Like most authors, I get quite a few letters. To say that I appreciate the time, effort, and thoughtfulness that go into each is an understatement. I do in fact marvel at the kindness of strangers.
Most of the e-mail I receive is easy to answer, even if the questions sometimes give me pause. I’ve been asked what color my hair really is, the names of my goldfish, and the birthday/shoe size/astrological sign and the like of various characters. Usually I know the answer. When I don’t, and it’s about a book, I can always make something up. Rarely does anybody ask anything I have to stop and ponder. But it happened this week. I was contacted by a young woman who asked me – among others – a self-revelatory question. She plans to compile her responses to complete a Young Women project. The question: If you could be a latter-day version of anybody in the scriptures, who would you be and why?
After consideration of the many possibilities I decided I would like to be Deborah. Since femininity is eternal, I felt compelled to choose a woman, but even if I had considered all the great men of the ages, I still think I’d have picked her.
According to the book of Judges 4-5, Deborah lived under a palm tree and judged Israel. See how much we have in common? I lived under a palm tree in Mesa for almost a quarter-century and am easily one of the most judgmental people around. It’s a natural fit.
But that’s not why I chose her. I chose Deborah because of her politics. And perspective. And courage.
After ceasing to heed the Lord God, Deborah’s people became virtual slaves of an oppressive foreign kingdom. Twenty years passed in misery, but nobody did anything because they didn’t believe there was anything they could do. The Canaan government was much too big to take on. The king had 900 iron chariots and enough fighting men to fill a valley. Guess how many iron
chariots Israel had. Right.
Their military leader, Barak, saw the situation clearly. The enemy had more than enough men, weapons, and early-day tanks to wipe his small army off the face of the earth. (Probably without breaking a sweat.)
Deborah saw the same situation with equal clarity. If they would turn again to God in humble and sincere prayer, they could send forth men armed with enough faith, courage, and power to prevail. Over anything. Indeed, angels would fight with them.
Deborah shared her vision with Barak and urged him to battle. At last he grumbled, “If thou wilt go with me, then I will go: but if thou wilt not go with me, then I will not go.”
Go to battle? A woman? If Deborah up and ran off to war who would clean up around the palm tree and wash her husband’s robes? What agency could send in a temp to do her judging? Perhaps most troubling, what would her visiting teachers think?
Deborah didn’t hesitate. She surely went – and everything transpired as she had prophesied. (That’s the thing with prophecy generally.) In exchange for repentance and obedience, Israel was granted blessed freedom under God.
I wish I were like Deborah. I see my people facing many of the oppressions Israel faced – and for largely the same reasons. I certainly don’t want to go to Iraq, say, but I do want to be the kind of woman who engages in the battle, speaks up for the right, and stands up to be counted when it counts the most. Moreover, I want to be like the latter-day Deborahs we all know and admire – women who gaze through the eyes of faith rather than fear. These women look at useless scraps of fabric and see beautiful quilts; they live in modest homes, perhaps even in the dirt and decay of our inner cities, and yet gaze up to admire the sunrise. They see our families’ and nation’s and world’s evils for what they are – and know surely where to look for the solutions.
All over the world, valiant women wage war against invincible obstacles and multitudes of foes. They battle where they must with the weapons they have at hand. They clip coupons to provide for their families. They serve missions to share the gospel. They redeem their kindred dead. They go alone to church and to the temple. They raise vegetables . . . and grandchildren. They bless and strengthen their neighbors. Some write bravely and boldly, seeking to raise a rallying ensign for people of like minds.
I know I’m no Deborah. I’m too content to sit under my apple tree and juggle. (I’m trying to give up judging.) But I’m grateful for the question because it made me want to raise my sites and do better – and to acknowledge those who are already where I would like to be.
Now it’s your turn. You don’t have to write a long response (I’m the preachy one, remember) but I promised this girl I would ask for more input, and so I am. Who do you wish to emulate in the latter-days, and why? I’m not sure she will be able to use anonymous responses for her project, but I’d like to hear what you have to say, regardless.