Title: A Year of Biblical Womanhood
Author: Rachel Held Evans
Length: 321 pages
Genre: Christianity // Spirituality
My Rating: 5/5
I am nearly speechless about the caliber of this book. I had heard terrific things about it before giving it my own read, but man-oh-man was I blown away. I am a big fan of Rachel Held Evans. Though I may not always agree with her on 100% of the issues discussed on her blog, I tend to agree with her 90-99% of the time. Christians who make their homes in the southern United States are always surrounded by a slew of folks who love to tell you exactly how to live your Christian life. Rachel is a refreshing voice in the midst of all that white noise in that she approaches the idea of “Biblical Womanhood” with the intent of reminding us that you cannot tell someone else how they should live until you’ve walked a “mile in their shoes”.
Not only does she illustrate this point, but she also beautifully demonstrates the fact that the Bible is not a prescription for women to adopt a certain skill set, role, or personality. Rather, the Bible is the vehicle by which men and women are brought closer to God. Not all of us are called to be stay at home moms, mothers, or servants to the church. Some of us are called to lead, speak, teach, and guide the church. ALL of us, however, are called to be men and women of valor–individuals who strive to love the Lord our God with all our hearts, souls, minds, and strength and to love our neighbors as ourselves.
Rachel got an idea for a project one day. After hearing varying, strong, opinions from the world, church, culture, and internet about what a “biblical woman” was, Rachel pondered the endeavor of “trying it all”. “What if I tried it all?” She thought…Thus began a year-long journey into literal practices from both the Old and New Testaments. Not only did Rachel take things like head-covering and modesty seriously for her year of biblical womanhood, but she also found herself camping outside her house in a tent during her period (while following the Levitical purity laws), and even calling her husband, Dan, “master” at one point in the journey. Every month, Rachel focused on a different aspect of the “literal” biblical commandments and passages concerning women in the bible. The monthly themes (separated into chapters) are as follows:
OCTOBER — Gentleness
NOVEMBER — Domesticity
JANUARY — Valor
FEBRUARY — Beauty
MARCH — Modesty
APRIL — Purity
MAY — Fertility
JUNE — Submission
JULY — Justice
AUGUST — Silence
SEPTEMBER — Grace
During the chapter for each month, Rachel recounts her various “to-do-lists” and how those tasks play out in real life. She also discusses the moments of clarity and spiritual growth that blossomed when she was able to break through the project and use unconventional methods of growing closer to God. Rather than coming across as snide, accusatory, and belittling to the more ultra-conservatives among Christians, she simply states her researched facts with her obligatory opinions injected and then shares how the practices played out between herself and her family and her surrounding community.
One of my favorite aspects of the book were the panels describing various “Women of Valor” from the Bible. Some of these women may never have gotten mentioned in your church or small group. Women like Hulda–the prophetess. Women like Deborah and Jael. Women like Junia–the apostle. It was so refreshing to see, not how similar these women were, but how gloriously different. Yet the common thread between all these women was the cord that tied them to God.
That’s Rachel’s ultimate point. God didn’t make all women to serve Him in one specific way. He created all women to serve Him. To seek Him. To love Him and to love their neighbors. Just as no one human being is alike in every way, no two women are alike in every way. We are not called to carbon copy-hood, but to beautiful uniqueness in Christ. God calls some to teach. Some to preach. Some to prophesy. Some He calls to sit in the quiet solitude of monasteries and convents. Some He calls to lead a corporate office to His glorious Son. Regardless of where God has placed you in this life, you are called to be a man or woman of valor.
Rachel reminded me that, instead of judging and condemning my fellow sisters in the faith because of their differences or extreme preferences, I should seek to honor and praise them for their efforts to further the Kingdom of God. I should shout “Eshet chayil!” (Woman of Valor!) when I see my sisters living righteously before God–regardless if they are covered or not, married or not, mothers or not, homemakers or not, pastors or not.
Rachel, you are truly a woman of valor and it was an honor to read your book. I can only hope that I, too, can live as a woman of valor in this harsh world. You give me courage when I’m afraid and you remind me that God gives all of us the strength to carry on in the midst of so much opposition.
Find more about Rachel’s book and her faith on RachelHeldEvans.com.
Read more about her “Women of Valor” series here.
Find our more about the book and where to find it here.