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THE POWER OF A SOFT WARRIOR
By KIMBERLY WAGNER
Copyright © 2012 Kimberly Wagner
All right reserved.
Chapter One The Beauty of Fierceness
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"These boots are made for walkin' and that's, just what they'll do! And one of these days these boots are gonna walk all over you!" —Lee Hazelwood
Maybe you're too young to recognize these lyrics, but this was a popular song back in the day. The first grade girls were into knee-high, white, patent leather boots (yes, in first grade!). We'd sport our shiny boots as we strutted around the playground at recess, singing these words at the top of our lungs.
Recalling it now, I'm amused by the comical picture of a group of six-year-old girls and the strident aggression fueled by this silly little song. As we sang, we'd glare at the boys while digging our heels into the ground, giving the impression of grinding them into powder! I doubt we understood what we were singing. Our little game may have been innocent, but we sure liked the feeling of power that surged every time we belted out the words, "Walk all over you!"
By the time I was in junior high, more refined lyrics fueled our intensity as we proudly joined Helen Reddy to "roar" our defiance in songs like "I Am Woman." Each phrase increased our passion: "I am STRONG ... I am invincible ... I am woman!" We were proud of our gender and ready to tell the world that "If I have to, I can do anything!"
I think one reason these songs had such attraction is that they gave us a sense of power and strength. I never wanted to be a wimpy woman. I've always been drawn to strong women—aren't you? A refined strength has an alluring appeal. I love to see a fierce woman in action. Nothing fazes her. She's indomitable, determined, and she's a passionate force beyond contention. When given a challenging assignment, she boldly goes for it and doesn't let anything or anyone stand in her way.
But I'm not talking about an ugly fierceness that is really just raw aggression. There is a beauty to the right kind of fierceness. Not the brand of fierceness that recklessly walks over people or is rooted in self-centered goals. Not the fierceness that produces ice queens or conniving shrews but a fierceness that is humble strength and power under control. The fierceness I admire grabs on to the hem of God's will and won't let go. A fierceness that determinedly stands strong in a gale of opposition. This kind of fierceness looks fear in the eye without blinking and confidently forges ahead.
You may not agree. I mean, the word "fierce" carries some negative baggage, but today it's a term many women in our culture embrace. While doing research for this book, I found various definitions for the word, ranging from: "savage; wild; of a violently cruel nature; harsh" to the more desirable: "intensely eager; intense; ardent" No matter what terminology we use, I think we might all recognize at least traces of fierceness within each of us.
I asked a group of women their thoughts on this topic and their responses varied:
"Fierceness is a good thing! I'm glad my mom fiercely stood for truth while I was growing up. In a world with so many confusing messages, it's good to have women who know God's Word and fiercely stand against the cultural tide."
"When I hear the phrase 'fierce woman,' I think of a woman who's loud, pushy, obnoxious, arrogant, and demanding."
And this one was surprising to me:
"She's a sharp dresser. A woman who's strutting her stuff!"
THERE'S A FIERCE WOMAN IN EACH OF US
I believe a fierce heart resides within every woman, but it manifests itself in varying shades of beauty and ugliness. Oh, I've seen (um, even at times been) the fierce woman who is the self-centered shrew, ranting and shrieking to get her way. But in contrast to her, the fierce woman may also be the quiet but courageous martyr who is willing to die for her faith.
Whether you're an extrovert or more introverted—women are a compelling force. You may not see yourself as beautifully fierce or even slightly strong, but what if God has placed a powerful fierceness within you, within every woman? And what if this fierce power was meant to be used in a way that is big ... I mean really big, like staggering the imagination big!
What if woman was designed to be a living inspiration? Like a song that rallies men before battle or a vision that compels them to embark on the most dangerous of conquests. This power and drive enables a woman to persevere through daunting challenges. It gives her the grit and determination to continue pressing onward in the face of tremendous opposition. I love this verse in Daniel that underscores this thought: "The people who know their God will display strength and take action" (Daniel 11:32 NASB).
When you're told the hurdle is higher than you can jump, fierceness is what gets your blood going and takes you flying over the top. It's the passion that motivates you to leave the cozy comfort of safety for the dangerous adventure of the unknown. It's that element of determination that holds you in place when weak soldiers flee. It's loyalty and doing what's right; brilliant intensity and going the long haul. Fierceness is fervent faith and lonely stands; solitary boldness and trying one more time.
I love reading stories of women who have taken courageous stands for righteous causes at the risk of their own lives. And although their fierceness is seen on a much larger scale than what you or I may ever experience, don't discount the power and potential of your own fierce beauty. Demonstrating your fierceness may look a lot different than it does in a courageous martyr or the leader of a movement, but it is no less important. Your fierce beauty may be seen as you stand beside your husband at his point of greatest failure, giving him the courage to get up and keep pressing on. It may be heard in your voice of truth, inspiring your husband's faith, when the enemy tells him he'll never be able to change.
MEN ARE DRAWN TO FIERCE WOMEN
Men seem to be drawn to fierce women. Generally men run from the clingy, whiny, weak-willed types. Perhaps it's the fierce woman's strength of character they admire, or her passion for life. It may be the unwavering loyalty and intense devotion they find appealing. The courageous heroism of a fierce woman has inspired many a great leader.
Rebecca Motte's name may not sound familiar to you, but she holds my respect. Her fierce loyalty to her country served to inspire the Patriot army during the Revolutionary War. She was a wealthy widow with a large estate on the Congaree River in South Carolina. In 1781 the British set up camp there; 175 soldiers took residence in her home and surrounded it with a trench and parapet. Rebecca escaped to the Patriots, who laid siege to the British compound.
After several days of fighting, the Patriots concluded the only way to force the British from their newly occupied "fort" was to set fire to Rebecca's house. When Lee, the leader of the Patriot force, broke the news to Mrs. Motte, she responded that she was "gratified with the opportunity of contributing to the good of her country." The widow produced a bow and set of arrows and told Lee to put them to use. The flaming arrows set fire to the roof and forced the British to surrender. The Patriots quickly climbed to the roof and managed to put out the flames and salvage her home. After the victory, true to the spirit of a beautifully fierce woman, Rebecca Motte served dinner to both the American and British officers in her dining room.
My husband says it was my fierceness that initially grabbed his attention and drew him to approach me. At the time, however, he had no idea how his world was about to be turned upside down by one really fierce woman. That fierceness he found so attractive? Well, he learned real fast it could work both ways, because the fierceness that drew his interest ... also gave me the spunk to verbally slam him in our first conversation!
It was the first day of the fall semester. I wasn't prepared for the shock of entering a large classroom crammed full with young men. Way in the back corner I spied one lone female. She was dressed in military fatigues and sporting a camo cap, so at first she blended in with the all-male landscape. She and I were the only women in Dr. Stagg's Greek 101. I guess I'd never considered whether this was a popular subject with female students; I just wanted to study the language.
I soon picked up on the fact that this class was filled with what I referred to as "young preacher-boys." And were they ever the cocky lot! Every Monday morning I watched them try to one-up each other by re-preaching their Sunday sermons. Lots of big stories, loud and long alliterations, exaggerated hand gestures. If they were trying to impress the two women in the room, they didn't.
One day at the end of class, most of us headed to the cafeteria for lunch. I was standing in line waiting my turn to pick up a tray and silverware, minding my own business, when one of the cocky preacher-boys just behind me in line startled me with, "Do you mind if I ask you a personal question?"
I'd never spoken to this guy before, didn't even know his name but had a vague notion he was in my class. I was thinking, This is his impressive opening line? Smooth. We've never spoken and this is how you introduce yourself?
Now, how is a girl supposed to respond to an opening question like that? I have nothing to hide. I've always been a transparent person and often too blunt for my own good, so I mumbled, "Um ... no, I guess not." I could feel my eyebrow arching a bit. (It does that sometimes. I'm ashamed to admit, but if you ever meet me and see me do that ... sorry, it could be indicating I'm a bit irritated.)
"Why are you in Greek class?" The question may seem innocent enough, but did you note his emphasis on the word you? With that one carefully turned word, he spoke volumes. The grip on my plastic lunch tray tightened as I realized—This guy thinks Greek class is no place for girls ... Who does he think he is, asking me why I'm studying Greek? My eyebrow arched pointedly as I gave him a dead level glare while every ounce of my being flooded with Helen Reddy's theme song, I am woman, hear me roar! My response was delivered in cold, even tones.
"I'm taking the class so that I can study the original language of the New Testament for myself in order to prepare to pastor and shepherd my flock." Delivering the slam, I turned to pick up my salad plate. Stunned, he mumbled a subdued, "Oh."
I left him to think as I picked up condiments. But the Holy Spirit wouldn't let me do it. I couldn't lie to this guy with my impromptu fabrication about being a "woman preacher"—even if he did seem to be a male chauvinist. With the last of my items placed on my tray, I took a deep breath and turned to tell him, "No, the real reason I'm studying Greek is because I've grown up hearing pastors claim what the original language says and I want to be able to read it myself, for my own personal growth." His "Oh!" this time sounded much different, like he was extremely pleased with my answer. And with that, I concluded my first conversation with the man who would one day be my husband.
We both laugh about it now and he gets a kick out of telling people how my spirited response triggered his interest in me. I've heard many husbands say they experienced similar feelings of attraction when they met their feisty wives, like being drawn by the beauty and danger of climbing Mount Everest—the climb is filled with breathless anticipation and excitement, but woe to the man who attempts that climb unprepared!
Why is fierceness in women appealing to men? I think they like a challenge. They admire the strength, courage, loyalty, and determination of a fierce woman. They like spunk and passion. Fierce women don't grovel for their attention and aren't desperate for a man to meet their deepest needs. Men admire a woman who doesn't depend solely on them for their identity or happiness.
The truly beautifully fierce woman has an otherworldly strength derived from a source beyond herself. She's plunged in fully to the forgiveness and love of Christ, and He holds her heart so completely that she's reached true contentment. Her identity is forged through abiding in Him, and her courage is displayed by her commitment to Him and His cause. He is her driving motivation and propels her by the wind of His Spirit. Her passion is stoked by His fire. She is no "halfhearted creature" but is drinking deeply of Him and experiencing infinite joy.
She is a warrior at heart—not violent or aggressive—but tempered by humility. She's a soft warrior; fleshing out the beauty of fierceness in her daily life. Loving God and others with sacrificial devotion. This is the kind of fierceness I'm talking about when I said I love to see a fierce woman in action. I strive for this ideal. Check her out in the characteristics below.
Characteristics of a Beautifully Fierce Woman:
* Her identity and value are rooted in her relationship with Christ rather than a relationship with a man.
* She's filled with gratitude for God's good gifts. Her heart is ruled by the peace of contentment.
* She courageously faces her fears rather than running or hiding in shame.
* She's passionate about things that matter rather than living for the trivial.
* She loves God and others. She's more focused on giving love than getting love.
* She's willing to battle for a worthy cause rather than shrinking in defeat.
* She grabs the hem of God's will and doesn't let go.
* She protects and defends the helpless rather than using her strength to bully others. She is known as a sincere encourager.
* She's honest but kind.
* Others feel comfortable in seeking her counsel.
* She embraces God's Word as her ultimate authority rather than being swayed by the voices of the culture.
* She faithfully confronts by speaking truth in love rather than enabling sin by keeping silent.
* She walks in confidence and humility that flow from her recognition of Christ's work of grace in her life.
* She has the power to influence and inspire because she lives under the Spirit's control.
* Her life is lived all out for God's glory rather than the smallness of self.
God wants to use these characteristics to fulfill His calling on your life. I love seeing how the fierce women of Scripture did this. Esther courageously stood ready to perish as she fought for the lives of her people. Deborah led the armies of Israel to victory in spite of fearful Barak. Priscilla, along with her husband, Aquila, once literally "risked her neck" to save Paul's life (see Romans 16:4); she was bold, courageous, and a diligent student of the Word.
SEIZE THE KINGDOM!
The call to follow Christ requires fierceness. In fact, this kind of fierceness is commended by Jesus: "From the days of John the Baptist until now the kingdom of heaven has suffered violence, and the violent take it by force" (Matthew 11:12).
This intriguing verse contains some pretty descriptive words: "suffered violence" and "the violent take it by force." The Greek word that is translated "suffered violence" is only used twice in the New Testament and both times in a favorable light. It's the idea of positive aggression; commendable fierceness. Think of the phrase "Seize the day!" in the sense of putting all your effort into making the most of the moment. Seize the kingdom life. Take it by force. Don't allow anything to stand in your way or prevent you from living all out for God's glory.
Jesus isn't talking about physical aggression here; this isn't a text that supports using violence to advance a cause. Though a kind of violent action is required, it isn't aggression against others. It's fiercely grabbing hold of my proud and lazy self and putting it to death!
This verse gives us a glimpse of the intensity required to flesh out our Christianity. This kind of living goes against our natural tendency. It's the principle Jesus laid out to the disciples when He clued them in on the seriousness of the call to follow Him: "And whoever does not take his cross and follow me is not worthy of me" (Matthew 10:38).
It's the challenge of living an extraordinary life through the process of self-denial: "If anyone would come after me, let him deny himself and take up his cross and follow me" (Matthew 16:24).
It's easy to read a familiar verse like this and block out its real-life meaning. We like coasting in the comfortable and easy, but this verse flies in the face of that kind of nominal Christianity.
Excerpted from Fierce Women by KIMBERLY WAGNER Copyright © 2012 by Kimberly Wagner. Excerpted by permission of Moody Publishers. All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.
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