As a frequent reader of Rachel Evans’s blog, my interest was piqued when she announced the publication of A Year of Biblical Womanhood. As she shared book excerpts from time to time, my interest grew until I knew I had to buy the book.
It takes a well-written, deeply researched, carefully crafted book to stand up to the initial hype surrounding its release, and AYOBW does not disappoint. Combining superb storytelling with hilarious personal anecdotes, along with extensive study and research, the book takes a conversational tone and not once devolves into being preachy or arrogant, gently reminding us to “read the Bible for what it is, not what you want it to be.”
Furthermore, Evans effortlessly balances the tasks of laying out her topics in an unassuming manner and being honest about her own conclusions, while simultaneously giving readers the space to make their own decisions.
I was raised Independent Fundamental Baptist, hearing a lot of the topics Evans writes about used almost as weapons to keep women “in their place” (whatever that was at the time). Throwing the adjective “biblical” in front of womanhood made for a smoke-and-mirrors argument that couldn’t be refuted unless one wanted the labels “rebellious,” “contentious,” “worldly,” or worst of all, “jezebel.”
Despite the fact that women were doing the lion’s share of work in our small church, I overheard deacons refer to these women as loudmouthed or gossipy if they dared to speak up at a business meeting. And as a little girl, I felt despair, because I knew I could never be as important to God’s work as a boy would be.
In AYOBW, Evans carefully scrutinizes Biblical text and subtext, searching for the deeper meaning, the whys and the wherefores. Not content to “just have faith,” “accept what God says,” and “stop questioning,” Evans uses her God-given intellect to get the the root of the issue: “The Bible does not present us with a single model for womanhood, and the notion that it contains a sort of one-size-fits-all formula for how to be a woman of faith is a myth. [...]there is no one right way to be a woman, no mold into which we must cram ourselves.”
That concept, along with the reclaiming of Proverbs 31 as an affirmation rather than a checklist, was worth the price of the book. The understanding that God does not want women to change into some Frankenstein’s monster excised from the pages of His Word is incredibly liberating and life-altering. With no pressure to conform, no condemnation for being loud or quiet, a leader or a follower, head covering or not, women are left only with a sense of purpose, an urgency to get about the Father’s business.
I highly recommend AYOBW to anyone curious about the Bible, about women’s issues, about the Church. You may reach differing conclusions to Evans, but you will be challenged to think and to evaluate your beliefs.
Honestly, there is so much more I want to say in praise Evans's book. It is of that special class of tome that will have you ruminating about its contents long after you have put it down.