The instructor in my self-defense class had us read an article to help us mentally prepare for physical conflict. One line caught most of my attention: “When women disengage from their traditional role of nurturer . . . [they are able to fight].”

That statement has a couple of problems. First, it assumes that the role of nurturer is tradition. It’s not: it’s God-given instinct. But more than that, and common in many churches today, is the false dichotomy of nurturer or fighter. People speak and act as though being the one precludes being the other—and that one is unfeminine. Scripture has a different perspective.

Judges 4 introduces us to two women. One, Deborah, is a significant person in Israel, serving as prophetess and judge. She is a nationally maternal figure, holding court under a palm tree and sorting out the people’s disputes. Her positive care for the nation does not inhibit her warrior side. When Israel’s general is too timid to lead the army himself, she goes with him, like a mother with a shy son. She does not hesitate at the battle, but spurs the men on to action: “Up! . . . Does not the Lord go out before you?” (v. 14).

The second woman in this chapter is Jael, a stay-at-home wife. Her husband is a Kenite, and they live on the edge of society: “as far away as the oak . . . which is near Kedesh” (v. 11). When the army beats Sisera, general of the Canaanites, he flees from the Israelite settlements and finds himself at Jael’s door. She realizes who he is, and her nurturing, fighting spirit is clear. She gives him a warm drink, tucks him into bed, and hammers his head to the ground.

Neither of these women had to switch off the nurturer inside to let out the warrior. Both instincts worked together to get Israel the victory. And the women were not squeamish about it, either: “He asked for water and she gave him milk . . . she struck Sisera; she crushed his head; she shattered and pierced his temple. Between her feet he sank, he fell, he lay still . . . dead” (5:25–27).

Now we might think that we don’t have enemies to eliminate. Or do we? We struggle against the cosmic powers over this present darkness, against the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly places (Eph. 6:12). We must destroy arguments and take every thought captive (2 Cor. 10:5). Fighting is a matter of spiritual survival. It is also a matter of nurturing. This is why Paul connects spiritual battle with care for other Christians: it is tied closely with making supplication for all the saints (Eph. 6:18). We must be spiritual and mental fighters if we want to biblically nurture the children and others under our care.

The nurturing instinct is God-given, and so is the instinct to fight. When sanctified, these instincts serve us as tandem helps in waging war against threats to the souls and bodies under our care. We do best when we engage both.