In Honor of Women’s History Month, our March theme, “Women of Valor,” is dedicated to Rachel Held Evans.
In 2012 Rachel Held Evans published The Year of Biblical Womanhood: How a Liberated Woman Found Herself Sitting on Her Roof, Covering Her Head, and Calling Her Husband “Master.” In its pages, she gave us a reimagining of the cloying, perfection-driven, evangelical-Christian-idolizing Proverbs 31 woman. There is nothing wrong with the attributes of that famous woman except that they have become an unrealistic, rigid, and limiting way of defining a woman of God.
As a woman with a chronic illness, my abilities are diminishing as my limitations are increasing. I can’t even hope to be a fraction as productive as the woman in Proverbs. I’m not really laughing at the days to come because I don’t see my symptoms improving in the future; I can see them worsening.
What about the mother who lost custody of her children after the divorce? She can’t be a part of the daily care and education of her children. She no longer has a husband to do good to. How about the multitudes of women who are paralyzed by depression and anxiety? Victims of trauma? They are fighting to hold onto their strength and dignity. Can they still be women of valor if they can’t rise from their beds in the morning, or at all?
Can we, who some days struggle just to climb out of bed, come close to realizing a Proverbs 31 reality? Are we reaching for unattainable valor?
The Proverbs 31 woman is a star not because of what she does but how she does it—with valor. So do your thing. If it’s refurbishing old furniture—do it with valor. If it’s keeping up with your two-year-old—do it with valor. If it’s fighting against human trafficking . . . leading a company . . . or getting other people to do your work for you—do it with valor. Take risks. Work hard. Make mistakes. Get up the next morning. And surround yourself with people who will cheer you on.Rachel Held Evans, The Year of Biblical Womanhood
Rachel started a movement among women that encouraged and challenged us to redefine what valor looks like among mere mortals. To recognize and call out the valor of our sisters, but also our own. To invite us to better grasp how we perceive God and ourselves, and God’s perception of us.
Some of our readers will agree with this assessment of Rachel, and others will have difficulty understanding why we are referencing her due to her controversial theology. There runs a danger of discounting Rachel entirely—she was more than just a progressive exvangelical rabble-rouser.
Rachel’s abiding love for the people of God is undeniable. She graciously engaged her detractors without rancor. We’re all called to love our brothers and sisters despite what they believe on any given day. That love may look like gently reproving someone we believe has gone astray. Or it may look like fervently praying for those we disagree with, while still speaking kindly of them and to them.
Rachel’s abiding love for the people of God is undeniable.
When those we love make choices we find unfathomable, even as they profess Christ, we still desperately hang on to their good qualities. We continue to extol their generosity, their kindness, their compassion. God still sees these qualities as well. The good that he has worked through people is still good, even when they aren’t, or we think they aren’t.
Rachel wasn’t perfect, but she called out the good in others, named them as loved, and invited us to see more, hear more, and be more. Thank you, Rachel, for your enduring call to valor.