Huntsman and HearthKeepers

 

HuntsmanHearthkeepers

As you all know, I love warrior stories. That’s fairly obvious and I’ve talked about it before here. One of the unique-to-me-elements of my love comes from my experiences as a church member, pastor’s daughter, and now as a pastor’s wife. I hope you get the heart of what I’m saying here because it may seem a little self-aggrandizing, but it’s not meant that way. It’s meant to show why I love these stories: they’re my life experience.

I see my pastors through warrior-colored-glasses. I see them just as I see policemen, firemen, and the men serving on the front lines of our military. Pastors are shepherds. They’re here to train and defend the sheep. You don’t stop wolves with sweet words, but with well-made weapons wielded by well-trained men.

I view my husband as one of these great defending-shepherds, a SoulDefender if you will. This perspective puts me in the same rank as every woman who has ever sent her man out into the cold, dark night to risk his life for others. This type of woman isn’t super popular right now. Culturally, we love the warrior woman, the leader woman, she who herself goes out into the night, risking her life. I get it. The warrior/leader woman is dynamic, sexy, and powerful. She’s not trapped in a box, or a home, or quiet, but out active and engaged. Look, here is a woman who is as good as a man!

It gets old.

It gets old, honestly, because it’s one dimensional, physically and temperamentally. I’m not fit or muscular. I don’t have martial arts training or a strong constitution. I don’t like being in charge. The warrior/leader woman doesn’t speak to me because she isn’t me, or not me on many levels. It also gets old because it tends to communicate that homemaking is easy, and thus only lazy women or stupid women do it. It also communicates, even more subtly, that it’s fine to leave your children behind to be raised by someone else. You need to be out saving the world! That’s what mighty people do. They’re out saving. When in fact, mighty people are in rising. They stay in and raise their children.

Rabbit trail, but this is one of the things I enjoy about Joss Whedon. He creates dimensional women. He tries to show women in many different roles and honors them all. He can have Black Widow and Hawkeye’s wife in the same house and neither women feels put down by the other, nor belittled by the storytelling. Hawkeye’s wife is just as strong and mighty as Black Widow, even though she’s only on the home front, she’s only a hearth keeper.

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Image from Pixabay. Edits by me.

I try not to hate on the warrior/leader woman too much. I understand she can be an analogy for a strength that isn’t just physical or temperamental. Unfortunately, this constant warrior/leader woman drumbeat starts to get on my nerves. It often beats its drum by putting down the men in the story, by making them weak, or stupid. It also leaves the women keeping the home, tending the hearth, doing everything that is needed in a family while her husband is out fighting, including trying not to worry, with little honor. Even worse, when these wives of warriors are showcased in our modern storytelling, she’s often belittling and nagging her man for his desire to protect others. She parades her children and herself before him as needing him more than the world. She makes his choice of warrior-ness a selfish one, even though she knew what he did when she married him. This woman forces her man to feel torn between his promises, his duties, and his family.

The cliché women in our modern storytelling are either the female warrior more mighty than any man (including highly trained ones), or she is a weak coward demanding her warrior stop being what he is because she doesn’t like it. Oh, how this annoys me.

In my own experience the cop’s wives, soldier’s wives, and pastor’s wives that I know personally, take his going, and their tending of the home as their part in the duty. It’s a team effort. It’s the family business. The wives keep the home front. They cheer him on as he leaves because he needs to go fight with a strong focus, not a divided one. She is a mighty woman. She has taken on the role of the warrior’s wife, and she embraces it. She embraces the worry. She embraces the late nights, long hours, the unknown, and unknowing elements. This wife shoulders as much as she can to keep burdens from him. This woman is incredibly strong, smart, clever, and wise. She isn’t shellfish about sharing her man. She doesn’t turn their family into a burden on him every time he goes out to be a shepherd. She encourages him. She tells him she thinks he is the strongest, bravest, best warrior in the world. This wife says, “Come home with your shield, or on it.” She has his back. Most important, she gives him a place to come home to. She creates a place to come back to. She doesn’t nag every time he goes away.

We don’t honor these incredibly strong women enough. We look for women marching for their rights, or protesting the evils of patriarchy, or doing incredible physical feats, or just yelling really loud. We don’t notice the quiet HearthKeepers doing the work it takes so warriors can go out in the world to fight the wolves.

So, because this is near and dear to my heart, because I have just stepped into this mighty sisterhood, I started writing Huntsmen and HearthKeeper stories. In normal genres, they would be Urban Fantasy. But for me, they’re stories about the men who fight the things that go bump in the night, and the women who light their way back home. They’re exaggerated forms of real life. Instead of just cops, I have men who hunt supernatural beings that have gone rogue. Instead of having just cop wives, I have women with the ability to stitch torn souls back together. I have women who are literal lights in the dark.

Fortress is my first story in this personal genre. It’s the story of a small town under attack from an odd, burning, black ooze. Huntsmen arrive on the wings of a storm to take out the mysterious black tar. Before they can figure out the tar’s intent it specifically targets Dún, a woman who owns the local diner. That’s the overarching plot. The story is about Will and Dún. He’s a lost, angry huntsman who doesn’t remember why he does what he does anymore. He’s a broken warrior or a breaking warrior. Dún is a young woman who finds herself stronger than she thinks, and is able to stand in the middle of Will’s anger, accepting him as he is. She opens her heart not just to him, but to the other men who give their lives for the town. She finds she’s not a warrior, but a helper of warriors. This acceptance moves Dún into the world of magic. She becomes the first HearthKeeper Guardian, joining the ranks of many sisters before her who step into the darkness of their men’s worlds and find themselves strong.

One of my first readers of Fortress said:

I love that your story grows not out of emotion first, but out of commitment and dynamically explores the relationship between man and woman.
Your stories have done more to tether my heart to hearth and home than a host of books I read in my teen years outlining why I should desire to be a homemaker. I also think books on womanhood tend to focus more on motherhood than the calling of a wife, to the point of seeing marriage as merely a means to have children, neglecting the high calling God has placed in being a helper to man. Your chosen metaphor of the warrior’s companion, the HearthKeeper, is poignant and corrective.
We need clear doctrinal teaching on marriage and the roles of men and women but we also need stories that stir our affections to love that truth. Art is “the Huntsman marked by the Preacher as one of his soldiers against the monsters seeping into the world through cracks and crevasses…” Art too is a ‘guardian.’ And yours is a strong fortress, ready and able to stand the test of time and changing culture.”

Another reader had this to say:

You’ve created something amazing.
I have been so busy this summer with deadlines, work, and barely being home, and pausing life to read Fortress was very rewarding. (I wish I could have gotten to it sooner, but life :/ )
I love how it’s focusing on the quiet power, the one where women are supporting the men through the hardships in life. (Like, that is life!) And it was done in such a beautiful way in a world that is ours, and yet not. The story was new and refreshing -the pacing keeping me on constant edge….I do hope you continue to write more about Dun and Will because I need more lol!

My Snow White retelling has this same Huntsman/HearthKeeper vibe. It was a finalist in the Rooglewood contest. I hope to tell many more stories in this genre. I love it. I love playing with strong women who aren’t raising a sword, but who are standing beside a man with a gun. It’s my life. It’s the lives of the women I know. I want to honor them, for they are the strongest people I know.

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Aesthetic for Fortress. Images from Pinterest.

Amendment: I want to mention that what I don’t want to do with this post is discourage women. I don’t want you to feel like a lesser women if you aren’t this brave, strong, clever, supportive creature. We are finite and dependent, all of us. None of us are as good, kind, brave, or wise as we could be or want to be. We’re all weak. What I want to do in this article, and my stories, is honor the women who stay home and set that candle in the window, because it’s not an easy job.

Second, men should never use their jobs as an excuse to abandon their families. A man’s first priority, regardless of job, is his family. He must draw boundaries and lines that make them his highest aim, even if he’s deployed, or on the streets, or in the pulpit. A man can’t abandon his family.


If you are interested in reading Fortress, you can get it in the first tier of my Patreon for only a $1 a month. Check it out!

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Why would a middle aged woman love warrior stories?

Why Warrior Stories? (Part 1)

Why Warrior Stories_

Why warrior stories? I ask myself this question regularly. Why do I love them so much? What is it about them that thrills me far more lastingly than any romance or drama? Why warrior stories? Unfocused and puzzled, I can’t answer the question. I feel weird and out of step with those around me. I think how strange it must be for an almost middle aged women to love Rambo 4, Lone Survivor, Black Hawk Down, Fury, We were Soldiers, and Band of Brothers. How weird am I?

Then Pastor Jarrett preaches on Luke and Eureka! I’ve got it!

I love warrior stories because I’m starving. I’m starving for stories about real men, and more than that, I’m starving for real stories about Christ.

Most movies and books, children’s bible stories, and false beliefs about Jesus center around this vision of him as a quiet, mild-mannered, limp-wristed savior. He’s a long-haired hippie preaching some kum-ba-yah type love.

But, the real Jesus, our real King is drenched in blood. Not his blood, but the blood of his enemies! He is the calmer of storms, the one who faced the Devil and prevailed, the one who faced Legion unflinchingly. He is on his white horse, our captain, and he is riding rough-shod over the Devil. But, he is a true warrior. A real warrior. It is safe at his feet. It is safe to stand in his shadow. He has faced down fallen angles in the 1000s without taking one step back. We can stand safely behind him.

See??? A real warrior is a great danger to those who attack him, and a great good to those he defends. He isn’t safe. A real warrior is never safe, but he is good.

In our female-centric world, we’ve overcompensated. We realized women were under-represented, but instead of balancing things out, we’ve told men to go sit on their hands, women have got this. We’ve neutered men. We’ve turned them into cute, little man-buns that wouldn’t hurt a fly because we were afraid. We’re afraid of strong men. Women try to make everything safe, and have forgotten how to raise warriors. Warriors aren’t safe, but they’re safe to stand behind. A true warrior is good.

Holding onto this idea is hard. The world constantly throws at us the peaceful Jesus with his weak, sad eyes. The world tells us that warriors need to go away, stop fighting. Fighting is dangerous, gross, and barbaric. Also, our battle is a spiritual one. It’s one we can’t see. Between the invisible and the world, holding onto Jesus as our Warrior King can be like grasping at bubbles. They burst in your hands, beautiful but gone.

Why would a middle aged woman love warrior stories?
Picture from Pixaby, edits by me.

I love the image of the sheepdog, but it lacks something. It teaches that there are people who remain blissfully ignorant about the real world, sheep. These are the kind of people that actually think they can create peace if they give up their guns, failing to realize that just makes them defenseless. These sheep would be ravaged by wolves if it weren’t for the sheepdogs. Sheepdogs defend sheep. Sheep don’t like sheepdogs. They make them nervous. But the sheepdog doesn’t really care. He just does his job and keeps the wolves from the sheep. I love this. I love sheepdogs. But, the breakdown comes when the sheepdogs start to become prideful, arrogant, and hateful towards the sheep. They stop seeing their job and they start seeing weak, dumb animals making their job harder. Now the sheep are in danger from both the wolves and the sheepdog. What do we do? How do we stop this?

We need a shepherd.

The shepherd will keep the sheepdogs in line and the sheep in line. We need an outside standard of right and wrong. We need the Word of God. We need to train unsafe, but good warriors.

I think of my husband as a warrior. He’s not in the military. He’s not a cop. But he is a strong man who thinks clearly and sharply through things, and isn’t afraid to stand up for what’s right. Now, he’s on his path to being an elder in our church. He’s going to war. He’s moving to the front lines of the spiritual battle. His weapons aren’t metal, but the Word of God. His enemy isn’t a terrorist, but false doctrines and sin threatening his church. He’s become an under-shepherd, a sheepdog. What does that look like? Pretty much the same as it always has. He’s got his boots, jeans, and button downs. He’s got his books. He’s got his beard going grayer every day. He’s not dirty. He’s not bleeding. He’s not wounded. He’s not surrounded physically. None of that is seen, but it’s all there spiritually.

Sibling-saints, we are all this way. We are at war. We are in a fight, a constant fight. See, in the spiritual war, women are mighty warriors just like men are. We are all priests. I couldn’t be a warrior in real life. I’m not strong enough. But, in the spiritual war, I can stand shoulder to shoulder with these my brothers and sisters. We, beloved saints, are bleeding, wounded, broken down warriors in this war. But we have hope!!! Our elder brother goes before us. He is mighty. He did what no man could do in the wilderness. He did what no man could do at sea, and he did what no man could do for us. Jesus is our Warrior King. He touches the sick, befriends the villain, and retrieves the dangerous. He faces legions of fallen angels and doesn’t break. He is our captain and he will see us all safely home.

I love warrior stories because my husband’s battles are largely unseen, the war I’m in is spiritual, and mostly because Jesus is the great Warrior King. Warrior stories help me remember reality.

This is why I love warrior stories. This is what I devour and this is what I write.