Nearly two years ago, I happened to hear about a book called Evolving in Monkey Town: How a Girl Who Knew All the Answers Learned to Ask the Questions.
Humph, rather weird title, I thought. I clicked over to the author’s blog. Well, hello there, Rachel Held Evans, nice to meet you.
Little did I know how that one small click would enrich my life, challenge my faith and intellect, spur my own writing career, introduce me to new thinkers and believers, and bring the gift of a true professional-and-personal friend.
I started off as a commenter and reader, and every comment I left was some variation of “Oh, gracious, you, too? ME, TOO!” Somehow, Rachel found my little corner here on the Internet, we began to correspond, develop a relationship, and now, I consider her a friend and an ally. On the outside, our current daily lives and histories are very different, and yet we had a soul-connection and theological sisterhood. (And a shared snarky sense of humour. And views on marriage.)
I owe much of my current work and its odd season of success to Rachel’s generosity and influence. Few would dispute that Rachel is a kingmaker among progressive evangelicals: she was even named one of Christianity Today’s 50 Women You Should Know. When she began to share my work and her platform with me (and many others), I freely benefitted from The RHE Bump. When a publishing house asked me about a book proposal out of the blue, I turned to her advice, even signed with her agent, and trusted Rachel’s advice for many of the decisions I had to make during the proposal writing and contract signing phases. As my blog traffic grew over the years, she has helped me navigate the increased attention and its attendant criticisms, supported my endeavours, counselled me in my decisions and boundaries. I’m very thankful for the DM feature on Twitter, because we keep it busy, us girls.
Rachel has always genuinely cheered me on with a generous heart. Anyone who likes to harp on the intrinsic jealousy of women needs to meet my friend, Rachel. She’s unselfish and truly believes that her influence comes with responsibility; she makes room for other voices, other experiences, and celebrates freely. She makes me work harder at my craft. She believed I had a voice that was worth hearing, and then she gave me a bit of space on her platform. She makes me think. She makes me laugh. She makes me feel less alone, and less crazy. She points me to Jesus. She’s witty, wise, loyal, and fearless.
I am so blessed by her friendship – professionally and personally.
Today, Rachel releases her second book, A Year of Living Biblically: How a Liberated Woman Found Herself Sitting on Her Roof, Covering Her Head, and Calling Her Husband “Master”.
For a year, she took all of the Bible’s instructions for women as literally as possible. But the book isn’t simply about biblical womanhood or complementarianism vs. egalitarianism. It’s an insightful, wise, and disarming book about how we read and interpret the Bible, how we wrestle with our theology, how we try to live out what we think and believe we know about God.
The book is a game-changer, a turning point, and it’s a damn good read. Fascinating, funny, erudite, wise, complex, I couldn’t put it down.
One of my favourite sections of the book is the chapter about the Proverbs 31 Woman. Rachel writes about the need to “take back” Proverbs 31 to its original intent – a celebration of women of valour!
“Eshet chayil is at its core a blessing – one that was never meant to be earned, but to be given, unconditionally….We abandoned the meaning of the poem by focusing on the specifics, and it became just another impossible standard by which to measure our failures. We turned an anthem into an assignment, a poem into a job description.”
Ever since I read this, I’ve adopted the phrase “Eshet Chayil, woman of valour!” Yes, I’ve reclaimed it. My daughter reached out to a lonely kid at school? Eshet chayil! My friend decided to try intentional Christian community again? Eshet chayil! My sister went back to work to help support her family? Eshet chayil! My mother in law graduated university at the same time as her daughter? Eshet chayil! My friend, Mary, boldly advocates for child sexual abuse victims? Eshet chayil! Another woman graduates from Mercy Ministries of Canada? Eshet chayil! A thousand times! I see women of valour everywhere around me; it’s a beautiful and brave sisterhood, and it’s worth celebrating.
Eshet chayil, Rachel! We are so proud of you!
We honour your intellect, your guts, your bravery, your wisdom, your wide open heart, your leadership, your thirst for knowledge, your life-giving marriage, your humility, and your generosity. We honour you for your heart after God, your faith, your fearlessness. You do us all proud.
Well done, sister.
Eshet chayil! Woman of valour!
This post is part of an online celebration for Rachel Held Evans. Her friends wanted to throw a book launch party for her, but since we’re scattered all over the world, we are throwing a virtual party. So my glass is raised, I’m looking south to Dayton, Tennessee today, and I’m smiling big and crying just a bit, too, we’re just so proud of you, Rachel. You can read other “toasts” to Rachel at JR Goudeau’s blog.
*affiliate links used. and yes, I read good books over homemade apple crisp. it’s what biblical ladies do, don’t you know?