This post might seem to come out of the blue and headed off into left field. I gotta say, it even feels a bit strange to me to write it. Not sure why. No good reason, I am sure. But I have a few old fashioned streaks in me, so maybe that’s it. Maybe I am old fashioned and feel funny about claiming women as heroes.
But I remember when I confirmed Catholic that I was instructed to pick a saint for myself. I chose St. Mark, but I considered choosing Mother Teresa or possibly Mother Mary. I asked if it was okay for a man to choose a woman saint, and I was informed that it would be an unusual request.
Teresa had not yet been sainted, and actually, Mother Mary had not really figured that high on my list, so I went with Mark since I have such a deep affection for the Gospel that bears his name. Still, I never forgot the impact these women make on me.
In recent years, I have begun to ask my dad to tell and retell stories of his mother, my grandmother, who died before I was born. I never met her. But the older I get, the more I resonate with some of the stories about her, and I find her to be heroic.
They say that when she died, the nurses in the cancer ward knew she was gone when the singing stopped. She was singing for Jesus when she passed. And that story alone holds meaning for me, but stories of her end runs around church leaders who would call her in for reprimand when she raised donations to send to the Navajo orphanage (and subsequent to that she organized free shipping from the freight company) lets me know that prophetic church work is in my blood – that doing the right thing, even when it upsets my church, is still the right thing to do.
But the thing that makes her so heroic in my mind is that because she was a woman, and it being the 1950’s and 60’s, church leaders did not give her a voice at all. They expected her to be silent, but she found ways of organizing right in the parking lot! God bless her heart. And she should have a monument erected to her memory or what she has done should be remembered where ever the gospel is preached. But this little memorial note on this humble blog will likely be the most acknowledgment this unsung hero ever gets.
I find strength for myself in her story, and thus she is my hero.
But even the stories of my dead grandmother, if that was all I had, would not likely prompt me to write a post about women heroes in my life. I am too old fashioned for that. And God has beat me over the head with an accumulation of such stories. There are others.
I recall back in about 2004 when Special Agent D and I began hitting the streets of the Vandelia Village and especially 65th Drive (the most notorious street in Lubbock for drugs, prostitution, shootings, car thefts, and murders) that we encountered a number of people (including cops and security guards) warning us to stay away. But SAD and I were adamant that we were looking for trouble so that we could pray for it and hold worship services in front of it. “Trouble”, we figured, was the enemy in whose presence God had set the table for us (see Psalm 23).
I wasn’t stupid. I plainly saw the risk. But when I found out that Emma Holloway, an 85 year old widow lady from our church, lived in an apartment down there in the hood AND that stray gunfire from a drive-by that killed one guy came into her kitchen window and lodged in the wall by her refrigerator AND that she considered her presence there as a mission God had given her, THEN I decided that Special Agent D and I needed to step up our game. Young men of 18 or 20 regularly answer the call of our nation to join the military. Surely SAD and I could take prayer to the troubled streets for Jesus!
Emma became a hero. An example that both inspired me and comforted my fears. If she could live there day in and day out, night in and night out, then surely I could show up to pray every other weekend. And if I were hurt or killed, I was in good company. Her story gave me strength.
But as I mentioned above, Mother Mary is a hero too. I think of the strength of faith that little girl had when Gabriel informed her of God’s plans for her life. “Behold!” she says “The handmaiden of the Lord. Let it be to me according to your word”.
I am blown away by that. She goes with me into my prayers frequently to talk to God. And when I see her there praying next to me, I see that I need to grow and become more like her. Her story challenges me, but also gives me strength.
I don’t believe for a moment that this kind of heroism is common among women. Rather I find these to be rare women. Nor do I find heroism unique only to women, but I am intrigued to find it there nonetheless. There seems to be something helpful about the feminism of these heroes to me. Perhaps it is only my perception, but in each case the love this person has for God and others translates into uncommon courage. Look up the story of Nurse Joan Black who disarmed and active shooter in her hospital with a hug! When asked about her bravery, she said she “saw someone who needed a hug”. And that hug saved so many lives that day.
It is easy to recognize courage, but easy also to be intimidated by it. But these women seem to open up a path through the mist for me. I find courage in my love for God and others when I look to these women. Their stories help me and give me strength.
I saw Mel Gibson’s Hacksaw Ridge, the biographical movie about Desmond Doss who heroically saved the lives of 75 of his fellow soldiers despite being a conscientious objector and facing heavy enemy fire when his movie came out a couple years ago. Doss’s courage was ever bit as stunning as any person in all of history, but his story seems out of reach. I cannot imagine myself having his courage. But Mother Mary, Emma Holloway, and Grandmother all invite me to love with a heart that gives me courage.
And despite my old fashioned ways, I claim these women as my heroes.