In recent years, few images have captivated me more than that of Fearless Girl, a 50-inch bronze sculpture installed on March 7, 2017, in the New York Financial District. It was first placed in powerful juxtaposition to Charging Bull, by sculptor Arturo Di Modica, who sought to connote aggressive financial strength in the wake of the 1987 “Black Monday” stock market crash. Nearly 30 years after Charging Bull appeared, Fearless Girl, by Kristen Visbal, arrived standing just feet away in anticipation of International Women’s Day. “Know the power of women in leadership. SHE makes a difference,” its controversial plaque read.
Debates over the sculpture ensued on all sides. Yet in the painful aftermath of the Access Hollywood tapes and the euphoria of the historic 2017 Women’s March which I attended with Tim Nelson and R.C. Bingham (who also write for The Gathering), Fearless Girl spoke to me. That small girl. Hands on hips. Chin lifted high against headwinds that pull at her ponytail. She stands her ground against the massive, 7,100 pound, 11-foot-tall Charging Bull, who ripples with nervous energy, nostril’s flared, body poised to attack.
I’ve been thinking about Fearless Girl a lot lately. It is because I am afraid. I am afraid not for myself but for the future of our country and our planet. Certain overwhelming realities loom like a massive, raging bull. Kai Edin-Nelson’s recent post speaks to these fears, and Keilah Jacques’s recent contributions offer wisdom on how to cope in emotionally troubling times.
As I contemplate Fearless Girl, a song by the Christian songwriter Mia Fieldes plays in my head…
I am fearless
In Your presence
You surround me
In my weakness
You are strongest
Fieldes’s song was inspired by 2nd Corinthians 12:7-10. Early in the passage, the Apostle Paul begs God to take away the “thorn in my flesh,” given to keep him from being too conceited (if you know much about the Apostle Paul, this is a reasonable concern). God answers, but not in the way Paul expects. God says, “My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness.” Paul, never one to under-react, responds in this over-the-top way: “Therefore I will boast all the more gladly about my weaknesses, so that Christ’s power may rest on me. That is why, for Christ’s sake, I delight in weaknesses, in insults, in hardships, in persecutions, in difficulties. For when I am weak, then I am strong.”
For anyone raised in the Christian tradition, as I was, this passage is bound to bring to mind the Biblical story of David and Goliath told in 1 Samuel 17. Israel is at war, and the army is quaking as the Philistine giant Goliath delivers daily taunts, challenging any Israeli soldier to come forward to fight him. The Bible tells us that Goliath stood 9 feet 9 inches tall, and wore a bronze helmet with a coat of scale armor weighing roughly 125 pounds. He was as formidable as Charging Bull!
David, a young shepherd boy too young to fight, spent his days expertly defending his sheep from wolves and bears with his sling. He traveled to the front merely to deliver supplies. On one trip, David witnessed Goliath’s taunts. Outraged, he asked: “Who is this…Philistine that he should defy the armies of the living God?”
David steps up. King Saul attempts to outfit the boy with his own armor, but David shrugs off these trappings of privilege and power. He chooses instead to face the Giant only with the tools he has—his sling and a few stones.
In the Biblical narrative, David is weak compared to his opponent, but his courage, and his willingness to offer up what he has—the modest tools of a shepherd boy—make him strong. He brings it, and God delivers the volley, right between the eyes. Yep, right between the eyes. That Giant is felled.
Fearless Girl is weak in the face of her opponent, Charging Bull. Yet somehow, in the months she stood defiant before him, her courage managed to unnerve the charging bull of Wallstreet, so much so that the Bull’s creator lobbied to have Fearless Girl moved. He succeeded, but the City left a plaque with the imprint of her feet on that spot. Today, young girls can step into them and feel strong.
What wisdom do these small, relatively weak, characters wish to impart?
In our weakness, He is strongest.
Recently, R.C. Bingham argued on this blog that God intervenes in human affairs less often than we would like, preferring instead for us to learn from our challenges and “grow up.” I get that. But here is a competing truth: God is always intervening in human affairs, just not in the ways we expect.
This truth plays out richly in my own life. I have tried to accomplish many things in my own strength over the years. It hasn’t gone well. Yet when I simply bring the tools I have—Fearless Girl’s courage or David’s handful of stones—and trust God to use them, I can face down the Giant. I can even fell him.
Maybe in a future post I’ll share some of these stories. But in the meantime, how about putting these ideas to the test? Bring what you have, especially if it’s small and inadequate to the task. Trust God. See what happens.