I had a beautiful conversation over lunch with a lovely, brave woman today. We mused about what it means to be a woman – and a leader; two words that often illicit tension (for ourselves and for others) just by being named together. As we talked, I struggled to put words to how I often see myself as a woman and a leader – “subterfuge,” “strategic,” and “cunning” were the best I could come up with, but they carry with them pretty negative connotations – and that’s not at all what I’m meaning, experiencing, or living.

I remembered a paper I wrote a couple of years ago using the theory of guerilla warfare as outlined by Che Guevera. Though it’s a bit unorthodox, I’m wondering anew if it might not be worth considering…if only for women who seek new and gracefully disruptive means by which they can invite change – in the church, in institutions, in relationships, in their own lives.

Here are some quotes from that paper and my reflections this evening:

“This is the basis, the essence of guerilla fighting. Miraculously, a small band of men, the armed vanguard of the great popular force that supports them, goes beyond the immediate tactical objective, goes on decisively to achieve an ideal, to establish a new society, to break the old molds of the outdated, and to achieve, finally, the social justice for which they fight.”

Isn’t this what women desire: an ideal, to establish a new society, to break the old modes and to acheive social justice? Yes! And it’s not that men don’t want the same in many contexts; it’s just that women have to go about fighting for such in much different ways. The traditional modes of “fighting” aren’t working. There’s got to be another way.

“To have a correct strategic appreciation from the point of view of the guerilla band, it is necessary to analyze fundamentally what will be the enemy’s mode of action…We must make our own strategy adequate on the basis of these studies, keeping in mind always the final objective of defeating the enemy army.”

My intent as a woman and as a leader is hardly to defeat – or even name – the enemy army. But there is something wise here about studying the mode of action of those with whom we live and work – of those for and with whom we deeply desire change. I must know what I’m up against and be strategic about how I will remain “in the battle” toward ends that are not focused on victory, but wholeness, health, beauty, inclusiveness, and life.

“It is necessary to distinguish clearly between sabotage, a revolutionary and highly effective method of warfare, and terrorism, a measure that is generally ineffective and indiscriminate in its results, since it often makes victims of innocent people and destroys a large number of lives that would be valuable to the revolution….Well-managed sabotage is always a very effective arm.”

Meredith and I talked about sabotage today, though I’m not sure we would have classified it as such in the moment. We talked about how as women we often feel like we’re faced with two choices: 1) stand up on a soap box, demand to be heard, and preach our hearts out – often to people who really would prefer we just sit down and be quiet; or 2) run…because the battle is just too hard and we know we won’t win anyway. But what if there were a 3rd option? What if the 3rd choice was in the realm of sabotage – not destructively, but invitationally? What if we continually were aware of that which we see and understand in a given situation and then go about the process of inviting others to see things differently too. We can ask questions like, “I wonder what would happen if…?” or “I’m curious why we consistently…?” “What would it be like to….?” That’s beautiful, graceful, cunning sabotage of the status quo – without the necessity of either a platform or running shoes.

“Even the treatment accorded the enemy is important…It is a good policy, so long as there are no considerable bases of operations and invulnerable places, to take no prisoners. Survivors ought to be set free. The wounded should be cared for with all possible resources at the time of action. Conduct toward the civil population ought to be regulated by a large respect for all the rules and traditions of the people of the zone, in order to demonstrate effectively, with deeds, the moral superiority of the guerilla fighter over the oppressing soldier.”

Isn’t this already what we know and do? We deeply desire to set others free. We care for the wounded with compassion and diligence. And it’s not about our moral superiority; it’s about our heart – our very nature. We’re guerilla fighters!

“…the guerilla fighter will carry out his action in wild places of small population. Since in these places the struggle of the people for reforms is aimed primarily and almost exclusively at changing the social form of land ownership, the guerilla fighter is above all an agrarian revolutionary. He interprets the desires of the great peasant mass to be owners of land, owners of their means of production, of their animals, of all that which they have longed to call their own, of that which constitutes their life…”

Women have a deep and passionate call to struggle on behalf of others – for life. May we do that with great confidence that our guerilla warfare is, in fact, a beautiful and life-giving force for good. We’re hardly terrorists. We’re brave and courageous warriors who will not give up.

‘Seems to me Jesus said something similar that might be encouraging in this day and context:

Stay alert. This is hazardous work I’m assigning you. You’re going to be like sheep running through a wolf pack, so don’t call attention to yourselves. Be as cunning as a snake, inoffensive as a dove…When people realize it is the living God you are presenting and not some idol that makes them feel good, they are going to turn on you, even people in your own family There is a great irony here: proclaiming so much love, experiencing so much hate! But don’t quit. Don’t cave in. It is all well worth it in the end. It is not success you are after in such times but survival. Be survivors! (Matthew 10:16, 21-22, The Message)

And in Joshua 1:9, God says:
Have I not commanded you? Be strong and courageous. Do not be terrified; do not be discouraged, for the Lord your God will be with you wherever you go.

I wonder: what would it look like for women to see themselves as guerilla warriors – donned in beauty and strength, passion and courage, light and life? It’s who I want to be. ‘Join me?