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Almost a year ago (October 30, 2005) I responded to Kalaraen’s comments about chivalry by trying to define Natalian chivalry. It’s a tricky concept for me, much trickier than adventure or romance. I settled for trying to define chivalry in terms of what I think a woman ought to demand of a man when he pursues her. I came up with three general categories of virtue: wisdom, honor, and valor. Roughly speaking, I process those as what you know about God, how God has changed you as a person, and what you do about it. The trichotomy isn’t perfect. In practice, for one thing, those three things overlap to an enormous degree. For another thing, I make no claim that Natalian wisdom, honor, and valor cover all that a man should be. But I still find them useful categories.
I say this because I think the time has come for me to make some attempt at defining feminine Natalian chivalry, and I want my disclaimers clearly understood up front. So the first disclaimer is this: I am drawing distinctions because I find them useful categories, not because I think they’re really discreet things. The second is like it: I may be leaving things out. Third, I am trying to capture a vision in my head, and my verbal grasp on that vision is not especially clear. This post is one attempt to get at it. But even if I were to perfectly capture that vision, let me admit up front that I don’t understand everything about the spiritual realities of women. So the vision itself is likely incomplete.
Fourth, let me stress that I am not trying to define the term woman. I don’t actually have a definition of woman—or of man, for that matter. I have definitions or pictures (imperfect though they be) of what a man or a woman should be, which is what I am trying to get at by describing the chivalric man and chivalric woman, but the wisp of the gender essence itself—what a good woman shares with a bad woman, or how a bad man is different from a bad boy—is something I have no definition for. The Eldredges’ definitions work fine for me, but I’m not sure they’re as universal as one would like a definition of this kind to be. Piper’s definition I’m a little wary of although it has virtue; Inarra Serra’s I think is correct but incomplete. At some point I may need to define those terms, but for now I think the should be is more important than the is. At any rate, I have already tried to define what a man should be—roughly speaking, a knight and a gentleman. This post is an attempt to evoke on paper my definition of the chivalric woman—a lady knight, to use the Natalian shorthand—and no more.
Fifth and finally, I must beg the indulgence of anybody who reads this, particularly the women in the audience. I have no interest in believing that women should be [insert feminist slogan here]. Nevertheless, I would not have it said that my vision of women is weak or subordinate for the simple reason that it is not true. If the lady knight in my post seems overly subordinate or soft, pray juxtapose it with my goddesses: three are great feudal ladies, two are sovereigns, one holds high command, three are career soldiers, two are great commanders of men, four have changed the course of nations, three have defied their home kingdoms and their sovereigns, four know how to handle a sword, three are highly accomplished martial artists, two are natural killers, one is a natural healer, one is a great sorceress, two own fabulous wealth in their own right, two have volcanic tempers, two are painfully shy, one struggles with self image, none are considered great beauties, three are deeply in love with men (and one woman, non-sexually) of their own choosing, who are likewise devoted to them and every bit their matches. And with that said, what do I think defines a lady knight?
A woman should be wise. Does she see things as they are, and not as she wishes them to be? Can she see clearly even through great emotional turmoil? Does she perceive the heart of the matter? Does she perceive her own heart as it truly is? Has her counsel proven trustworthy in both process and result? Does she know the Lord, and does the Lord know her? Does she love the Lord? Does she delight in obedience? Does she love the Word?
A woman should be magnificent. Is she at peace? Is she patient? Are her principles sound, and soundly grounded in the Word? Are her principles invincible against the pressures of culture but held with humility? Does she live by them? Does she reject falsehood and cowardice uncompromisingly and simultaneously inspire to godliness? Is she unpretentious? Is she radiant? Does her presence point to the Lord? Is her character alluring? Does she love to worship the Lord? Is her presence awesome? Does her character make her wrath terrible? Is she self-controlled, mistress of her own thoughts and feelings? Is she wild? Is she beautiful because God loves her and she knows it? Does she value herself as and because the Lord values her? Is the Lord both the foundation and the great fact of her identity?
A woman should be valiant. Does she protect those around her? Is she tender-hearted? Is she fierce when roused? Does she always believe, always hope? Does she forgive as the Lord forgives? Does she act out of faith, and neither out of fear nor bravado? Is she growing in the Lord? Does she love with vulnerability? Does she hold back when it is time? Does she love to serve others? Is her life always inviting those around her to the Lord? Is she a vessel of the Lord’s healing? Is she chaste and scandalous in romance? Does she love to give in romance? Does she graciously receive? Does she support her boyfriend or husband and yet remain his match?
A lady knight is something like that. It is an imperfect picture, I think, but that is just as well—who would want women to be so simple that a picture could capture them perfectly?