Some people thought she was crazy. Some have criticized her for making light of the Bible or not treating it with the respect it deserves. Others deeply disagree with her interpretation of the Bible’s passages on the roles women should have in the world.
As I shared on Monday, I had the privilege of being able to read Rachel Held Evan’s A Year of Biblical Womanhood before its release date next week. Interestingly though, before I even started reading it, there were many people who already had strong opinions about it. Last week, Twitter, Facebook, and many online sites were buzzing. A large Christian bookstore chain announced it wouldn’t carry the book, and some in the evangelical world were speaking out against the book as if it would do some harm to the Bible or to the Church.
So, imagine my “surprise” when I opened up A Year of Biblical Womanhood, to find that it was a fun and yet very thoughtful read about what it means to be a woman? No where was there an attack on the Church or the Bible. Rather, it was one woman’s story about her journey to both make sense of what the church has told us the Bible calls us to be as women, and to truly understand what God’s Word actually has to say about women. Where there were differences, Evans handled them with Grace.
Laid out in the order of the months of her experiment, Rachel takes us on her journey to follow literally everything the Bible says about women. There were some things from the Bible that she practiced all year–like dressing modestly, submitting to her husband in all things, and not cutting her hair. And then, she took a month to focus on each of the bigger themes of Biblical womanhood–like taking care of the home, the Proverbs 31 woman, marriage, motherhood, etc.
Also, she was very thorough in her research. To try and understand what it was like for women in the Bible who were one of many wives, she talked with a woman in a polygamous relationship. For the passages concerning the importance of women wearing modest/unadorned dress, she came here to Pennsylvania to spend time with women who are Amish. To better comprehend important Jewish traditions and the Proverbs 31 passage, she talked with a devout Jewish woman from Israel, who became a good friend.
Through humbly sharing her comical experiences like trying to be the model house wife, or calling her husband “master” for a week, Rachel keeps you turning the pages wondering what will happen next! She is able to laugh at herself when things in her experiment go terribly wrong, while at the same time, vulnerably share when it breaks her heart (like when she visits women struggling to survive in Bolivia).
If you are a woman who has struggled to live up to some standard of what it means to be a woman–either Biblically, or otherwise–you will find this book encouraging, freeing, and inspiring. You will also find that through the telling of stories of the women in the Bible, Rachel brings God’s Story to life, revealing His incredible heart for us as women. Through reading this book, you will feel inspired to find out all that God has in store for you, as a Eshet chayil, a Woman of Valor.
If you are a man who is wondering what all the fuss is about, yet you think this book is just for women–you are wrong! This book is for you too! As human beings–both male and female–we were created to do life together, so how we answer the questions “what does it mean to be a woman?” and “what does it mean to be a man?” are important to both genders. Much of Rachel’s book is about women’s struggle to answer the question of womanhood for themselves. The things she shares in her book will give you special insight to what many of the women in your life are trying to figure out. Also, throughout Rachel’s year-long experiment, her husband, Dan, kept a journal, and many entries are incorporated into the book. His reflections on this project are equally as meaningful as Rachel’s, and I think, relatable.
A Year of Biblical Womanhood is a fun and important read that I believe has a role to play in Redefining both Female and Male. I hope you have the chance to pick it up!