Sometimes I see a need but hesitate to step in and try to help. After all, who am I? Just little ol’ me. Sometimes I believe I have received a word from the Lord. But would others believe me or accept the word if I shared it?
Those are times I need to contemplate two of my favorite heroines: Joan of Arc (a peasant girl in France in the 15th Century) and Deborah (whose story is told in Judges 4 and 5). To me, they are the epitome of faith-filled courage. Both Deborah and Joan were used in ways unheard of (in their times) for women. Both rose up and provided leadership when national male leadership were quaking and hesitant against a formidable foe.
Of course these women would face doubters and detractors; but both are still remembered for their devotion, wisdom, and bravery. Deborah is the only female judge of Israel mentioned in the Old Testament. People would come to her for counsel and avail themselves of her wisdom and insights. Joan, an illiterate but devout teenager, received from God astounding spiritual authority and influence.
Obviously, both women were in the habit of listening for God’s voice. When they heard from God, they believed and acted upon what God told them. Deborah went to Barak, the general of the Israelite army, and told him God wanted him to go forth and defeat Sisera, leader of Jabin’s army. Barak answered that he would only fight if she would go with him. Deborah went, and inspired the Israelites to a mighty victory over their Canaanite oppressors.
Joan, who lived in 1412-1431, received heavenly visions instructing her to support Charles VII and recover France from English domination late in the Hundred Years’ War. Against all odds, Joan obeyed. The unanointed King Charles sent Joan to the lead in battle against the Siege of Orleans, which brought victory and lifted the national morale.
As a result of the devout boldness of these women, flagging national leaders and armies of men followed them into battle and the sovereignty of their nations was saved.
Both women have been immortalized in history as cultural icons, becoming the subjects of books, art, and poetry. My favorite book about Joan is the novel, Joan of Arc, by Mark Twain—a surprisingly reverent and rich saga of Joan’s life (though it’s not surprising that Twain’s novel is very readable).
This poem (below) that I wrote about Deborah could also apply to Joan of Arc, except we don’t have record of Joan singing an anthem of victory. And while Deborah returned to everyday life as the wife of Lapidoth, quietly rendering her judgments beneath a date palm tree, Joan’s youthful life ended when she was wrongly accused and martyred at the age of nineteen.
Deborah has been honored and immortalized by her story recorded in the Jewish and Christian Bibles. Joan of Arc was canonized as a saint by the Roman Catholic Church in 1920. We can turn to each of these women for inspiration and strength to take courage and do what God is calling us to do, leaving the results to God.
A fierce and beautiful woman
who inspired courage in men;
Sought out for wisdom and judgment;
trusted to lead and to win.
A woman who listened and let God
beat on the drum of her heart;
Marching to danger with faith,
speaking God’s words from the start.
Not full of self—neither loathing,
nor doubt nor concern—but aligned.
Giving and going and serving
in front of, beside, and behind.
Sure in times of uncertainty,
faithful when others despair;
Lifting the flagging to valor,
singing the victory aire.
~Catherine Lawton (poem excerpted from Remembering Softly: A Life in Poems)