A book to help me be a better man

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A Year of Biblical Womanhood makes me want to be a better husband

By Kurt Willems

In her bestselling book, A Year of Biblical Womanhood: How a Liberated Woman Found Herself Sitting on Her Roof, Covering Her Head, and Calling Her Husband Master, Rachel Held Evans chronicles her experiment with radically living out the scriptural commands about womanhood. She highlights the beauty of the Bible while also confronting the hyper-literalism so prevalent in regards to gender issues.

After finishing the last section of this book, I realized that something spoke to me in a personal way: A Year of Biblical Womanhood makes me want to become a better man.

The interactions of Rachel and Dan, her husband, connected to me profoundly. I found myself imagining what it would be like if my wife, Lauren, lived “biblically” for the year. Having gourmet meals every night, “commanding” my wife in various ways, seeing a sign displaying my greatness at the city gates, receiving a “sex anytime” coupon and hearing my wife call me “master” all sound like a recipe for a fun year.

If Lauren were engaged in this project, my first temptation would be to take advantage of her vulnerability. That silly impulse is quickly overshadowed as I read Dan’s journals, which are included in the book. He writes: “It’s like I have a trump card. I don’t know how I feel about it. For the last decade our relationship has been built on mutual understanding. If disagreements come up, we work through the issues on a level playing field. I’ve always felt respected by Rachel, so I’ve never felt the need to have a final, conversation-stopping, decision-making catchphrase” (p. 206).

Like Dan, the idea that I should have some sort of spiritually ordained trump card in our marriage simply doesn’t compute with my experiences, my biblical beliefs or my relationship to Jesus. Jesus never “trumped” the women in his life out of a patriarchal notion of superiority. Even in Paul’s letters, if we understand certain “trump” passages in their theological, social and first century contexts, we see that mutuality is the biblical goal.

A Year of Biblical Womanhood reminded me that marital partnership (rather than patriarchy) is a choice one must make every single day. It’s not a romantic holy abstraction. Well, it probably should include some romance, but marriage is a concrete privilege that takes humility and, frankly, hard work. Each day I must choose to love Lauren as Christ loved the church and to submit to Lauren out of reverence for Christ.

In this regard, Rachel eloquently states: “When you realize that faith is not static, that it is a living and evolving thing, you look less for so-called ‘spiritual leaders’ to tell you where to go, and more for spiritual companions with whom to travel the long journey. And when you learn that marriage is a slow dance, not a tango, you worry less about who’s taking the lead and instead settle into the subtle changes in each other’s movements, the unforced rhythms of each other’s body to life’s music” (p. 204).

Thanks to Rachel and Dan for spending a unique year testing “biblical womanhood.” By humbly stretching the constrictive categories of gender roles to their ridiculous literal extremes at times, they have reminded us husbands that living in mutuality with our wives is a sacred objective. Ultimately, mutuality requires the Christ-centered, self-sacrificial love of both partners.

Kurt Willems, a 2012 graduate of Fresno Pacific Biblical Seminary, is preparing to be a church planter in Seattle, Wash., with the Brethren in Christ. He, his wife, Lauren, and their soon-to-be-born baby girl currently live in Visalia, Calif. Willems is a freelance writer for various print and online publications, including his personal blog hosted by Patheos (KurtWillems.com).

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