Editor’s note: This is a CBE 2020 Writing Contest honorable mention. Enjoy!
Years ago, I told my daughter, “I’d never vote for a woman president because I believe women are wired to be more emotional and men are more logical.” I grew up watching westerns where women in danger fainted, screamed, tried to escape, or somehow bungled the situation. Of course this magnified the heroism of the cool, calm, and collected cowboy who saved the day. In my day-to-day life, all the leaders I saw were male; almost all the women I knew were tucked safely inside their homes.
My daughter was aghast. “Mom, that’s just not true! Look at Margaret Thatcher, Indira Gandhi, and Golda Meir!”
Fast forward to 2021 and now I’m the one touting the accomplishments of female heads of state from all over the world: Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern of New Zealand, Chancellor Angela Merkel of Germany, Prime Minister Erna Solberg of Norway, and the first female vice president of the United States, Kamala Harris, to name a few.
What changed me? God’s Word.
Over the years I began to understand the complex interconnectedness of emotion and logic, of mind, soul, spirit, and body. For example, according to one lexicon the Greek word for “mind” used in passages like Romans 12:2, nous, can encompass thoughts, feelings, purposes, and desires, along with intellectual faculties of perceiving, understanding, judging, and determining.
As I further explored Scripture, I discovered strong, decisive women who did just that, transforming my beliefs about womanhood and enlarging my vision of who I could also be. I’ve come to see that there is no such thing as a completely logical or completely emotional leader. The best leaders, whether male or female, will employ a complementary blend of thinking and feeling.
Samson’s Mother (Judges 13)
My first discovery was Samson’s mother. When the angel of the Lord came to Samson’s parents with instructions about their coming baby, they made a sacrifice and the angel ascended in the flame from the altar. According to my early conditioning, the wife might have fainted at such a sight, while the husband remained stoic. But it was Manoah, the husband, who exclaimed they were doomed to die. His wife remained level-headed and reasoned that if the Lord had meant to kill them, he would not have accepted their offerings or have given them specific instructions for their future.
I learned from Samson’s mother that a woman can respond to an unnerving situation with calm composure, and even help soothe her husband.
Deborah (Judges 4)
Then I came across the prophet and judge, Deborah. She relayed to Barak God’s command to go to war against Sisera, who had cruelly oppressed God’s people for twenty years. Even though the Lord had assured Deborah the battle would be successful, Barak refused to go unless she went along. Deborah agreed and rode to the battlefield with Barak and ten thousand men. God won a great victory that day, with only Sisera escaping.
I learned from Deborah that a woman who hears from God can be brave enough to lead in dangerous situations and can encourage others who may be reticent to tackle scary exploits.
Jael (Judges 4-5)
Deborah’s story continued with Sisera running to the tent of a woman named Jael because her husband’s family had an alliance with Sisera’s country. Jael was not one of those panicky women I imagined in my childhood! No, she readily welcomed this cruel enemy into her tent, reassured him, gave him milk, and covered him up to sleep. He gave her orders to stand guard in the doorway and to lie if anyone should ask about him. Instead, while he slept, Jael grabbed a tent peg and a hammer and drove the peg through Sisera’s temple into the ground. I can’t imagine doing something that frightening and gruesome, even as an act of war. Yet, the Bible’s next chapter presents Deborah and Barak singing about leadership, condemning those who refused to help the Lord’s cause, and praising Jael as a most blessed woman.
I learned from Jael that a woman can overcome normal fight, flight, or freeze responses, act shrewdly when in danger, and choose to follow her common sense even if it contradicts her family’s beliefs.
The Shunammite Mother (2 Kings 4:8–36)
Then I read of a wealthy, hospitable woman in Shunem with only one son, conceived when her husband was already old. One day the boy went out to the fields and complained to his father of a headache. Dad had a servant carry him to his mother who held him on her lap until he died. Mom did not fall apart in grief or lash out in the midst of her trauma. She calmly told her husband she’d like a servant and a donkey to make a quick visit to the man of God. Her husband questioned her since it wasn’t a special religious day. But she placated him, persevered past Elisha’s servant’s attempts to push her aside, and pleaded with Elisha, convincing him to come and raise her son to life.
I learned from the Shunammite mother that even in the midst of her worst nightmare and gut-wrenching grief, a woman can design a logical course of action and carry out her mission against strong opposition.
Esther (Esther 4–8)
Queen Esther amazed me with her blend of spiritual wisdom, psychologically sound technique, and emotional calm. She first recruited a community of fasting prayer support. Saving her people from intended genocide required Esther to directly approach a king known for his fury, when such an approach was illegal and punishable by death. When King Xerxes granted her an audience, instead of spitting out her request she shrewdly invited him to dinner. After dinner, when he asked what she wanted, she invited him to another dinner, no doubt increasing his curiosity. God’s answers to prayer may have included the king’s insomnia that night, which worked together with Esther’s discernment to save herself and all the Jews in the kingdom from annihilation.
I learned from Esther that women can calmly combine their faith in God with astute understanding of human nature in order to effect change even when the stakes are extremely high.
Abigail (1 Samuel 25)
Abigail was a beautiful, intelligent woman married to a man who was surly, mean, and drank too much. It would be understandable if a woman in Abigail’s circumstances labored under a heavy mantle of hopeless, helpless victimhood. But when she learned that her husband’s disrespectful treatment of David had spawned impending doom to all the males in her household, Abigail acted quickly. She devised a plan to meet not only David’s physical need, food for himself and his men, but also his deeper spiritual need, which he had not yet considered. David needed to stay true to his God and to his own honorable reputation, but he was allowing revengeful rage to drive him toward the cold-blooded murder of innocent victims. Abigail appealed to his higher nature, calling forth his best self, and David blessed her for using good judgment to keep him from bloodshed.
I learned from Abigail that women can combine quick action with the skill to create win/win solutions. Because she understood who God is and who David wanted to be, she used keen persuasion to protect her household from slaughter, and promote God’s purposes for David’s life as well.
Rahab (Joshua 2, 6; Matthew 1:5; Hebrews 11:31)
I also discovered Rahab, a prostitute in the city of Jericho. Rahab, with her checkered past and pagan heritage, is one of the few women named in the genealogy of Jesus Christ and is one of only two women included in the Hebrews 11 “hall of faith.” Rahab recognized the spies’ God as the true God of heaven and earth in contrast to her unbelieving city, and she negotiated a detailed contract to save her life and the lives of her entire family. She took leadership in designing and executing the spies’ escape plan, courageously turning her back on her own king.
I learned from Rahab that a woman who has suffered a difficult, disreputable past can come to faith, make a new start, and use her intelligence, organizational skills, and bravery to leave a legacy of godliness for all her future generations.
Strong Women Abound
I continue to discover even more notable women leaders in Scripture: the queen of Sheba; women who funded Jesus’s ministry; Priscilla who made tents, hosted Paul and a church in her house, and earned the gratitude of all the Gentile churches by laying down her neck for Paul’s life; four sisters who prophesied; and Nympha who hosted a church in her house, to name a few (1 Kings 10; Luke 8:1–3; Acts 18 & Romans 16:3–5; Acts 21:9; Colossians 4:15).
My early environment had skewed my view of what it means to be female. Meeting these courageous women in God’s word transformed my belief system and enabled me to grow into the woman I am. I learned to honor and process my emotions, using healthy tools to effectively manage anger, sadness, and fear. I developed the strength and aplomb to make wiser choices for my own wellbeing and that of my family.
After I finished homeschooling my six children I went back to school, finished my bachelor’s and master’s degrees, and became a psychotherapist with my own private practice. I’ve enjoyed a thriving speaking ministry, writing and presenting seminars and training materials for churches, businesses, and non-profits. I became a logical and healthfully emotional leader.