This week I finished A Year of Biblical Womanhood by Rachel Held Evans. Can I just tell you I’ve learned a new pet peeve? Nothing irritates me more than people who make a big deal of nothing. I’ve been anticipating this book for months. Pretty much from the moment I heard about this project. I also heard a lot of negative things about it. Mostly from men. Things that sounded like, “She’s mocking biblical womanhood” or “she’s trying to overthrow men”. Oh my, why create drama when there isn’t any need. Some people…
Anyway, I was very proud of how respectful Rachel was in this book. She stretched herself and tried things that weren’t “her” things. She got a different perspective and while I doubt she still wears head coverings or camps out in the front yard when she’s on her period, she did learn and grow through all these experiences. You don’t have to follow different walks of a life to the word in order to have respect from them and learn from them.
My personal take on the Bible verses most used to keep women silent and in the home happens to be that they were for a specific group of people in a specific time and place. Paul wrote letters to specific churches. He never said these words are scripture for all people and all time. We can learn from the them and I especially think he was getting at order in the church and dealing with a group of difficult woman who were misrepresenting what this movement was about. I look at Jesus and how he said nothing about women in a negative way. In fact, he went out of his way to value women. He was counter-cultural in his approach to women and he never put them in a box. In fact, I think Paul was the same way. He had women who he worked with in the early church that he valued. I don’t think this should be overlooked. I don’t believe in this idea that all women are good for is being a wife and making babies. I don’t believe women should be silent and have no authority over men. With that being said, I don’t look down on stay at home moms or women who have taken on more traditional gender roles. I believe that you should do what God has called you to do and use your talents to serve – your family, your church, your community, your work place. Serve and love wherever you are at and in whatever you are doing. The where doesn’t make a difference to me.
The thing I love about Rachel in this book is she tried so many things that were out of her comfort zone. From making dinner and housekeeping to renting a computer baby (the ones they pass out to teenagers to discourage them unsafe sex) to dressing plain and modest, she really put herself out there. She called her husband “master” and celebrated Jewish holidays and Jewish laws. She studied women in the Bible to see if there was a mold, a pattern, something that applied to all women. It turns out the Bible is full of many women with different backgrounds and different talents. God used them in different ways to bring glory to himself. There isn’t a mold. In fact, Jewish tradition doesn’t expect all women to be the Proverbs 31 women. Isn’t that a relief? The Proverbs 31 is a woman of valor to exemplifies women who are active in their own lives. They don’t passively sit by and let life happen to them. Bake bread for your family? You’re a woman of valor. Bring home the bacon? Woman of Valor! Clean the house? Woman of Valor! It’s like a “You go girl” encouragement. This makes me very happy because I will never be ALL the things mention in Proverbs 31.
While there are many things that I loved about this book, I think the best part of me was her reflection on submission. Rachel’s Jewish source explained that the term in Genesis that we translate as “helpmeet” really signifies two pillars leaning on each other with equal weight. Rachel explains that it has always been “Team Dan and Rachel”. She and her husband have never assigned specific roles to their marriage. Whoever does it best gets the job done. Even for a year of submitting, her husband found it uncomfortable that she suddenly acted like less of a person because was a woman. He went through the craziness of this project so that she could succeed. Even in having the “master” card for a year, he only went a long with it so his wife would have the opportunity to write this book. Their marriage in a partnership and “Team Dan and Rachel” really got this project done together. This really struck a cord for me because I view my marriage as a partnership. Jeremy has always treated me as an equal. Even in his job, he shares fully with me. There is no pulling rank and me being put in my place as the little woman. In every way we are Team Jeremy and Amy. If he succeeds, I succeed and visa versa. This is so stabling and so beautiful. Rachel ends the books by sharing that Dan doesn’t need to make her “respect” him because she already does – just for being himself. It’s a natural respect, not something that is demanded. I feel the same way when it comes to Jeremy. Why would I not respect him? Why should I be made to? I respect him for who he already his – for his character, for all the things that make him unique and so special.
This book made me laugh as Rachel did things in the name of Biblical Womanhood that I have never done. She addressed fears that all women face and the tensions we live in. It was tastefully written and I appreciate how she grew through this process. It wasn’t a joke or a mockery. It was an investigation and I like where she ended up. It’s a book worth reading – both men and women. I am thankful for voices like Rachel’s who bold speak truth. She is a woman of valor and I deeply respect her.