Rachel Evans certainly knows how to write attention-getting chapter bylines! My breasts are like towers, she says. Wait. What? That comes out of the Song of Songs, which is probably the most misapplied book in scripture.
This is another blog post in a series reviewing Rachel Evans’ book, A Year of Biblical Womanhood. (Here are the other blogs, if you want to have a look: Three-Thousand-Year-Old Inferiority Complex, Girl Gone Mild, Martha Stewart Theology, Obedience: My Husband, My Master, Bird’s Eye View of Rachel Evans’ Book, and Eshet Chayil.)
Each chapter in the book covers one month of the year. This chapter is entitled, “February: Beauty,” and Evans’ to-do list for the month includes:
- Find out what the Bible really says about beauty and sex
- Interview a couple who practiced “biblical courtship”
- Give Dan “Sex Anytime” coupon (1 Corinthians 7:4-5)
Evans notes the negative message that women in Christian circles often hear, that is, “the importance of keeping a beauty routine so that husbands will not be tempted to ‘look elsewhere.'” I remember when I used to believe this was true. In my early twenties, I attended a church small group study on the book, The Excellent Wife, by Martha Peace. I was the only one there under forty. I was also the only one there under 200 pounds. The room went silent when I parroted what I had been taught. I might as well have said, “You have all failed miserably as wives. Don’t be surprised when your husband finds someone better.” When I remember that moment, I shudder. What a terrible thing to say. What a terrible thing to believe.
There are a lot of reason a woman gains weight – hormones, genes, emotional eating, and let’s not forget that almost every food contains high fructose corn syrup, hormones, and insecticides. But that’s a blog for another day.
1 Corinthians 7:4 says, “The wife does not have authority over her own body but yields it to her husband. In the same way, the husband does not have authority over his own body but yields it to his wife.”
This and other scriptures have been used and abused and twisted to the male advantage over the centuries. Evans does some digging in scripture and unearths a few interesting facts:
- The gospel writers never rated the hotness of Jesus’ female disciples.
- The majority of verses that include woman and beauty in the same sentence… appear in warnings to young men about the dangers of adultery.
- …there is nothing in scripture to suggest that a woman is expected to maintain a youthful appearance throughout all phases of life.
- The Bible consistently describes beauty as fleeting.
BTW, Evans quotes Mark Driscoll quite a bit in this chapter. Why? Because he is known for giving sermons on all things sex, as if a pastor should tell what you can and can’t do in your own bedroom. Again, that’s another blog for another day.
Regarding the Song of Songs, Evans writes,
…it presents us with the longest unmediated female voice in the entire Bible. Where much of the Old Testament seems to regard female sexuality as something to be regulated and feared, Song of Songs unleashes a vivid and erotic expression of woman’s desire. In fact, the female perspective so dominates the poem that some scholars believe it may have been written by a woman.
So what does the ancient, uninhibited female voice say?
To sum it up, she says she’s beautiful, and she knows what she wants. (Basically, the lyrics to Beyonce’s next hit.)
With that in mind, I looked up some lyrics for Beyonce’s songs. I don’t listen to her music much, but the one song I’m familiar with goes, “if you like it then you shoulda put a ring on it,” which seems like an empowering attitude to have, if you’re single lady just coming out of a dead-end relationship. I was a little disappointed to find that most of her lyrics have to do with the whole world revolving around some dude or about shallow, appearance-based worth – bling, cheap sex, etc. But I did manage to find a glimmer of inspiration here and there:
Yes sir i’m cut from a different cloth / My texture is the best fur, im chinchilla
And they listen to me when I talk cause I ain’t pretending / Took a while, now I understand just where I’m going / Now I’m growing into who I am / Bout time I show it
I want to say I lived each day, until I died / And know that I meant something in, somebody’s life / The hearts I have touched, will be the proof that I leave / That I made a difference, and this world will see
I’ve been rescued by the Savior / Don’t you wanna be in his favor / Yeah / My home / Your home / In His everlasting arms
Listen to the song here in my heart / A melody I’ve started / But I will complete… / I’m more than what you’ve made of me / I followed the voice you think you gave to me / But now I gotta find my own..
I’m a puzzle yes in deed / Ever complex in every way / And all the pieces aren’t even in the box / And yet, you see the picture clear as day.
A simple word, a gesture / Someone to say you’re beautiful / Come find this buried treasure / Rainbows lead to a pot of gold
I recently celebrated my 41st birthday. Yes, I have more wrinkles. Yes, I sag. Yes, I could stand to lose a few pounds. But beauty, true lasting beauty, isn’t about any of those things. And it certainly isn’t something one must attain in order to keep her mate from wandering. It’s amazing to me how people can conjure up the most unholy ideas, using the Bible as a weapon against a woman’s sense of worth.
Today, Tim and I took our dog for a walk. I asked him, “If there were no people or animals or bugs, would it matter that the universe exists?” My thought was that in being captivated by the beauty of nature, humanity somehow gives nature purpose. There needs to be someone or something there to enjoy the beauty in order for that beauty to have meaning. Yes, creation would still be beautiful, even if no one were there to experience it, but would it matter that it was beautiful?
The book, Captivating: Unveiling the Mystery of a Woman’s Soul, by John and Staci Eldridge offers an exquisite definition of the beauty of a woman:
Beauty is what the world longs to experience from a woman. We know that. Somewhere down deep, we know it to be true. Most of our shame comes from this knowing and feeling that we have failed here. So listen to this: beauty is an essence that dwells in every woman. It was given to her by God…
Beauty is powerful. Beauty may be the most powerful thing on earth. Beauty speaks. Beauty invites. Beauty nourishes. Beauty comforts. Beauty inspires. Beauty is transcendent. Beauty draws us to God…
A woman in her glory, a woman of beauty, is a woman who is not striving to become beautiful or worthy enough. She knows in her quiet center where God dwells that he finds her beautiful, has deemed her worthy, and in him, she is enough. In fact, the only thing getting in the way of our being fully captivating and enjoyed is our striving.
Perhaps God’s delight in us – and when I say us, I mean us beautiful women, all of us – is what gives our beauty meaning. And if God thinks we are beautiful, who are we, or anyone else for that matter, to believe otherwise?
At the very core of a woman’s uncertainty about her own beauty is the same lie that has created a “striving” in Christianity – the doctrines of eternal torment and annihilation. How is a woman supposed to believe anything positive at all about herself, if she believes God eternally torments or annihilates those who are beautiful, worthy, and enough? I could have ended this blog with the word “otherwise” in the paragraph above, leaving readers with a warm and fuzzy feeling. But I would rather point out and annihilate the root cause of the problem. Vital to our sense of worth, for both men and women, is this basic concept:
So God created man in his own image, in the image of God he created him; male and female he created them.
Perhaps this clicks for some readers. For others, I lost you after “otherwise.” Consequently, I just realized that I have another blog series to write – Captivating, and the companion book, Wild at Heart: Discovering the Secret of a Man’s Soul.