Last year for Christmas, Tim gave me both of Rachel Held Evans’ books. I had asked for her most recent, A Year of Biblical Womanhood, but he got me both saying that he thought it would be helpful to have her whole canon haha. Boy am I lucky–he is so thoughtful. And right.
My first introduction to Rachel was in a World Religions class my senior year. Our professor showed us this post, and while it wasn’t written by her, I knew she must have been pretty awesome to have this featured on her blog. For some time I would randomly visit her website, read some things she had posted and walk away really grateful and happy that someone out there had the ability to write so well about things that I felt I couldn’t, simply because to gather all my thoughts on these subjects and wrestle them down into actual words and sentences seemed like so much work (and by this time I was pregnant anyway, and making placenta is just truly exhausting). This is how I heard about her book, and I was ECSTATIC that not only was a young woman confronting the ideas that calling anything “biblical” is quite silly and that the Bible offers one actual stance on womanhood, but she actually took various instructions from the Bible as they related to women and lived them out literally for a year. So yeah, this gal sincerely refrained from touching anyone for twelve days during her period. She. is. awesome. I’ll let you read the publisher-approved Amazon description of it here.
But anyway, my biggest takeaway from this gem of a book was the idea of a “hermeneutic of love.” Tim and I have so many conversations centered on the frustrating task of interpreting the Bible, including how upset we get when people assume it’s a simple task and that there are little questions to be asked of it. Plus we both know just from, oh I don’t know–living life–that it is 10000% impossible to approach anything without some sort of filter or even ambition. And even if you are coming at it as objectively as possible, without any goal in mind, you cannot shed your layers of experience, personality, and ideas of who God is as you read the Bible. I’m positive that this is why there is so much debate about many of the Church’s “touchy” subjects–especially women. But Rachel reminds us that Jesus is the fulfillment of, well, the Bible. He is the standard of perfection–the human example given to us (& GOD ON EARTH) and the one that we should emulate. And when asked, Jesus offers that the greatest commandment is to love. EVERYONE. What a beautiful lens through which to read the Bible. And of course, one could easily go into specifics on Jesus’ wonderful, edifying, and important relationships with women as further instruction, but this hermeneutic of love offers so much. It encourages us to speak kindly, listen to other views, and–dare I say it–perhaps interpret the Bible in a more progressive, “What would Jesus do with this group of people now?” kind of way. I don’t know, I loved this book to pieces. I highly recommend it to ALL.
A few months later, I read her first book, Evolving in Monkey Town. This was a sincere treat for me, because during her junior year of college, she entered a very similar faith crisis as I did my junior year of college (but you know, ten years later). Her thoughts and ways of contending with ongoing doubt spoke so deeply to me as I continue to question and wrestle and doubt (as I surely will for all my days sigh). So seriously, if you’ve ever had just the slightest doubtful question and are not okay with trying to completely shut it up but would rather live with it and soak in the tension, please read this book. I’m pretty sure she’s revising it right now so a second edition should be coming out fairly soon. (Another book of comfort to me was In Praise of Doubt.)
ANYWAY, last night, Tim and I (and Summer!) ventured to Asheville to hear Rachel speak about this year of “biblical womanhood” and have a Q&A session. Tim and I were in. our. glory. As grateful as we are for this current season and the tremendous gift it has been to spend these 18 months in Highlands, we are severely devoid of “fellowship” (GAH that word) with people of like-mindedness, people who are willing to challenge us, and jeez I don’t know, Christians at all. And some of this is our fault, because we have been slightly reluctant to get too involved with the church we go to (because we are leaving soon, theological differences, lack of young married couples–much less 23 year old parents, etc.). But some of it is also work schedules, and that we are living in (partial) seclusion. But to be able to have a quick chat with Rachel and her husband Dan, to ask some questions and hear ideas from them, to just have a small interaction of this nature sincerely refreshed our souls so much. (Obviously, we really miss Taylor. 😥 We react similarly every time friends come to visit haha.)
We are so excited about taking our time to find a church in Florida, getting to know the people there, obtaining mentors (I’ve never had one but my friend Naomi tells me it’s the sheet) (Rachel plz b my long-distance mentor, thx bb), and just hopefully being a part of a group or network of people in which we can be honest about our questions and thoughts, challenged in these, encouraged in these, and pushed toward excellence and ongoing growth.
My personal challenge for myself as we enter this new time in our lives is summed up in this Henri Nouwen quote: “Sometimes I feel imprisoned by my own insights and ‘spiritual competence’. You alone, Lord, can reach out to me and save me. You alone.”
I want to sit through a church service without making a mental list of all the “wrong” or “backwards” things I just heard. I want to shed any idea that I have an elite view of how to live a Christian life. And I want to remind myself of the potency of the resurrection every single day, holding Jesus’ act as my motivation for doing everything instead of my pride or insecurity (what’s the difference, people) or fear.
I want to not be intellectually lazy. There are some days that I, embarrassingly enough, choose to read an article on Kim Kardashian’s parenting habits over one on the latest in Syria. When I have new questions and interests, I want to purposefully set aside time to research da hellz out of it. Ja feel?
And I want to be an excellent mom. A mom worthy of the praise-phrase eshet chayil! (Link is to a guest post by Rachel on another blog.)
(Majah props to Rachel and Dan for inadvertently helping us to sort of create these goals.)
So here’s to Asheville, Rachel and Dan, the most perfect partner Tim, moving, humility, and growth. (And hopefully no pregnancies in 2014.)