When books aren’t the best teachers

IMG_20120901_155345-200x200I’ve read more of the “how can you be a godly Christian woman” in today’s world books than I care to admit. I acknowledged approaching this book with cynicism blooming. I admitted then that i’ve pretty much given up reading the “Christian woman self-help” kinds of books in light of realising that the women around me who love their communities, their churches, and their families have offered me far healthier and theologically complex models. I am fortunate to have woman around me I can look up to, admire, and who I can turn to for advice and support. I’m aware not all women have that. It is only now that I really feel that I have a set of mentors – both personal and professional. It is the first time in my life, where I’m not bereft of wisdom from wiser heads delivered by men and women, capable and humble – oh, so humble. My church in Scotland was the first church where noone asked me why i’m not married or why i was doing a PhD. Noone there blamed my propensity to move continents for my singleness (as if it were a curse to be born).

I am fortunate indeed. So although, I wrote about ‘Why it bugs me when the church tells me how to be a woman’, I am grateful to be have spent time in a space that encourages me to live boldly as a disciple of Christ.

I’ve long been a fan of the biblical model for the way in which I, as a woman, can flourish in my community. Don’t get me wrong there are books which have given me hope that books in the christian women empowerment genre are starting to gain some common sense. However, a books in this genre will always fall short if it seeks to speak into every woman’s life – we’re just too diverse a bunch for that. In my experience finding a few older women to mentor you is still one the best ways to mature as a christian woman. But it’s not a matter of relying on someone else telling you how to behave as if it’s a set of boxes to be ticked. Rachel Held Evans and Dianna Anderson have both written thoughtfully in the last year on how women can bully each other, or we can falsely use the bible as a club to beat each over the head.

I’m even more convinced that “traditional” models are problematic and worrisome.Woman get all sorts of unhelpful messages thrown at them every day that tear down their sense of worth, and bring before them a picture of what society says it means to be a woman, a mother, and to have a successful career that are twisted. We women often guilt ourselves and others into certain ways of seeing things too. We’ve got to give each other a break.

We need to take time to honor each other, build up, and encourage. We need to exhort without claiming to know the heart of another. We need to build up, to honour those around us who are Eshet chayil—woman of valor. To celebrate the gifts we have, to encourage women with the intellect and calling to study, to develop their gifts as teachers, and proclaimers of the word, to value the lessons hard fought in raising children, in serving communities, in seeking public office.

Have you read any books that you felt encouraged you as a Christian woman? What do you think it means to be in community with others in the church?

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This post was first published on Goannatree in September 2012. Though my opinions have changed somewhat, this is still largely an accurate reflection on my thoughts on this topic.

 

Anna Blanch_Gill Gamble_blogAnna Blanch Rabe is an Australian-born writer and photographer. She currently works for an Anglican church in Newcastle, Australia in a community care & engagement role. Her opinions and comments in this piece should be attributed to her alone and do not necessary reflect the opinion of the parish, or the Anglican diocese in which she is employed. In 2014, she will embark on an epic adventure traveling Overland From Australia to London (via Russia and Japan) by train and ferry. You can follow this adventure on Not A Pedestrian Life, or Facebook. More of her photography can be viewed here. For more Theology:Naked take a look at Quotidian Home or her previous website, Goannatree.


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