biblical womanMy boyfriend went to Canada a few weeks ago, and told me over the phone he had bought me a present that he couldn’t wait to give to me upon his return. I have visions of cute little maple-leaf things, weird Canadian chips (I love international chips!), or some Mountie Christmas ornament. I am very easy to please when it comes to gifts.

But instead, he told me that he had knew I loved God, and blogs, and sarcasm, and so he had bought me a book that combined all three. And the author’s name was Rachel. Brilliant.

A Year of Biblical Womanhood.

This woman, Rachel Held Evans, who might just be my long-lost twin, embarks on a year-long journey that explores every single thing the Bible says about women. She is mostly doing this to procrastinate against the childbearing her well-intentioned Christian friends think it’s time she get down to business about. And because her mother thought it was a crazy idea. I resonate SO much with that! haha.

She compiles a list of all the sometimes lovely and sometimes strange commands the Bible has about women, divides them by theme and attempts a certain group of them each month. Things like:

  • calling her husband “master”
  • rising before dawn and working well into the night
  • investing in real estate
  • observing specific holidays
  • praise her husband at the city gate
  • care for widows and orphans
  • long periods of silence
  • considering herself “unclean” while menstruating…ie sleeping in a tent outside her home while on her period
  • spending time on the roof in reflection over sins she commits
  • not cutting her hair, as it is her jewel
  • covering her head during prayer
  • making all food from scratch
  • and much, much more.
A Quiverfull family
A Quiverfull family

She connects with randoms on her blog, rabbis, Benedictine monks, the Amish, Quiverfull families, sisterwives, etc., to learn more about how they feel they follow what’s outlined as “Biblical Womanhood.” She retells the stories of the women in the Bible, who are often nameless, who are often overlooked and forgotten in our whole church bible studies, relegated to “Women’s Retreat material,” and helps us to see how radical Jesus was, not just for including women in the religious dialogue for the first time, but for raising their status in a time and place and culture where they were separated at the temple, uneducated, property of men, nameless in most documents, and considered unreliable witnesses.

Did you know that the first person to whom Jesus reveals he is the Messiah is a woman? Remember how the first people to see him after he rose from the dead were women? How he allowed women to sit at his feet and learn from the ultimate rabbi, even when dinner was not yet prepared? How he healed so many women from diseases that had kept them from society and normal lives? How he called the Christians to care for the widows, who in many cases were cast in the streets, forced into prostitution to survive, left forgotten to die?

I have never heard a sermon about any of these things. All my sermons have been from men. It’s not their fault I’ve never heard it, but it is wild to me that as a 29 year old, educated, lifelong Christian, this was a complete revelation to me.

The way that Christianity changed the treatment of and attitude towards women beginning in the 1st century is staggering, but because we read the Bible through the lens of the 20th+ century, it sounds sexist and oppressive, and we don’t look at the verses within the historical context and cultural context in which they were written. We try to interpret the Word of God literally, black and white, legalizing the words that Paul was writing in a personal letter, and pick and choose which verses to make the law.

I love this guy.
I love this guy.

I laughed out loud more than I have at a book in a long time. I teared up. I learned. And I thought deeply about what it means to truly be a woman in the church we have today. I marveled at the women of the Bible in a completely new way.

I really resonated with what seemed to be her overall lesson in her experience – as Christians, we can’t get bogged down in these details of interpretations of things. We have to just run after Jesus. She admitted that she had looked down upon people who interpreted parts of the Bible in different ways than she did. As Christians, we often take this to a far, far extreme, and we alienate not only each other, but everyone on the outside looking in. We look like angry, hypocritical, unloving people no one is going to be interested in getting to know.

Anyway. Go read it. You can actually head to her blog, sign up for an email subscription, and receive a free electronic download of the first bit of the book. Love it or hate it, I guarantee you won’t be able to put it down.