Review | A Year of Biblical Womanhood by Rachel Held Evans

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A Year of Bibical Womanhood by Rachel Held Evans 
How a Liberated Woman Found Herself Sitting on Her Roof, Covering Her Head, and Calling Her Husband Master 

Thomas Nelson | 2012

In this book, Christian blogger Rachel Held Evans tells her experience of a life-changing project she undertook: to follow the Bible’s instructions for women as literally as possible for a year. Each month she tackled a different commandment regarding women, like domesticity, modesty, beauty, and submission. The project led her down some unfamiliar territory; she lived in a tent on her front lawn during her “time of the month”, spent time in a monastery to foster a “quiet spirit” and changed her wardrobe to one of peasant skirts and loose tops to embody modesty. The concept of the story is a little reminiscent of A. J. Jacobs A Year of Living Biblically, in which Jacobs takes on all the commandments of the Torah in one year. But Evansʼ book stands out in that it is written from a Christian viewpoint, and is unique in exploring the often controversial passages of scripture regarding women that we often wish we could ignore.

I set out to read this book expecting little more than to be entertained by the Evansʼ quest, but my expectations were completely surpassed. The story was an easy and light read, sure enough, but what was surprising was the amount that I actually learned from the book. Evans did her research on the harder-to-swallow parts of the Bible addressing women, and has the footnotes to prove it. She presents historical and cultural context that I had never encountered. She turns concepts like the “Proverbs 31 woman” upside down and shatters some of the common myths surrounding these verses. As a woman in leadership, I found the book insightful. In many ways it helped me to find some peace amidst the self-doubting that can come with being in a leadership position some of the world still deems as controversial, or even scandalous. If you have ever struggled with the notion that God is somehow against women, this book is a great step towards shedding false ideas about biblical womanhood.

It was easy to be moved by Evansʼ honest account. She takes you along on her journey so that you feel as if it is yours. She weaves stories into her account that celebrate the lesser-known brave woman in the bible, such as Queen Vashti, noting that “...it took the defiance of two queens to save the Jews.” She shares her revelation as if leading a devotional for a group of women, tackling the questions we have all asked: Am I too opinionated to have a gentle and quiet spirit? Does God just see women and servants to men? Should I even be speaking at all?

While Evans does not settle every controversial chapter and verse by giving us all the answers, she arrives at the liberating conclusion that the bible does not present a “blueprint” for womanhood, but rather urges us to be all women of valor and faith, however that looks like for us.

A Year of Biblical Womanhood is available from Amazon.