Rachel:I was that girl who throughout high school doted over the books on biblical womanhood, Christian dating, Godly femininity, etc. I have an impressive collection of literature to this day that once coached me through my teenage years and hammered deep into my mind the biblical “ideal” of my design as a young woman. I was quite the preachy blogger back in 2005 at age 14 and, using Xanga, would write posts like this one to “encourage” my girl friends to act like the princesses God designed us to be and to the boys to be the knights in shining armor that they are clearly called as men to be. Those were the days in which my greatest ambition in life, besides getting married and having 4-6 kids, was to be the next great Beth Moore. I wanted to write books, I wanted to speak at conferences, and I wanted to inspire the next generation of women to be BIBLICAL. And I was 14. I had never heard the term “feminist” but I was clearly not one. Thinking back, growing up in Southern Arkansas and deep East Texas, I probably had not ever met a feminist or had even come within a spitting distance of one. To no one’s surprise, I ended up going to college at a small Baptist university.
Fast forward to my junior year of college—I was living with a feminist Biblical Studies major, who also happened to be my best friend, who also happened to nonchalantly bring up women’s issues as casual dinner conversation on a regular basis. Of course, I was almost always the dinner chef in our apartment, as I was aiming to sharpen my cooking skills as part of my pursuit for an MRS degree and a ring by spring. I remember mistakenly making the comment that practicing my cooking now will make me a better wife down the road. I think it’s safe to say that was one of the probably many times I offended her with my Proverbs 31 ideals. Let’s just say that she is gifted in many areas but at that time, culinary skills were not one of those gifts (I feel it necessary to say that she called me from California yesterday to tell me she was baking pumpkin bread FROM SCRATCH—Eshet Chayil!)
We didn’t see eye to eye on gender roles and women’s issues, and I was stubborn during her early feminist days, but she planted a seed in me that Pam Hogeweide would call a “Spirit of Inquiry”. That spirit of inquiry eventually led me to your blog, and not long after discovering your blog I bought your memoir, Evolving in Monkeytown.
Reading Monkeytown helped me begin to have better conversations with my friend about the things in the Bible that we don’t understand, that we don’t like—about the scriptures that are often used inappropriately to keep us women in the margins. I began to listen to her, rather than dismissing every comment she made that challenged my naïve understanding of scripture. I began to talk with her more humbly and without judgment. Reading Monkeytown inspired me to trade my pride for humility. Reading Monkeytown inspired me to be quick to listen to people who are different than me, rather than trying to convert them to be like me. Reading Monkeytown, ultimately, was like reading from the journal of my roommate and helping me see through her eyes as a seeker for justice and reform, as a seeker for freedom, as a seeker for discovering the things in scripture for ourselves the stories and the people that don’t necessarily come up in conversation at our conservative churches.
On this day of your second book release, A Year of Biblical Womanhood, I wanted to share with you how you have personally contributed to my journey of liberation. The grace that you speak and write with, the passion that you show in the projects you take on, and the vulnerability you exude when sharing your journey with us is inspiring—it is life changing. With a renewed perspective in the way I approach the scripture and the texts that I do and don’t make sense of, a refreshing and new love for diversity and conversation, and a newfound passion to gracefully challenge, rather than play along with, the patriarchal influences that continue to marginalize women by using the term “Biblical Womanhood”—you have contributed immensely to not only a changed life, but to future generations that will follow in the days and years to come. You are breaking the cycle of a powerful system and for this I do not dread the future for my unborn children.
You are a woman of valor, Rachel.
Thank you for helping me recognize that in myself.