“How come?” Thoughts on superheroes and what it means to save the world

“Mom?” You looked up from your cereal this morning. “How come there are hardly any women superheroes?”

I hadn’t anticipated answering something this important before my first cup of tea. But I tried anyway.

“Well a long time ago…” (here I was ignoring that it wasn’t really that long ago, that it maybe is still here) “people used to think that women couldn’t do as much as men.”

I caught your look of horror and disbelief and your immediate denial that people were like that. That the world is like that. 

A text you sent me after watching Buffy fight a Big Bad

Here’s what I didn’t tell you. There are people who think that Captain Marvel is a bad example for you because women shouldn’t “protect men and save the world,” that those kinds of jobs are for men. There are people who think that what you’ve learned from Buffy the Vampire Slayer is wrong because the compassion and bravery she shows are false imitations of what a man would.  There are always going to be people who tell you that looking to those heroes is wrong, that you being inspired by the big ways they save people can’t be true in the real world.

They are wrong.

Here’s why. There are so many women you know who are saving people’s lives. You don’t have to look to superheroes to see women protecting the world. I can tell you stories about your Grammie Ruthie, who worked with people with disabilities to make sure they knew they were loved by Jesus. You can look to Mrs. Stahl, who turns everyone she meets into a neighbor and then takes care of them. You can model yourself after your teacher, Mrs. Lunow, who sees who her students really are and works to help them grow into who Christ wants them to be. That’s protecting the world, too, in ways that matter to the people whose lives are being changed. These kinds of women don’t get movies made about them, but they are heroes to me. Someday, I know these kinds of women will be heroes to you, too.

Reading the story of Miriam, a woman both called and courageous

Everyday stories aren’t the only ways that I know women can protect people and save the world. The Bible you love to read tells big stories about how women have worked to save God’s people. We’ve read about Miriam who showed bravery in saving her brother’s life. You’ve learned the story of Priscilla, who taught in the early church. And we’ve read of Deborah, who was one of Israel’s judges and led them during war. There are big stories about Esther saving God’s people through her bravery.

When you look at the kinds of stories I’m talking about, whether it’s from the Bible or in our neighborhood, I think you’ll see one thing over and over again. These women were faithful to what God called them to do. Whether it seemed tiny at the time, or impossibly huge, whether they baked a batch of cookies or risked their lives, these women listened to God and obeyed him.

I’m glad you’re asking questions about heroes and women. And I’m glad you already know that women are heroes, too. You have so many women from stories and from the past and in your life now to show you what it means to love God and protect the people around you. I don’t know if the plans God has for your life will be big and splashy or only change the lives of a few people. But I do know, my love, there is work for you to do. And you will be somebody’s hero. You already are.

*(If you haven’t read books from Rachel Speir Weaver’s and Anna Haggard’s Called and Courageous series, please do! I’m not being compensated to promote them, but I love the imaginative way they share what it means to follow God).