I recently finished Rachel Held Evan’s “A Year of Biblical Womanhood.” I was unfamiliar with Evans, or her popular blog on Christianity, until my friend Sarah and her husband Matt visited Colorado last summer. They mentioned Evans as a voice for contemporary Christian thought — not shy of her evangelical roots, but also seeking understanding in a loving way. And as a woman, catching heaps of flack for her voice.
This book is not tongue in cheek. She chronicles a year of living up to being a “Biblical woman.” Prior to reading this, I didn’t know such terminology existed. Sure, I’d read Proverbs 31. I’d heard the few stories of the strong women in the Bible repeated over again and again. But I did not know there was a Bible-based conservative movement defining the role of women. Namely, that women should be submissive, quiet, in the home, and working to keep their husbands happy. If these women were unable to bear children, it is a great failure and sin.
My faith does not fit this mold. Granted, my grandmother and my mother were both stay at home moms. They did work to keep their husbands happy. They were responsible for the bulk of the household duties. But they were never submissive, quiet, or without their 50% share of any family vote. My grandmother and mother fit the notion of a Proverbs 31 woman: they often rose before dawn, worked in gardens, helped to feed the needy and work with the poor, etc. And they did this with a smile because happiness and joy came from their families and from their relationships with God. However, I never heard once in my life that this would be my expected role in life. My brother and I were fairly given our share of chores. He knows how to wash a dish as well as I know how to mow a lawn; gender was never taken into consideration when it came to getting the work done.
Evan’s is not shy about having grown up as an evangelical, or of being scared to have children. She is happily in love with her husband — who is not into submission. In fact, the month she has to call him “master” completely (and I would say rightly) freaks him out.
There are times of life when a book keeps crossing your path. I’d heard of Evan’s latest for a while, but it wasn’t until I was playing house girlfriend in New Jersey that I read page 1. As we figure out house hold responsibilities, talk about careers and priorities and try to sketch out a plan for the future — I was reading about varied stories of women in the Bible who did all this too — some with happier outcomes than others.
I so appreciate Evan’s bravery; there is a strong wave of hatred for her work online that I cannot understand, other than it is threatening to those who have their wives under some sort of trance to behave or else be damned. She writes each chapter with a great balance of humor and Biblical understanding, and I dogeared too many pages to share. (I think the chapter where she learns to sew and knit are my favorite. Or maybe when she bakes pies that bleed butter. The woman is a solid writer and a mediocre crafter, which provides lots of comedic fodder.)
As a woman and a Christian trying to figure out my place in this world spiritually — this book was the perfect read. And a great reminder Jesus surrounded himself with strong-willed, bold women who loved God and never gave up on Him. In fact, they were the ones to discover He’d risen.
Review: five out of five bananas