A STORY OF A TOUGH WOMAN
Judges 4:1-7, Psalm 123, Matthew 25:14-30
November 14, 1999 by Tad Mitsui
Usually, when you speak about the woman you admire, you speak about a caring and dedicated mother or wife. I can think of such a woman, for example. You must know many women like her, too. She had to delay honey moon, for six years, and had waited for her husband to come home from the war in Europe. She was the youngest in the family, so she looked after her mother as a matter of course while raising three children, singlehandedly. After her mother”s death, she took over the care of her sister-in-law who was mentally handicapped until she died. Lastly, she had looked after her now retired husband who was failing in health until he went into the home for the aged veterans. It is nearly fifty years of her caring other people. She is an amazing person. She follows the pattern of the woman”s life we all admire; their kindness and dedication in caring of other people. But there is Deborah who is remembered not because she was a devoted wife or a caring mother, but because she lived and succeeded like a man. The question is; are we celebrating Deborah of the Bible because she was like a man?
The story of Deborah in the Book of Judges is an amazing story of a tough woman. Even here in Canada, when we have a woman Chief Justice of the Supreme Court, and a woman Governor-General, Deborah of the Bible seems head and shoulders above our powerful women. She seems to be an incredibly powerful woman. She was a wife and mother, while being a judge, a prophet, and a commander-in-chief of the ten thousand man army. If you consider the fact that the whole Canadian Defense Forces is made up of about 30 thousand uniformed men and women, you could see how powerful Deborah was. In addition to her domestic work, her duties extended to judiciary, political, religious, and military matters of the Hebrew people. It is impossible to find today such a person of multiple qualifications even among men. She was a tough woman even in today”s standard. From time to time, you find amazingly tough women in history. Joan of Arc comes to my mind. There is also Golda Meier who was the woman Prime Minister of Israel. She led Israel to a victory in the Six Days War during 1967. Someone said of Golda Meier once, "She is the only man in the entire Israeli Cabinet." But the question is: why should we have to classify a certain kind of qualities as bravery male, and some others as kindness female. We refer to an aggressive and tough man as a "true man". Or in case of a woman, we say "She is like a man." Likewise, we refer to a caring person in a female term. Why?
Once, any man who showed a sign of tenderness used to be called "sissy". A tough woman, who was not afraid of men, was called "a castrating bitch". Fortunately, those days are behind us, and such views are going out of fashion. We live at a time when these stereo type characterization of man and woman is being questioned. I am very glad also that we are discovering in the Bible a character like Deborah who is remembered for her toughness. Women in the Bible were not always someone like Ruth who is remembered for her tender love. Now we know that both men and women are born with capacity for tenderness and toughness, and there is nothing exclusively male or female about those qualities. There is nothing wrong for some men to be more tender hearted than to be tough. There is nothing wrong for some women to be more aggressive than to be gentle. There is no such thing like typically male character nor typically female character. All of us are born with tenderness and toughness.
Jesus Christ once said, "You must be clever as a snake and gentle as a dove." He is saying that we must be both tough and tender. Martin Luther King rephrased this passage by saying, "You must have tough mind and tender love." In other words, Jesus is saying to those tough men in the old fashioned sense to be more like "women." Likewise, he is saying to those gentle women in the old fashioned sense to be more like "men." Jesus told us to be both tough and gentle, because we all are born with infinitely different capacities that do not depend on sexual difference. All of us, both male and female, have talents in both tenderness and toughness. We must make use of those talents fully, just like the parable of talents in the Gospel of Matthew suggests. In other words, women must not bury their toughness, and men must not be shy to openly act on their impulse from tender hearts.
Have you noticed that many veterans who saw actions in the battle fields don”t want to speak about what they saw? Take my father-in-law. He was in the Air Force during the Second World War in Europe. So far, he has not told any of us about his experience of war. Have you notice also when, in rare occasions, some of the veterans speak about their experiences, they usually break down and cry? I think this is why they don”t want to talk about it. Men have been taught not to cry. It”s sissy for boys to cry. So many of them have their feelings all bottled up, which come out only in their nightmares. I think they should cry. It is not sissy for men to cry. And when they can cry, they will be able to tell us the horror of war more vividly, and will make us more determined to find peaceful solutions to conflicts.
I think that Jesus was sissy, according to the old fashioned standard for men. He cried in public, loved flowers, played with babies and loved kids, and when people came to tell him some insulting things, he didn”t shout back, but gently answered in enigmatic parables. He told his disciple to put down his sword. He was not a macho-man. He was against violence. And yet, he was not a weak man. Anybody, who can pray in the desert for forty days without food, must be a pretty tough person. He could drive out money-changers single-handedly from the temple, because the house of prayer was desecrated. He could get very angry, when he needed to be angry. That takes some guts. He was tough. Jesus was tough and gentle for the sake of love.
I believe we men must learn from Jesus that it is OK for men to be sissy for the sake of love. In the meantime, we must learn from the story of the judge Deborah, that women must let out the captive princess called "tough women".