your sword.” She urged me to fight with the word of God, to arm myself, and I began to cry as she spoke.
Of course, she was talking about the passage in Ephesians 6:10-20. It’s long, but I’ll include the whole thing here, because it’s important, and because my offensive weapon is the word of God:
“Exhortations for Spiritual Warfare: Finally, be strengthened in the Lord and in the strength of his power. Clothe yourselves with the full armor of God so that you may be able to stand against the schemes of the devil. For our struggle is not against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the powers, against the world rulers of this darkness, against the spiritual forces of evil in the heavens. For this reason, take up the full armor of God so that you may be able to stand your ground on the evil day, and having done everything, to stand. Stand firm therefore, by fastening the belt of truth around your waist, by putting on the breastplate of righteousness, by fitting your feet with the preparation that comes from the good news of peace, and in all of this, by taking up the shield of faith with which you can extinguish all the flaming arrows of the evil one. And take the helmet of salvation and the sword of the Spirit, which is the word of God. With every prayer and petition, pray at all times in the Spirit, and to this end be alert, with all perseverance and requests for all the saints. Pray for me also, that I may be given the message when I begin to speak – that I may confidently make known the mystery of the gospel, for which I am an ambassador in chains. Pray that I may be able to speak boldly as I ought to speak.”
I do struggle with so many other bits of this armor, but it’s how we stay defended. We have to be fully equipped; each piece of the armor secures us against another of Satan’s traps. When he tells us lies about ourselves, we can counter with the sword, backing up our worth with God’s words. This isn’t just for us; I later stumbled upon Isaiah 59:15-17, where God himself, seeing that there is no justice in the world, takes it upon himself to work salvation:
“He wears his desire for justice [or, ‘righteousness’] like body armor, [a breastplate]
and his desire to deliver is like a helmet on his head.
He puts on the garments of vengeance
and wears zeal like a robe.”
This is not the armor of God because he’s given it to us for comfort; it is His armor. When we wear his righteousness and are crowned by his salvation, we act as his soldiers – we wear the armor of God, the armor that he himself wears.
Ever since then, I have been building up a tumblr tag, “lady knights”. While several of them are actual women warriors, knights, or revolutionaries, many are also pioneers in science, technology, journalism, and other areas. I am beginning to realize that this, too, is part of the fight; we are knights when we act honorably but refuse to be pushed aside, in doing the work of God and in furthering society. There are few illustrations of women wearing the armor of God, but this fight does not depend on physical strength; I am allowed to be a warrior in it, called to be a warrior for it.
I have wondered so often about my own gender and the restrictions placed upon it in the Bible. A deep part of me wants to chalk it up to cultural bias, wants to say that it doesn’t matter anymore, but then I see things tied in with Eve and don’t know how to feel. My first response, of course, is to feel less, somehow incomplete and farther from God because he has made me a woman. I think this too is a lie from the devil; I do not think God could see me as less just because of the way I have been created, because in Him there is no male or female, and he has used many women in the Bible to further his purpose. But the insecurity is still there.
I cannot begin to express how deeply I have struggled with 1 Timothy 2:11-15. I don’t want to remain quiet. I want to be like Joan of Arc; if God gives me a vision I do not want to keep it to myself. I mentioned to my father that I could never be a pastor, and he laughed, saying I’d hate the everyday detail-work of keeping everyone happy. When I mentioned being a theologian, he said that thinking and reading and learning other languages seemed more up my alley (then sent me a chunk of N.T. Wright). Who knows where I’ll end up; however, if the pen is mightier than the sword, this is another way for me to fight – the biggest way that I know how to fight.
I became a little obsessed with the concept, as my friends can attest. My friend told me I was like Artemis and I grinned, and when she mentioned there needed to be a patron saint helping girls away from unwanted attention, I volunteered as fast as I could get the words out; when we brought up Joan of Arc my feelings grew. These feelings are so tied into my prophecy feelings, and I still think it’s such a cool story, regardless of whether it’s true or not and regardless of the discomfort of making war religious; I cannot say if God did or did not use this girl. In any case, she got an audience with the king, strategically led an army as a teenager, and died when she was nineteen, a year younger than I am now. She was young, and she was a girl, and she did not let that stop her; she followed God’s voice to death.
Although Joan was tried for heresy, her trial was political; they labelled her cross-dressing as heresy even though she wore her male military clothing – her armor – to prevent the guards from raping her. This brings me to the next section of this, regarding lady knights: the culture that has tried to objectify and take advantage of women. All of it is tied up together.
I have come to realize that girls are so strong. Girls are strong because we have to be; you don’t have to be physically strong to show that power, for there are many ways to exhibit strength. When I started this post, I hadn’t thought about how it would or should link to current events, but I will now, after studies have shown that professors still favor men, that women are drastically underrepresented in media, and that six people, men and women, have been killed this week off the back of unhinged misogynistic rage.
I, like most of my female friends, am so deeply drawn to lady knights, badass girls, and women who know how to defend themselves because that is what we aspire to in the reality of our current society. We live in a world where “Men are afraid that women will laugh at them. Women are afraid that men will kill them”; our desire is to be able to defend ourselves so completely that we do not have to fear, because we cannot guarantee that others will defend us. We are learning to stand up for ourselves in word and deed, to demand respect and fair treatment; however, I know that this must be done out of love, keeping in mind our true opponent – Satan. I want to be like Joan of Arc; I want to listen to the voice of God in order to bring about the justice of his will, and I want to be able to protect myself and my friends. I want to put on the full armor of God to take my stand against the devil; I want to fight for God’s truth and justice, for I am called to a bigger battle, not against individuals but against evil. And I want you – men and women – to fight with me.