In many of our modern movies and books we are bombarded by stories of men and women conquering adverse situations by being empowered by love for each other. They find much of their strength to persevere in the person they are in love with. They fight battles and conquer enemies to save the one they love. Now don't get me wrong, I love these stories, but they do not contain the characters that inspire me to live a life empowered by God's Spirit. As a single woman in her early twenties who has never had a boyfriend, I relate better to the stories of courageous woman who stood up for what they believed in and knew that they had the power do something about it. Two of these single female character that have been an inspiration to me since my childhood are Mulan (from Disney's Mulan) and Eowyn (from J. R. R. Tolkien's The Lord of the Rings).
Mulan is a sixteen year old girl whose father gets a request to join the Chinese army to fight the Huns who are invading China. Her father is too old to fight and, in the Disney movie, has a limp. Mulan knows that her father will die if he goes off to war and she can't bear the thought of losing him. She decides that she has a better chance of surviving so she cuts her hair, dresses like a man and runs off to take his place. According to the laws of China at the time, it was illegal for a woman to dress like a man or impersonate a soldier, but she takes the risk and goes anyway. Upon reaching the camp she tries to fit in and act like a man. The iconic song in the movie "Be A Man" demonstrates the complete disregard for the value of women in the Chinese society declaring that men are stronger, faster, and more mysterious than women and even insults the men in the army by calling them women. But for Mulan, her struggle to fit in as the cookie-cutter women that society wants her to be is a struggle for her and due to that struggle she excels in the role of a soldier doing everything that the men do. When the Chinese army finally meet the Huns in battle, it is Mulan's cunning that stops the Huns in their tracks and saves the general and the army. In the process Mulan gets injured and the general finds out that she is a women. By law he should have killed her but spares her life because she saved his. She is left alone to fend for herself but continues to fight and follow the army because she see a trap that the Huns are setting for the Emperor. She defies orders again and ends up using her cunning and skills again to save the Emperor and China, and this time she is honored.
Eowyn is the niece of King Theoden of Rohan. She had lost both her parents and is living in the castle of Rohan. When Aragorn and company join forces with Rohan in fighting against Sauron, Eowyn desperately wants to join in the battle fight. Her uncle warns against her coming to fight, but she disregards her safety because she believes she can make a difference. She also brings along another character, Merry the hobbit, who cannot ride a horse alone and whom no one wants to carry with them. Both characters believe that their lives and skills are worth giving in this upcoming battle. During the battle Eowyn and Merry get separated and Eowyn finds herself face to face with the Nazgul and its rider, a Ring Wraith. In the face of her own death, Eowyn doesn't give up but fights the Nazgul and severs its head, destroying one of the most feared beasts of Middle Earth. Already Eowyn has turned the tide of the battle and made a huge difference for all of those on the side of good, but her impending death awaits her. The Ring Wraith approaches her and they begin to fight. He laughs at her feeble attempts at trying to harm him and says to her "No man can kill me." At this point in the plot we realize that Sauron and the Ring Wraiths have made a crucial mistake in believing that they would only encounter man who would attempt to kill the Ring Wraiths and that women were not capable of this feet. Big mistake! Eowyn realizes this, tears off her helmet and says "I am no man!" She than jabs her sword into his face and without hesitation, the Ring Wraith implodes.
There is another character from my childhood that I greatly admire. I read about her in a fictional/biographical book called Flight of the Fugitives by Dave and Neta Jackson. Her name is Gladys Aylward and although the details of the book are fictional, her life and her ministry were very real. She served in Yangcheng, China as a missionary. She helped to found The Inn of Eight Happinesses and worked in different villages enforcing the law against foot binding in little girls by unbinding and washing girls' feet with her own hands. She adopted several Chinese orphans as her own children while taking care of others, and led 100 orphans over the mountains in 1938 when the Japanese invaded China. Her faith in God and her love for the Chinese people amazed me as a child and still does. She fought a fight for the lives and spiritual lives of orphans and little girls in China. She was a single woman all of her life, never marrying. The Lord had put a dream in her heart and although her skills did not seem capable of doing this work in China, the Lord made a way and trained her to do the work He planned ahead for her to do. One last thing about Gladys that is different than Mulan and Eowyn is that she didn’t need to disguise herself as a man to join the battle. She just went as she was: a single woman ready to fight for what she believed in.
All three of these women have been an inspiration to me. Mulan, the warrior who defied culture and did what was expected of only a man to save another’s life. Eowyn, who believed she could make a difference and didn't give up in the face of the impossible. Lastly, a real life woman, Gladys, who gave her life, all she had and all the Lord gave her, to share His love with people she didn't yet know. As a single person, I have learned from these stories that I don't need a significant other to fight for or to find my strength in their love to overcome adverse situations. All I need is to fight for what is right, believe that I have the power to do something, and trust that God will provide everything I need to do His will and live a life empowered by His Spirit.