Of all the things I’m proud to have accomplished in my life, one of the most significant to me is having survived high school and college without ever being known as a ditzy blonde.
All women – and all men, if we’re being honest – have “blonde” moments when we’ve suddenly lost contact with reality and short-circuited bits of crucial information. But some become known as the “blonde”, the female who short-circuits enough information to plunge the East Coast into utter darkness. She’s the fodder for endless blonde jokes, the key player in any evangelist’s sermon prefaces and the most-overused archetype for TV series’ secondary characters.
That was never me. And I was proud of that. Still am. I went on to college and encountered more blondes than I thought were possible, and only a few of them were actually golden-tressed. The worst is when a blonde is put in charge of something. They actually think they know what they’re doing, and are actually supposed to know what they’re doing. But… some mornings, that ol’ engine just doesn’t turn over. So typically, if a blonde is put in a position of responsibility, it’s got to be something she can’t get wrong.
In Acts 12, we meet Rhoda. In her defense, she may have been a perfectly normal, intelligent, well-adjusted female. But that’s not the sense I get, reading her story.
Itinerant preacher Brother Peter is in prison for purely political reasons. Some church folks are clustered together in Mary’s house, begging God to intervene… and Rhoda is told to stay near the door. That’s a pretty safe job for her. With the ever-present threat of persecution from the Jews, the Christians may need to disperse at any moment, and Rhoda (bless her heart) will probably sound the alarm if she hears a stray cat out there, let alone a posse of religious leaders with whips.
Meanwhile, Peter is miraculously released from prison and soon takes off for Mary’s. He’s in a fairly dangerous position here. Any minute now, a prison guard may realize he’s missing and sound the alarm. Also, if any law-abiding Jew out here recognizes Peter’s face from the “Wanted” sign at the post office, he’s toast. He reaches through the gate and knocks on the door, startling Rhoda from her prayers.
Rhoda tiptoes to the door, and if dorm life is any indication, there’s nothing louder than a blonde trying to be quiet. Peter, waiting outside, hears the commotion and pushes his face as far into the gate as it’ll go. “It’s Peter. Open up, let me in!”
Now, if I were standing at that door, recognizing that voice, knowing that the answer to our prayers was standing right outside, I’d have yanked that door open, unlocked the gate, and gotten that man inside pronto. Seriously, Rhoda. Get your act together. Instead, she leaves him there hammering away at the door and runs back to tell the others. “Guys, it’s Peter! He’s outside!”
The church folks, a bit irritated at her interruption, tell her, “You’re crazy.” “You’re hearing things.” “You’re losing it.”
“Guys, I am, like, dead serious. He is totally out there!”
A gasp from the corner where the TV is. Rhoda brightens up; somebody finally believes her. “Oh, honey,” the woman cries, “maybe you’ve seen his angel.” Someone else chimes in, eyes welling up with tears, “He must be dead.” “His ghost is out there.” “They’re coming for us next.” The people hush for a moment of silence to let it all sink in, the quiet punctuated by the occasional sniffle.
Rap. Rap. Rap. “Mary! John Mark! Somebody?? Open the door already!
Everybody hears it this time, and they all make a mad dash for the door. They swing it open, and Peter, face still mashed up against the gate, waves back cheerfully as their mouths drop open. “Guys, have I got a status update for you!”
Now, I’ve heard variations of this story a hundred times in my life (although I like my version best). But here’s a catch, something I only just realized with a pang – God knew precisely who would be watching the door that night. He chose that moment, that method, knowing full well that the first person to recognize the very big answer to a very urgent prayer would be a ditzy blonde.
Look at the alternatives: Mary had her act together. She was hosting a house-church at risk of life and property, and, as the Scripture never mentions her husband, may have been raising her son John Mark alone. But despite her bravery and perseverance, God didn’t reveal the answered prayer to her first.
Her son John Mark had a rocky road ahead of him. Had he been the first to see Peter, had he only been there and let the preacher in, would Peter have had a choice word for John that would have inspired him to stay faithful in what lay ahead? Shortly after this miracle, perhaps impressed with Peter’s adventures, he would eagerly travel with Barnabas and Paul on their preaching tour. Until, of course, Paul slapped a sorcerer in Pamphylia with blindness. Then John decided he’d had enough of adventure, and ran back home to his mother in
the Shire Jerusalem. Would things have been different, if God had given him the answer first?
And then there was Pastor James, who wasn’t even able to make it to Sister Mary’s house that night. James was the younger brother of Jesus, the elder of the church in the most dangerous city for Christians in Judaea, the writer of the book of James, a man well-versed in Old Testament prophecy, and perhaps one of the most faithful pastors Christianity has ever known. History tells us that twenty-some years after this night, James would be stoned by the Jews, maintaining to the last that Jesus was the Christ. We’re talking about a man of some gumption, some real faith. Wouldn’t he have deserved to be the first person to whom God showed His power in rescuing Peter?
But instead of rewarding courage, instead of preparing someone for the road ahead, Peter came first to Rhoda. She was the most likely person in the room to be ignored, to be written off. She was the least likely to get her story straight. She was prone to leave her answer to prayer outside where it could be easily snatched away again. But God revealed His answer to her first.
Is there a lesson in this for us non-blondes? Is it possible that the very people we cringe at, the ones we quickly apologize to any visitors for, the names we usually follow up with “bless her heart” or “he’s a real character”, are the very people God may choose to make His power known to first? Perhaps sometimes He chooses to bypass us, the obvious choices, for the person we love dearly but secretly despise.
In the future, I guess I’ll just have to have a little more respect for the dumb blonde. God may be giving her the answer to my most fervent prayers.