Photo credit: Shewanda Riley

By Shewanda Riley

“Scars are the mark of a warrior” was one of the most memorable lines from the box office hit The Woman King starring Viola Davis.

This line comes after one of the physically and emotionally grueling training sessions where the agojie female trainees are forced to endure fighting through a difficult thorny obstacle course. After showing they can survive the brutal training, the young women receive medical care and encouragement from the more experienced warriors.

By this point in the movie, I had eaten most of my popcorn and had settled in to enjoying the action-packed movie. But the line about scars made me sit up in my seat. I thought about how we sometimes want to hide the scars of the battles we’ve survived. As a clumsy child, I had a lot of scars from falls off things like chairs, bicycles, and even motorcycles.  Back then the wounds hurt (especially falling off that motorcycle) but now that I’m decades removed from those experiences, I can look at the scars left behind and be thankful to God about what I survived.

I’ll be honest: when I was going through my own physical, emotional, and spiritual battles, I wasn’t thinking about the scars that would prove I’d survived; I was just trying to make it through.  One of the most powerful scenes in The Woman King comes as we see the agojie trainees struggle to the end of the obstacle course even as they are bleeding and limping. Even if they wanted to quit, there was something in them that made them try even harder to finish, despite their wounds.

Seeing their determination made me think about the inner strength these women had to rely on. It also made me think about the inner strength that we don’t realize we have.  This part of the movie reminded me of the story from the Old Testament of Jacob wrestling with an angel/God.  Genesis 32:22-31 describes how Jacob responded to the challenge.  Instead of running away, Jacob fought valiantly even though he didn’t know who he was fighting. Verses 24-25 describes “So Jacob was left alone. Then a man wrestled with him until daybreak. When the man saw that he could not defeat Jacob, he struck the socket of his hip, so the socket of Jacob’s hip was dislocated while he wrestled with him.” Despite this wound, Jacob insisted on continuing to fight until he received his blessing.  After he received the blessing and a new name from the man, he realized that he’d been wrestling with God in verse 30. Yet, as a result of this fight, Jacob was left with a permanent limp.

The apprentices in The Woman King went from being treated like trainees to being respected as warriors after going through the thorny obstacle course. Similarly, when we experience negative circumstances, we should focus on the scars that remain to remind us of what we have overcome. We may be limping, but we are still walking into our God-ordained destiny. And like Jacob and the agojie got new names (Israel and warriors respectively), we get new names once we survive our battles: we are now called overcomers.

Shewanda Riley (Aunt Wanda), PhD, is a Fort Worth-based author of “Love Hangover: Moving from Pain to Purpose After a Relationship Ends” and “Writing to the Beat of God’s Heart: A Book of Prayers for Writers.” Email her at or follow her on Twitter @shewanda.   You can also listen to her podcast at