I have to admit I was very reluctant to see the Wonder Woman movie. I was nervous that as a person who isn’t typically drawn to superhero movies, doesn’t read comic books, and can be pretty easily put off by Hollywood’s typical misfires in representing “strong female characters”, I’d be not only disappointed, but hurt.
Because Wonder Woman means something to me. Although I remember almost nothing specific about the representations of her in popular culture through the years, no specific storylines or trivia, I remember that from the earliest of ages, she was a character with whom I identified.
She and Malibu Barbie were the brunettes- like me (unfortunately both were blue-eyed). Nevertheless, in any storyline, their dolls were used to play my role. Oddly enough, it was not really the other way around. I don’t remember pretending to be Wonder Woman or Malibu Barbie. I only remember them being stand-ins for me. Malibu Barbie represented me when I married Ken for instance. Wonder Woman was me when I married Batman.
But, over time, Wonder Woman became the default. She could play me whenever I needed her. Whenever the more vulnerable human me didn’t fit the bill, she could show up and be me.
What sealed my connection to her forever, was that on one particular Saturday afternoon, when the preacher showed up at our doublewide to discuss the condition of my eternal soul, 6 year old me was wearing Wonder Woman UnderRoos (my favorite outfit at the time).
Since we went to church twice every Sunday and once on Wednesdays, I knew Bro. Owens pretty well, and while I knew I had to wear a dress to church, I did NOT understand why I had to change out of my Wonder Woman outfit at my own house just to talk to him. But I begrudgingly complied.
I was pretty well-versed in what getting saved and baptized was all about. And in much the same way I was starting to notice that someday I’d need to wear a bra and shave my legs, I was starting to think I’d probably need to do the saved and baptized thing at some point. Turns out the preacher had picked up on those notions I’d been having and didn’t want to leave it to chance.
Later on in life, I found out some women don’t EVER shave their legs or wear bras. Given the time, I’d have probably learned that not everyone got saved and baptized either. But at six, that didn’t even cross my mind. So it was a pretty clear cut path, and he was just there asking me if I wanted to do a thing that seemed like a pretty obvious thing to do, so I said yes, bowed my head, prayed the prayer, and told everybody I’d asked Jesus into my heart which made them all real proud. Then, I waited very impatiently for the preacher to leave so I could put my Wonder Woman outfit back on.
At six, I had never felt like I didn’t have a personal relationship with God. I talked to God and felt God inside me always. I felt powerful. I felt in touch with the Holy Spirit and guided by that spirit. There was nothing as far as I could tell, that I needed to be saved from or saved for. But, I did understand it was part of the order of my tribe.
It was much like this game my big brother used to play with me. He’d begin by asking me if I could say “Charlie” to which I’d reply “Charlie”. But that didn’t satisfy his question. He’d ask again and again, ignoring my response until I’d finally scream back “NO. I CAN”T say Charlie.” Eventually, I learned to say “no, I can’t” to his inquiry right away. It killed the game for him, and it got me back to contentment of my own inner world faster.
The altar call and the pastor visit felt similar. The game was for the pastor to ask over and over “Do you have Jesus in your heart?”, and everyone is like “Yes. I do. Thanks for asking.” But that’s not an acceptable answer. And it’s exhausting. So you do the thing, or hope that someone else does, so that the pastor or evangelist can have “won a soul”, and you can go back to playing Wonder Woman.
Now I’ll attest to having seen a time or two when a person really couldn’t say Charlie and really didn’t seem to know about Jesus or feel the Spirit, and so we definitely want to teach them, but mostly where I grew up it seemed like people GOT it. You know?
Or maybe they didn’t. Maybe it’s a case of where you just sort of assume everyone around you knows what you know.
At any rate, I was BORN loved and connected and cherished. I was born feeling and experiencing all that amazing love and light and discernment inside me. It was the potential for darkness that took longer to figure out.
You see, I tend not to think of that day back when the preacher visited our doublewide or any other as the day I “accepted Christ”. After all, I never didn’t accept Christ. Instead, I think of it as the day I started to learn how uncomfortable it makes others feel when you are in touch with the power inside you. I think of it as the day I realized a little bit more fully what it means to conform in order to be accepted.
And I don’t see it as necessarily negative. I was thrilled to feel like I was a part of a group bigger than myself. I was happy to follow the tradition of my family. I could not have been prouder to walk into that creek and have those beautiful words spoken over me. I could not have been happier to be called “Sister” by those who I loved and respected so much.
But like Wonder Woman, I’ve never been able to hold that inner power in check. I’ve never been able to quite fit in any world.
As my daughters and I watched Wonder Woman on the big screen, I was moved to tears again and again because, like the character in the movie, I’ve learned bit by bit how even those who love you most will think it a protection to prevent you from using and developing your full strength. They believe, rightly, that powerful enemies will be drawn in jealousy to destroy powerful good. So they ask you to set your sights lower, conform, stay “safe”.
She tried. I tried. We both failed because the drive inside to do whatever you can to awaken the world to the love and beauty inside them is STRONG.
Like the character, I’ve struggled with innocence about just how powerful the compulsion toward evil and darkness can also be- thinking that if we kill just this one bad guy, all the hurting will stop. But I’ve seen new enemies rise up in me and others time after time, and I’ve finally had to make peace, as did she, with the fact that we humans carry darkness alongside our light.
Through the years, I’ve shared a little bit about my personal Wonder Woman story many times, and, as a result, students and friends have gifted me with some Wonder Woman themed items. In the last few years of my life, which have presented immense turmoil, those items have brought me not only a bit of humor, but true comfort.
On some of my darkest days, I’ve slipped on WW earrings or used a WW mug or slept in a WW t-shirt to help me remember my true nature as Beloved and empowered by that love. I’ve let WW be my stand-in as she was so many years ago. Even on my wedding day last December, beneath that gorgeous silk gown, I had my well-worn Wonder Woman undies.
In the character Wonder Woman, I find a kindred spirit. And I could not have been more pleased with the way she was portrayed in the film. (She even had BROWN eyes!)
In truth, I wonder whether all of us who identify with her story will remain exiled from our native Amazon Mothers and absent divine fathers or whether we will eventually find peace in the promise that they both reside within. I wonder whether we will collectively realize that to know ourselves as both human and divine is the reconciliation for which we all are longing.
But mostly, I wonder if the preacher showed up today, and we were suited up in all our super hero glory, whether we’d change to make him feel more comfortable, or invite him to shed his suit and step into his own empowered Self.