Tuesday, June 12, 2007

Shield Maiden

A shield maiden is essentially a woman who fights, but what does this mean to me?

I originally heard the title in J.R.R. Tolkien’s The Lord of The Rings Trilogy. His female character Éowyn is called a shield maiden. When you first meet Éowyn she is a grown woman who was brought up among and by male relatives. She is the niece of the king, but she is capable of fighting and wants to go to war. When her uncle and brother ride to war she is commanded to stay and rule the people in the event that neither of them return. However, she disguises herself as a man and fights in the army, leaving her country without a leader. During the course of the story she fights a monster, defeating him, but receiving a mortal wound. She is then brought back from the brink of death and has a long stay in the ‘house of healing’ where she meets and begins to love her future husband, a gentle man who is both braver and more dutiful than she.

During her story Éowyn learns that a brave heart is not any less brave because it has no opportunity for glorious deeds. She also learns that a noble heart must learn quietness and humility, understanding that it might never be recognized for what it is or ever get the chance to be proved, to itself or to others.

Perhaps I am the only one that interprets her story in this way. These are things that I have had to learn and now rejoice in.

When I was little, and everyone still thought that I was quiet, I would dream of fighting in wars or meeting impossible circumstances with bold fearlessness and quick thinking. My imaginations usually had to do with war and smooth talking; I also generally thought of myself as a man. I would imagine that I was so confident in myself and my abilities that I did not care what other people thought. If they thought little of me now, I would amaze them twice as much later. I gloried in the 'other people' underestimating me. I didn't have to prove myself to anyone. But I did provide a point in the story where the natural course of events proved my superiority.

As I got older I was drawn to missions; not for the noble reason of saving lost souls from hell, but because missionaries were put in impossible situations. I was drawn to 'adventure.' By their faith in God they triumphed, sometimes through amazing miracles. They were generally unrecognized for how amazing they were, and worked behind the scenes.

I am trying to describe to you some of the very innermost workings of my mind and heart. Most of this is what I thought when I was younger, but these deep desires greatly carry over to who I am today. Today, I hope that my desires are more mature, but the basic things that thrilled me then continue to thrill me now.

As I grow, God is showing me how the real story differs from the one I had made for myself. In the real story of my life I am not allowed to insert that moment when I am recognized as the hero. In the real story when people think I am incapable, they are usually right. In the real story I am more often the prideful braggart than the humble hero.

How can I still call myself a shield maiden? Because as God has been crushing my pride and fantasy, He has also been building me a new, perfect, satisfing story.

In His story for me He is the hero. As I totally embrace this truth He begins to let me in on my role in the story, my role as a shield maiden. I am first one who is filled with the entirety of God. This is where my role derives its worth, and this is as close as I get to being the hero.

The real Hero lives in me and everything I do is an extension of Him living in me. I am called by Him as one who has this great gift of Himself bestowed upon me, to do great things. I assure you, my Hero does not live life without purpose. However He does live it in seemingly mundane ways.

He has not called me to subdue countries, or amaze people, or feed my pride in any way. It does not seem that He calls me to be anything other than normal. I’m just a sister, just a daughter. I have no degree, no great schooling, no unusual talent. I have nothing to show myself or the world that can be recognized as the smallest bit of greatness. I have no hope for future greatness by these standards either; my hope is to love my husband, be a mother, and have a home for unwanted children. None of these set me apart or label me as ‘great.’

Underneath these surface images I am called to something great, something noble, and something that no one can prove or approve but God himself. I am called to be a warrior.

My mission is to know my Captain and love Him. If I fail in this, everything else is futile and others who depend on me will very likely be lost. The extension of my mission is to guide those who are around me to the One I am learning to love.

No one will recognize my actions as unusual. All that will be seen is me living 'normal' life: playing a game with my brothers, spending time talking to a friend, and eventually raising and loving my own children.
Nothing extraordinary.

I am learning not to live by these surface images, which tell me my life is boring and useless, but to live trusting what God tells me. He says all sorts of unusual things about me and the world.
  • I wanted to be on active duty in a noble war: He says I am always living in the war zone of the only war that will matter for eternity.
  • I wanted to go incognito as a top-secret spy: He says that I am an alien in this land.
  • I wanted to be so secure in myself that I did not have anything to prove: He says that I am so secure in Him that only He can prove anything anyway.
  • I wanted to be invincible: He says that when I died with Him and He rose again, I became invincible.
  • I wanted to be a threat to the enemy: He warns me daily that the enemy recognizes the threat that He is in me.

He rejoices with me that the harder the enemy hits the more joy I have, because there is less of me and more of my God.

To me a shield maiden is a feminine, very dangerous, and usually incognito warrior of Christ.

I believe what He says; I am a shield maiden.