We learn best through stories. It’s like there is something in our bones, deep down below the marrow that resonates with story. Stats can leave us shell-shocked. Tables can please our eyes. Stories change us at the very core of our being.
Rachel Held Evans‘ story, as found both on her blog and in her book A Year of Biblical Womanhood has done this for me. And while I would most definitely recommend you sit down and read her story yourself, I would also like to share with you how her story has impacted me. How it’s become part of my story.
Before I get to the book though, I feel like you need to know where I was when Rachel’s story started speaking into my life.
It was sometime in the spring of this year, the exact time is a little fuzzy – as most things are when you’re the parent of a newborn. I was finishing up maternity leave, reading voraciously (because I was bored) and trying to figure out exactly what my identity was now.
Growing up, the idea that motherhood is a woman’s highest calling was very much instilled in me. I never particularly thought the idea was overly attractive, but I was also told that “when I met the right guy” and “when I held my baby” that all those feelings would change and I would just be consumed with a desire to love and support my family.
Cadence Grace waltzed into our life far sooner than I had ever anticipated having a child. In that, though, I was much assured of God’s plan and hand in all of it because, well, this certainly had not been my idea.
I hated being pregnant. Hated, hated, HA – TED it.
Birth wasn’t so bad. I don’t really care to repeat the process, but it was truly one of my most intimate moments with the Creator.
And that little girl. Wow. I never knew I could love a person so much.
But I still didn’t feel fulfilled. And I certainly did not feel as though my calling to be on pastoral staff at my church had been lifted.
Growing up, I had been given – intentionally or otherwise – the idea that women who had kids but worked a job in addition to being a mom were doing something wrong. My mother stayed home with us, and I am thankful. But in our home, there were two “F-words”: the obvious and “feminist.”
Here I was. 24, married, and now mother. The passion for the hurting and the oppressed, for teaching kids and others about God’s story, for leading people to the Feet of their Creator in musical worship; even my very part-time gig teaching exercise classes at the gym, none of those passions went away. They didn’t even decrease. In fact, it was almost as though becoming a mother made all of my passions increase. Welcoming the Kingdom seemed so much more urgent for some reason.
But I didn’t know what to do. I couldn’t tell if maybe I was hearing God wrong, and I was supposed to surrender my calling because motherhood was supposed to be my “real” calling. Maybe I was just being stubborn…
That’s when a friend introduced me to Rachel’s blog.
It was like someone was reading my mind. Daring to ask out loud all the questions I was wrestling with inside. A committed Christian and a feminist? Egalitarian marriage? It seemed crazy to me. But I read, and prayed, and read some more.
Walter Wink’s excellent book The Powers That Be came into my life around the same time as well. Wink also pulls back the curtain to expose the idea of all-powerful wizard of patriarchy for the puny little old man it is.
“Ask and you shall receive” Jesus says.
I asked “who am I now?” As a wife. As a mom. As a woman. As a child of God.
and I received: “You are mine.”
I found Rachel at the crossroads of my existence. It was the point in which I could either
A) Believe everything I had been taught for my whole life about women and motherhood and forsake the calling that burns in my bones to instead pick up what every good Southern Baptist would tell me my calling should be.
or B) I could have the audacity to actually listen to God for myself and continue to follow God’s calling on my life no matter how many molds I broke or toes I stepped on.
I found the grace and the strength to choose the latter.