Biblical Womanhood: A Book Study

I want to tell you about this book:

There are a lot of reasons I’m reading it, firstly because my dad sent it to me marked “for discussion when we see you next”.

Also, because I am a feminist Catholic—in that exact order. I internalized my feminism before I internalized my Catholic faith, so I tend to view faith through a feminist lens. This is very different from viewing feminism through a Catholic lens, or through an evangelical one, as Barr does.

For what it’s worth, I think it’s easier to be me than her—I showed up cynical and fought the catechism every step of the way. I never expected my Christian faith to be a beautiful, life-giving shelter and was gratefully surprised to find that it is. Barr had to “wake up” to the patriarchy inherent in her evangelical Christian upbringing through her historical studies, and the resulting disillusionment shook her out of her church.

To clarify—her church is the Southern Baptists; she calls them “evangelicals” but that term feels wider and deeper than the ways she uses it to refer to a very conservative set of patriarchal, sinners-in-the-hands-of-an-angry-God beliefs. I know evangelicals who do not ascribe to these beliefs on any level, but her labels are reflective of her experience.

I strongly feel though that all women of the Christian faith have things to learn from this book and the ways in which womanhood is reflected in the Bible. Most of us know what we’ve told, sitting in the pews, or in Sunday School classes, and we accepted it. How many of us have taken a deeper dive into the history and context of the Bible, or the 2000 years of clarification and scholarship that exists to help us know and understand the word of God? How many of us really process that every Bible we hold in our hands has been translated, or questioned who does the translating? Clicked the “About” tab on websites for seminaries where our priests and pastors are educated? Or asked ourselves “Who is telling this story, and what do they have to gain from telling it this way?”

I’m not an expert but I can teach anything. And I’d like to walk this you. Eight Chapters. One a week. I hope you’ll join me.

Confession

Last Saturday, Gabe asked if he could spend the night at his friend’s house. I said yes. I asked how many kids were going to be there, but just because I wanted to know. He said most of the freshman football team.

I drove him there. I let the dad show me around the property. I saw the theater room where they were all going to sleep. I made a joke about what that room would smell like come morning.

I never once thought about COVID.

The first kid tested positive Monday afternoon, when those 14 kids were at weight-lifting, baseball, basketball and track. By Tuesday, the host kid was sick and two more had been tested. When Gabe slept until 10 am on Wednesday (he was quarantined from school), I had a sinking feeling. Sure enough, his temp hovered between 99 and 101 all day long and yesterday the test came back positive.

He is the 7th positive from the party.

We have been so careful. I have been loud about those who were not careful. I counted the months of vigilance proudly, and when it came time to vaccinate, you know we did.

In fact, Gabriel got his first shot Saturday morning.

No matter. COVID came anyway, because we were dumb. We didn’t see it through. Like we climbed Mt Everest, but jumped off the Hillary Step.

Yes, the grown ups in our family and circle of friends are all vaxxed and that’s a blessing. But our county is currently rocking a 44% vaccinated rate so there are plenty–too many–unvaccinated folks out there.

I have opinions about their choice to not vaccinate, but I do not want my teenager to carry the weight of someone’s death because he went to a sleepover.

It’s enough that his other friends are mad that because they sat next to him in class on Monday, they have to quarantine–and miss baseball playoffs and track districts this weekend. We had to postpone Annie’s already postponed birthday party and she’s missing her last soccer game. Kate’s friend–whose brother was also at the sleepover–postponed her birthday party. It’s more than the fact that Gabe got COVID–his fever already broke and he feels fine again–but that the implications ripple out and out and out.

We are so, so close to being done. Heading into the big holiday weekend, it will be tempting to throw caution to the wind. I’m saying don’t. Listen to Yogi:

In My Bones

I’m on my walk. It’s a 3 mile trail on a hill. There’s a huge section on the downhill that runs along what I think of as “the bracken”—wetlands-y, bordering the woods, lots of overgrowth.

Just as I enter the bracken, I see a man coming towards me. He’s about a football field away, which starts my heart racing because it’s not much time to plan.

Plan what, you ask? Ha! No you didn’t, because you’re mostly women here. You know exactly what I meant: I’m alone and here comes a man.

My first thought was I didn’t bring Dasher. Not that Dasher would save me from anyone, but only our family, friends, contractor, the pool guy next door, our neighbors and the kids down the street know that. To everyone else he looks like a German Shepherd tied one on with a Doberman. But I didn’t bring him with me today.

This is the moment I take a good hard look at the bracken to my right. Which, hey look at that, slopes downward. How have I never noticed that before? One good shove, and I’m off the path and into the blackberries. No one would ever know.

I’m not helpless, though. I can see him coming. He’s wearing sweats, a hoodie and sunglasses. I remind myself to strike for the soft spots. Then I sink into my feet, ready.

YOU GUYS. I am just walking on a Monday morning at 9:00 am in my own town, but I now have a plan for the man who is walking towards me on the path.

And it is only because of what he does next that I even spend one second of my day unwinding this moment.  

With at least 20 feet to go before we meet up, he swings wide off the other side of the path, putting a good 15 feet between us as we pass. I am so flummoxed by this that I actually think “Bit much, COVID dude” before I realize he did it to make me feel safe.

It shocks me. I’m not scared of much, but as I let go of all the ways I prepared to cross paths with him, I know that the threat I felt is ancient and generational, bred into my bones and reinforced by 49 years of living. Women are not always safe alone with a man. Vigilance is required. It has nothing to do with this particular man and he knows it, because he has a mom, wife, sisters, daughters. He doesn’t take it personally. But he does move to make me feel safe.

I’m telling you this thing that you already know as women because maybe we have forgotten that other people have ancient, generational instincts bred into their bones too, from other threats that also require vigilance.

We need to remember. We need to give people space for their vigilance, acknowledge that the vigilance is legitimate, and then earn each other’s trust. It’s not asking too much. It’s how we begin to fix what’s been broken.

It was the work of 10 seconds for that man to make me feel seen, respected and safe. We can do this for each other.

Did You Make Space for a New Creation?

We are coming out of a hot, spicy nightmare right now into a new creation.

Are we ready?

We should have been making space–space in our souls, space in our hearts, space in our time and relationships and jobs for the new creation that we are promised to flood into our lives.

Don’t tell me nothing really changed in the last year. How could that even be possible? All those prayers you threw up for time to fix and heal and get healthy and God gave you a year. You used it, right?

And even if you didn’t, you will, because we are not ruining the new creation with the old crap.

Let me give you some examples.

You know that side of the family you hate to see because they drink too much or they’re mean or racist or belligerent or their kids suck but you always invite them because…family? Well you haven’t seen them in a year, haven’t missed them and the basic family structure is still intact. Are you going to go back to loud, angry, drunken Thanksgivings? Heck, no. We don’t ever have to do that again.

How about that passive aggressive friendship with the mom from school where you hang out more because of proximity than kindred spirit and she makes you crazy anyway? Are you going back to weekly gossip coffee dates? Nope. Sorry, my schedule has changed and our kids have moved on. See you around.

How about money? Did you cut back on all the things to save money during job furlough or loss? When the jobs come back, are you just going to go back to living paycheck to paycheck so your family can have all the things again? No–we have a future to plan for. We lived without a lot this year and didn’t miss most of it.

What about that job that you now know you can do from home, and better. Are we going back to giving our whole lives to our jobs, working an 8, 9, 10 hour day because someone 70 years ago decided that was necessary and showed initiative? Thank you, no–we’re going to negotiate something better.

What about your kids and school? Was distance learning a relief for them? Like water on a thirsty plant, did it cause them to grow and blossom? Then are you going to send them back to the way we have always done things? Of course not–we have empowered our kids to learn from home.

(Not mine, though. Mine need to take all that angst and energy, walk right out the front door to the bus that will take them to the school where the person who manages all that angst and energy is well-trained, well-prepared and not me)

Are you going to pass that holiday phone from granny to auntie to uncle to cousin so everyone gets a chance to talk to the family out of state on Christmas? No way–you’re going to fire up that Zoom meeting, cast it onto the big screen and have dessert together from 2000 miles away.

We are going to live stream football games and volleyball games and plays and concerts and recitals. We are going to live stream church services and baptisms and First Communions and weddings and funerals. Being forced apart taught us how to be closer, it pushed us past boundaries we didn’t even know we had, it made us innovate. And it is just the beginning.

The sorrow and struggle were real, as were the cost, which has been folded into our collective subconscious. We cannot forget the lessons the last year have taught us.

But the new creation is here and it is God’s Providence, to make all for our good. We just have to put away the things of yesterday, open the door and step out into the light of a new day.

How to Pray

I’m reading The Art of Prayer for my class. Written in 1957, so I’m kind of 😴.


Then this. Now I’m awake because YES.


This is the prayer people like me HAVE TO LEARN. We want to decide, intervene, plan, control, dictate.

We cover it by saying we are hoping, inventing, inspiring, leading and guiding. But really, in our worst moments, at our most angry, threatened and afraid, we are asserting our ego at God and other people in a desperate scramble to get back to solid, predictable ground.


God made us this way, so he is not surprised when we come for Him with our blueprints and list of demands. He loves us still.

He waits for us to surrender to the only plan that matters: HIS plan. And when we do, when we can pray with open and obedient hearts that His will be done, then we can be free of our need to control.