I am Woman
Most of Douglas' books that I was familiar with were based on male characters.
The Robe tells the story of a Roman military tribune who commands the unit that crucifies Jesus. The Big Fisherman is based on the life of Simon Peter, ajorney from self-sufficient fisherman to his dependency on a risen Christ. Magnificent Obsession is about a carefree playboy, Robert Merrick, whose life is saved at the expense of the life of an eccentric but adored surgeon.
My biggest delight in opening up the book White Banners for the first time was to realize that it was based on a woman. I was woman.
To tell you the truth, I had a great deal of trouble in the beginning of my life trying to reconcile my identity as a woman with the circumstances of my birth. I was born into a male-oriented culture, family and even faith.
Let's face it -- the Bible is so male! It is full of stories of Abraham, Isaac, Jacob, Joseph, King David, Samson, Daniel, and then the gang of twelve men - and of course the dominant character is Jesus, another obvious male. They are all male. I soon discovered that "male" was the first language of the Bible. Female is a kind of second language. So I was forced to interpret all of the spiritual teachings of the Bible into my own language all the time, which is very tiring and wearing on one's self esteem - always being placed second.
Then there was our family. I had bonded with my father - who was unashamedly a patriarch modelling himself after the old patriarchs in the Old Testament.
I was born into the family position of being the third girl - a third place rerun - before the king son.
And of course the Mennonite culture is all very male-oriented - especially the denomination I was a member of . It was even called the Mennonite Brethren - no subtleties there.
Yet all of these dominant influences in my life - all being male-dominated - were primarily "peace-focused." Admirably! Peace is counter-intuitive to the male culture of aggression. So the stories, illustrations and the words describing this "non-aggressive" and "alternative" lifestyle were all male as well.
The Mennonite male was called to be "non-resistant" - which meant not going to war. My father talked about not suing - a businessman's term. Jesus talked about not retaliating physically by hitting someone - another male response.
I, as a woman of that era, wasn't supposed to even think of a career, much less go to war, or fight physically - at least not wrestling the way men do. (If you remember the story of my cousin and I fighting, we did that in the girls' washroom far out of sight. Not in the middle of the playground for everyone to watch - as the boys did. So in some ways because it wasn't witnessed by males, It didn't even happen. And if it did happen - it was the tomboy in me - not the real me.)
I hope you realize I am smiling as I write this....
We, as women, have our own occupational terms, our own battles and our own way of fighting that looks slightly different. We use different terms - at least we did back then.
So even though I enjoyed being a woman - very much - I was able to side-step a lot of the restrictions of being a female by being a tomboy - my dominant identity at the time. Even though I loved being a woman - being chased, wearing dresses, playing with dolls, and all of that. I equally enjoyed my male cousins - hanging out with my father - sitting on the male side of the sanctuary - and all of that. Actually, I always thought I had access to the best of both worlds.
But the dominant influence - those subtle teachings of peace and some not so subtle - that were constantly floating around me often seemed confusing to me as a young woman. I understood how they related to men -- and their preoccupation with the challenge of being forgiving and living a peaceful lifestyle in their war-oriented worlds - but I didn't quite understand how it all applied to women - who were so much more peaceful, so much more loving and forgiving, and who were so natural at it all .
And yes - I am being mildly sarcastic.
So to find a book like White Banners with the main character being a woman - Hannah - who is also struggling with this concept - delighted me in ways I didn't even understand back then.
All I remember is reading it - and rereading it - and breathing in every word.
But I realize now - that I was not only reading the story as Douglas had written it - I was creating a story that applied to my life. I was reading a story that I needed.
This faith, is not like a deed to a house in which one may live with full rights of possession. It is more like a kit of tools with which a man may build himself a house. The tools will be worth just what he does with them. When he lays them down, they will have no value until he takes them up again. Lloyd C. Douglas