Upon finishing Rachel Held Evans’ new book, A Year of Biblical Womanhood, I wanted to applaud. I sat in awe, at how a book surrounding such controversy, simply pushed me toward Jesus.
It made me feel so connected to women around the world, in a way that transcends time and space. I felt like I finally understood what connects the Jewish women of the Old Testament, the early Christian women of the New Testament, and the millions of Christian sisters around the world who all live out their faith in different ways.
The Amish women Rachel met were not like the women in Bolivia. Rachel’s Jewish friend Ahava was not like the girl she interviewed who’s family believed in the Quiverfull approach to childbearing. Mary Magdalene was different from Deborah who was not the same as Tamar.
And it’s ok that we’re all different. They can all represent Eshet chayil: Women of Valor!
I found that this book was less about womanhood, and more about personhood—how we relate to Jesus, ourselves, and others while we are on Earth. Her exploration in prayer and silence as observed by different traditions intrigued me enough to want to examine my own prayer practices.
She approached the Bible in such a gentle and thoughtful way, even more careful and loving than I expected. Sometimes people who self-identify in either the “egalitarian” or “complementarian” camps are viewed as harsh and unsympathetic. I was happy that I did not find that attitude in this book. Her words and stories clearly show that she dearly loves Jesus, holds the highest respect for the word of God, and cares deeply for humanity—especially women who have a difficult plight in most areas of the world.
In between her tender words about the Bible, Rachel shares hilarious anecdotes that occurred during her year of trying to live as a biblical woman. She adopted a computerized “baby think it over,” camped outside during “the way of women,” and attempted to cook her way through one of Martha Stewart’s cookbooks.
While reading the book, I felt the need to define roles to be less and less important, and my desire to become like Christ to be more and more significant. “It’s not our roles that define us,” Rachel writes, “but our character.” I want my character to reflect that of Christ alone, rather than an unrealistic ideal that the church thrusts women.
Full disclosure: I received a free advanced copy of the book to review.