Sunday Thoughts: Give me a White Knight

Image by Morket from Pixabay

I’ve noticed a trend in storytelling where characters are only applauded if they save themselves. Damsels in distress are right out. Don’t be needy.

But, as a Christian storyteller, I find this concept to be exceptionally distasteful. (On many levels.)

I need a savior.

I am completely incapable of saving myself.

I can’t pull myself up by my bootstraps and fix my life.

And I get it. I’m an American. We fought for our Independence. We celebrate rebellion. Our gene pool is stuffed full of people who went at it to explore, conquered, and carve out homes for themselves far from safety. Our mythos is the Cowboy and the WW2 soldier. We love stories of strong men and women out there against the world and winning. We love stories of the underdog who rises up and saves the day. I love those as much as anyone else. I love stories of bravery and courage, but I also love stories of sacrifice and saving.

It seems our culture finds it distasteful for a man to save a woman. She needs to save herself. She needs to not need him. But, what if she does need saving? What if you found yourself in an inescapable situation? Wouldn’t you want to be saved? How many times does the Bible talk about God hearing the cries of the oppressed? He doesn’t tell them he’s going to sit over here and let them save themselves because it will be good for them.  

Independence has its place, but we have given something that should be balanced with her sister Dependence, a seat alone. Independence can give us the ability to help others, the strength to do what needs to be done, creativity, but she should never be in the foremost. When Independence takes the lead alone she becomes harsh, bitter, selfish, and pushes everyone away. She’s not nice. We praise YA books that teach us women that we don’t need a man to save us, but I, as a women, have health issues. I actually do need my husband’s help. There are things he is better at than I am. There are times, yes in small, ordinary ways, he rescues me. I need to be saved.

I am a sinner. I can’t save myself. I can’t wash my sin away. I can’t, by sheer force of will, make myself acceptable. I must have someone stronger than I come in and help me. I must be saved.

As a child, I didn’t find the idea of the Damsel in Distress distasteful. I only found it distasteful when she stood in a corner and screamed, or fainted. I always yelled at her to pick up a rock and fight. Then, when I was in my teens, my goat herd got attacked by two dogs—our dogs attacked my goat herd. I stood at the top of the hill watching these dogs ravish this herd of sweet goats and I screamed. I couldn’t move. I was frozen in horror. It was one of the weirdest moments of my life. I literally could not move. I could not save the ones I loved. I was in deep distress. (I actually don’t remember screaming, but my Mom told me later she could hear me on the other side of the hill.) The one time I needed to pick up a rock, I could not.  

Being the Damsel in Distress is humiliating. Waiting around to be saved, finding out you’re weak, realizing you’re dependent on others is humiliating, but it is also so very good for us. It is good for us to need others. It is good for us to need our friends. It is good for us to need our spouses and families. It is good for us to realize we are finite.

And, it is good to remember that if you are struggling, being abused, fighting depression, or any other dark thing, get help. Don’t go it alone. Don’t let your pride or your belief that you must save yourself set you on a path of total independence. Admit to the fact that we are all damsels in distress at some points in our life and need saving. Then, at that moment, in the valley of the shadow of death, remember the fairy tales: knights come.

I think our stories would be better if we didn’t throw out the Damsel in Distress and the White Knight, but if we honestly realized we can’t handle it all, we can’t save ourselves. We do desperately need a White Knight. This isn’t some oppression tactic to tell little girls that they have to sit on their hands, and to tell little boys they get to have all the fun. This is to say that we all need saving, and we should all help others when we can, even when we are weak.

I saw a post about Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban that praised Harry for saving himself at the end. That the whole point of seeing himself and realizing it wasn’t his father was to show that Harry saved himself. I just laughed. Harry had to have so much help to reach that point, so much help, that it’s silly to think he saved himself. It was just one last step. He took the final step. That’s like a woman with a broken-down car who changes her own tire. The tire her father taught her to change, the tire her husband left in the car, or the tire that she purchased. We don’t’ save ourselves.

We always have help.

We have friends who support us or bop us over the head. We have people who hug us and people who drive us. We have stories. We have music. We don’t save ourselves, even when we have to take that final step.

And saying Harry saved himself is sad. It removes the magic of the fact that in a way his Dad did save him. It removes all the work Hermione did with the Time-Turner. It chases away the magic of finding out about the Marauders. It changes the whole scene, and not in a good way. The beauty of that scene is the longing of an orphan to see his dad, of realizing he is going to have a home, of all of that culminating in a twist of realizing he can do the magic he needs to do. Focusing on Harry saving himself belittles all the other things going on to make the magic of that moment. Yes, Harry was armed with the knowledge that empowered him to fight, we all need that, cause we can’t save ourselves. Harry realized he was capable of a difficult spell and saved Sirius, himself, and Hermione. But he didn’t do it alone. He was only the final step.

So, dear readers, you may crack open one of my books someday and find that there are Knights, usually a bit muddy, and Damsels in Distress, usually ones with brains, yes. Because I love them. I, as a woman, like being saved. I like having a knight. You will also find Bands of Brothers, you will find Best Friends, and you will find Teams, Found Families, and Communities. You will not find people succeeding when they go it alone, because we all need help, we’re all dependent, and we all need to be saved.

The concept of Christian Rest grows as you age

Sunday Thought: Rest

The concept of Christian Rest grows as you age

Rest is a concept that grows with you as you grow. I’ve been interacting with the idea of rest since I was a very young believer, you know, Sunday. The day of rest. But as a kid, rest is nap time. As a teen, rest is not something you ever want to do. Rest? Boring. You want to be living, moving, on adventures, hanging out with friends. Go. There’s life to be lived. Rest is for old people.

There is some truth to that, but what I didn’t grasp when I was young was just how hard life can get. I didn’t know how heavy ordinary, everyday things could be.

As an adult, we have never ending responsibilities. Some of them are pretty small…is there gas in the car? Navy shoes or black shoes? Some of them feel huge: taxes, children, big money choices. When we’re not making those decisions, we’re dealing with the consequences, good or bad, of decisions we made in the past. Some are small consequences…pizza yesterday means salad today. Some are huge consequences: go back to school, switch jobs, have kids. All these things, good and bad, weigh on us. They all do. It’s easy to get overwhelmed. It’s easy to want to curl up on the couch and just vegetate.

On top of all the responsibility, comes the constant frustration of our work never going perfectly.  We try to feed and clothe our families and we can’t even get the laundry folded on the same day…or days. We cook a meal and it doesn’t come out like we want it. Money doesn’t come in or go out like we plan. Cars break down…generally when we need them to work most. People get sick, and stay sick. The To Do list never ends. Something that should be simple turns into something complicated. Nothing is ever perfect.

Even as an artist, things aren’t perfect. I pour my soul into my work and it never comes out like I want it to, or people don’t get it. Decorating our homes: all the measuring in the world and things still come out imperfect. Plant a garden: half the plants die and the other half get eaten, or burnt up by the sun. All the good intentions in the world coupled with diligent work can’t make things turn out right.

Imperfection haunts our every move. And this is just every day, ordinary imperfection. This doesn’t even cover all the ways our own sins destroy our lives. Our selfishness, coldness, anger, and bitterness hurt our families, our churches, and our neighbors.

Rest.

Oh how we long for rest. We dream of nights not haunted with worry. We dream of days not spoiled by things again not functioning. We dream of perfect work.

As a Christian going through sanctification, rest becomes more and more dear. God graciously and gently weans us from this world and all the frustrations in it. As we age, these frustrations stack one on top of the other. We never have a day where we can face our reflection content that we have done our best. We didn’t. We were lazy. We can’t say we finished all our tasks, there is always something we didn’t get to. We can’t face ourselves and say, “Soul, this was a perfect day, rest now.” That kind of compete rest only comes in the Lord, and ultimately comes only in heaven.

As a kid, rest sounded boring. As an aging adult, it is one of the few things I can hold onto that gets me through a day. And Sundays? Our day of rest? They’re sweet beyond sweet. When I walk through the doors of the church building I think “Someday, someday this will be my every day. Someday the work will be perfectly and happily done. The ordinary, oh-so-many-papers, work will be done. I’ll love those around me without any sin, and be loved without sin in my turn. I’ll be at rest. Rest. Oh blessed thought.”

True rest never comes in this life. It only comes with Christ.

The older I get the more I long for the Lord’s Day. Each week, I long to gather with the saints to hear the preaching of the word. I long to step aside, for one day, from the world and all its chains. The day comes and it isn’t perfect. You have donkeys in the ditch. You have sickness. You have sin. But this earthly day of rest points to the heavenly rest. It points to the day I’ll join Christ, and the saints that have gone before, and really rest.

Rest doesn’t mean an eternal game of golf, it means perfection in work and recreation.

Think of that: perfection!

I will no longer end my day with regrets, wishing I had done this instead of that, wishing I’d loved my husband more and myself less, wishing I’d just rested more or rested less. Someday, I’ll be without sin.

That is true rest. True rest is really living, really living without sin, really living with Christ.

So, younger saints, know that the Lord will lead you down this path too. You will have the weight of the world slowly bend you over, even in this easy life we live as Americans in the 21st century. Start working now to have your soul ready: be in church every time the doors are open. That is the only way to make it through this thing called life with any grace.

Older saints, cling to our hope, our hope which will be fulfilled. We will see Christ. We will gather together in Heaven and perfectly rest for eternity. We will perfectly work for eternity. We will perfectly love for eternity. This life is a battle ground, but the war is already won. It’s already done. These are just the final fights. Cling to Christ. Cling to his promises. Our mighty Capitan has already gone before us. We have only to follow, and He will see us safely across the dark waters to eternal rest. Such a sweet thought.