I was privileged to read an early copy of Michelle DeRusha’s new book, 50 Women Every Christian Should Know. Beautifully written, accessible, inspiring, and relevant, this book is a welcome reminder and celebration of the every day women of valour who came before us. It is a gift to the whole Church.
But one of my favourite things about this book is this little story: do you remember the women of Joe’s Addiction? When I posted about their longing for books about women of faith, to build up their community of women who are rising up out of difficult circumstances, Baker Books contacted me and asked if they could donate 50 copies of this book to that community. What an amazing gift!
And I’ll just go ahead and say it straight up: this book isn’t just for the women in your life. I’d love for more of our young men to hear the stories of their sisters and mothers in the faith, right along with their fathers and brothers. We all have something to learn from these women of valour.
I’m honoured to welcome Michelle here to share with us about why she did NOT want to write this book – and I have one copy to giveaway, too, so check out the end of the post for more info about that, too.
The truth is, I didn’t want to write this book. I didn’t pitch the idea of 50 Women to a publisher. In fact, Baker Books came to me (or, more accurately, to my agent) looking for a writer to tackle this book, which they envisioned as a sequel of sorts to Warren Wiersbe’s 2009 release of 50 People Every Christian Should Know.
When my agent proposed this book to me, I was lukewarm. At best. I accepted the project mostly because I needed the work, but I assumed the research and writing would be mind-numbingly boring. I envisioned hours in the university library, slogging through biographies and facts about 50 women in Christian history. Snooze-o-rama.
I can also admit now that part of me was intimidated, too. Before I set out to write this book, I’d already set many of these women on a pedestal, in a place of highest honor and respect. After all, as the subtitle of the book states, the fifty women included are heroines of the Christian faith. I knew their names and many of their stories: Teresa of Avila, Florence Nightingale, Amy Carmichael, Harriet Tubman, Mother Teresa.
These women saved lives. They founded new movements. They advocated for the poor, the sick, the dying and the neglected. They were missionaries, teachers, preachers, writers, abolitionists, doctors and activists. Some even died for their faith.
I assumed I wouldn’t be able to relate to them. I figured they were “better Christians” than I, and that their stories, their lives, were far-removed from my own everyday, ordinary, twenty-first-century life.
Turns out, I was dead wrong about every one of my assumptions.
As I dug into the histories of each of these women, my preconceived assumptions were dismantled one by one. Not only were these women’s lives and stories fascinating, I discovered they were very much relevant to me.
I’d assumed these spiritual giants never struggled with the kind of spiritual doubts that plague me. But Lottie Moon, Mother Teresa, Madeleine L’Engle and several others assured me otherwise.
I’d assumed these women were never swayed by shallow, materialistic temptations like I am or wrestled with idols like I do. But Teresa of Avila and Elizabeth Fry set me straight.
I’d assumed these Christian heroines never questioned their God-given calling or felt confused by their path in life. But Hannah More, Ruth Bell Graham and Ida Scudder turned that notion on its head.
I’d assumed these leaders were all born and bred die-hard Christians from the start, but Edith Stein, Pandita Ramabai and Simone Weil demonstrated that age, history and environment are no match for God’s transformative power.
I’d assumed these courageous women never struggled with fear or feelings of inadequacy. But Corrie ten Boom, Catherine Booth and Jarena Lee illustrated that God works through, within and in spite of our fears.
I’d assumed each of these women was flawless and virtually sinless, yet every woman in this book turned out to be broken and fallible, just like me.
What I discovered in researching and writing this book is that the stories of these fifty women are our stories, too. True, many of them lived centuries ago, in places, times and circumstances far removed from our own. But their battles are our battles. Their grief is our grief. Their doubts and questions are our doubts and questions. We plunge into similar valleys, we scale similar mountains.
In the end I was surprised by how much these women’s stories resonated with me and how much I connected with them, despite the fact that our vocations and callings differ dramatically, despite the fact that we live decades or even centuries apart.
Behind their long list of accomplishments and contributions are real, relatable women with fears, challenges, distractions, sorrows and joys much like ours. In their stories I saw my own struggles, flaws, desires and delights. By the time I had finished writing this book, I understood something important:
These women are not only our heroines, they are also our sisters in faith.
Leave a comment on this post telling me the name of your “heroine” of the faith – she could be someone you know in real life or even one of the women from this very book or just someone you’ve studied or read. I’ll draw a winner randomly on September 20 and notify you by email (so make sure you include an email address in your comment).
This post is an edited excerpt from the introduction to Michelle DeRusha’s recently released book, 50 Women Every Christian Should Know: Learning from Heroines of the Faith (Baker Books).
Michelle is also the author of Spiritual Misfit: A Memoir of Uneasy Faith. She lives in Lincoln, Nebraska, with her husband and two young boys. You can connect with Michelle on her blog, and on Facebook and Twitter.