As many of you know, my wife Deborah died a week ago. We had a wonderful time of remembrance on Monday. A lot of good things about her life were brought to our thoughts. But there were a few stories that were not told. I would like to share a little insight with you this week.
Several of the speakers used the words brave, courageous, even fierce, in describing her. Those are accurate adjectives. There were also several references to her magnum opus, her fairy tale “The Princess without a Kingdom” which was an allegory for her spiritual journey. In that fairy tale the heroine was known as Princess Freedom and the man she eventually finds is called Prince Barak. The characters are loosely connected to the story in Judges 4-5 of Deborah, the judge of Israel, and Barak, the leader of the Hebrew forces.
Deborah felt a deep connection to the ancient judge of Israel. In many ways, she inherited the mantle of her namesake. The modern-day Deborah was a woman of wisdom, insight, strength, leadership and determination. She was able to get community leaders and law enforcement officers do what she wanted them to do.
But about 39 years ago, this Deborah was also looking for her Barak, her companion for the battle. When we met, she believed I was that person. Our wedding invitation makes that plain. I don’t know if I ever felt that I was up to the image of the superhero she envisioned, but I did what I could. And I must have done okay, because we made it over 38 years together.
In the biblical story, Deborah goes to Barak and commissions him to lead the army of Israel into battle against Sisera, the Canaanite general at Mount Tabor. Barak’s response was not an unqualified “Yes, ma’am.” Instead, he said, “If you go with me I will go; but if you don’t go with me, I won’t go.” (Judges 4:8)
That always troubled the modern-day Deborah, because she thought it sounded a little hesitant and she just knew he was a brave and dashing hero. I am not sure she ever resolved that issue in her mind, but I understand it. Having fought alongside Deborah for 38 years, I know that when she is behind it, it will be successful. And when she is not behind it, it will fall flat. And what convinces her to get behind something or not is not just intuition, although she was blessed with great intuition. It was her conviction that this was what God was directing her to do. The Judge Deborah got her marching orders from God and the modern-day Deborah did as well. She did nothing without prayer and meditation and if she were not convinced it was God’s will, she would not attempt it.
I learned very early to trust that inspiration. I knew that I too could not be successful in any endeavor unless she was in agreement. In almost every aspect of our lives, we were a team. I might be in the background or she might be sitting in the last pew, but if we were not together, it would not be successful.
And now I begin a new chapter in my life where she is not physically present with me. It is a daunting task. But I know that she is still with me in spirit. My motto will still be, “If you go with me I will go; but if you don’t go with me, I won’t go.”
(The image accompanying this blog is the small frame of a mighty woman as she walks into one of the churches that we served together.)