I’d like to try to do a short book review each month. This one is actually for January. Surprisingly enough, I read a lot of books these days. I read while I’m nursing or while I’m resting during the kids’ nap time or when I simply can’t fall asleep at night. I thought it might be fun to share some very short book reviews on here.
For Christmas, Josh gave me the book “A Year of Biblical Womanhood: How a Liberated Woman Found Herself Sitting on Her Roof, Covering Her Head, and Calling Her Husband Master” by Rachel Held Evans.
This was a fun and quick read. The author spends one year trying to follow (as literally as possible) the commands in Scripture that pertain to women. Each month, she takes a different focus, such as gentleness, beauty, or submission. Then she takes on certain practices that fit into that focus area, in addition to a few practices that she does the entire year.
I think that the book is a great conversation starter. It would be fun to read it and discuss it with a group. I was, however, disappointed in how many of her practices seemed shallow in comparison to the depth of meaning that might be below the surface. For instance, she took an etiquette lesson as a way of learning to be more gentle and used Martha Stewart’s materials as her resource for “watching over the affairs of her household” (Proverbs 31:27).
Even though I do not believe that the roles of wife and mother are the only fulfilling roles for women, I have found great joy and meaning in these roles and in overseeing the affairs of the home. These have been doorways for me into personal growth and new insights. In fact, I often see my role as one of justice and empowerment and creativity. Making food from scratch and from ethically acquired ingredients is a way that I stand up against the food corruption in our world. Handmaking gifts, clothes, and household items is a way that I pray and connect with the process and bring production back to the home (instead of expecting my things to be cheaply made by people overseas). I had hoped that Evans’ depth of insight might reach new levels as she tried these activities for herself.
I did, however, love how the book resolved: with the ritual of confession and the blowing of the shofar. After that part, I was about ready to buy a shofar…I’m kind of a sucker for beautiful rituals. She also concluded that there is no single definition of what a “biblical woman” is. Rather, each woman is a “woman of valor” as she lives a faithful life as the person God created her to be.
My absolute favorite part of the book was this concept of a “woman of valor.” This is the meaning of the term used in Proverbs chapter 31. Instead of trying to use this Scripture as a rule book for how to be a biblical woman, Evans takes her lead from the traditional Jewish interpretation: this is a song of praise to one wonderful woman, and every faithful woman of God should be praised as a “woman of valor.” She suggests that we all declare, “Woman of Valor!” when the women in our lives do something praiseworthy (whether that be raising children, winning an award, making a beautiful dinner from scratch, or even just bringing home take-out). Evans is keeping a list of women of valor on her blog: RachelHeldEvans.com.