Ok, I have blog guilt. I’ve been neglecting my posts. In case you didn’t know, guilt is not conducive to creativity. I should know, I feel guilty most of the time. Guilty for not limiting my kids’ screen time more. Guilty for eating the wrong things. Guilty for my messy house and all the bitterness I’ve collected over the years.
I could probably do a weekly post called “Evangeline’s Shortcomings.” But it wouldn’t exactly be riveting reading. I suspect I’m not alone in my talent for finding large sticks to beat myself over the head with.
But I just finished a book that wedged a stick under my deep-set boulder of guilt and is gently prying it loose from my subconscious. Now as a rule, I don’t read non-fiction, and I confess to being less than enthusiastic about books I label “spiritual,” but A Year of Biblical Womanhood is not what it sounds like. Actually, the full title is A Year of Biblical Womanhood: How a Liberated Woman Found Herself Sitting on the Roof, Covering Her Head, and Calling Her Husband Master, a title which, had I not been familiar with Rachel's blog, would've sent me running.
Author and well-known blogger Rachel Held Evans undertook a project in which she explores what the Bible really says about women from the female characters in the Bible to Scripture written about women to the Apostle Paul's much-argued instructions for women. She also determined to follow certain guidelines from ancient Levitical laws to 1950s rules for housewives, all in an attempt to better understand the role of women in modern faith communities.
The result is liberating. Yes, you read that right. Here’s what I found life-changing.
A more accurate interpretation of Proverbs 31:
Most women who’ve grown up in an evangelical environment have at one point faced what seems to be THE checklist for how to be a perfect woman. There are Bible studies and books on Proverbs 31, but one look at the chapter is all you need to know that even supermoms can't measure up.
But here’s the thing, Proverbs 31 is a poem in praise of women, in praise of what they ALREADY are doing. It is not a checklist.
Rachel’s scholarship and writing on Eshet Chayil, Hebrew for Woman of Valor, changed how I view myself and made me want to tell my girl friends, “You are amazing. You are a woman of valor already. Don’t listen to anyone who tells you differently!”
Equality between the sexes:
I am a feminist, but for years I've apologized for my viewpoint, calling myself a closet feminist and hoping this little belief of mine that women and men are equal in God's sight wouldn't ruffle any feathers. It’s not that I’ve faced any sort of discrimination, but I have balked at subtly communicated prejudices. The reality is that while many churches give lip service to the concept of equality, their actions don’t always back up their words.
After reading A Year of Biblical Womanhood, I’m tossing out any notions of being quiet on this subject. And not because I feel that I need more rights or more attention, but because across the world women are oppressed and violated and it’s my job to speak up for them, to help encourage revolution in countries where women, if given half a chance, would change the world for the better.
Rachel quotes the book Half the Sky (also on my reading list) which presents the reality that in devastated third-world countries, women who are given help and opportunities, perform miracles on behalf of the oppressed. In these countries, women are not the problem--as their culture might define it--they are the solution.
Permission to be uncomfortable:
There are things in the Bible that are uncomfortable. Things that have to be wrestled with. Things that, dare I say it, need some re-interpretation.
Ironically, acknowledging those things that don’t sit well in my mind makes me more interested in exploring the Bible. I may never understand what Rachel calls “the texts of terror” or find an answer to the question, “Why did God allow this to happen?” But the fact that I have permission to ask, to be uncomfortable, to say, “I don’t know, that doesn’t make sense to me,” is freeing.
I recognize all of this sounds very serious, but this book has many funny parts too. I even read bits out loud to Kory. I laughed over Rachel’s struggles with a “butter-bleeding apple pie,” her clomp-clomping shoes in a silent monastery, and her tongue-in-cheek call to action against the Cretans.
I don’t think I’ve ever recommended a non-fiction book on this blog, but this one is life-changing. Read it!