According to popular wisdom, ten thousand hours of deliberate practice are required for excellence in any field. After 20 years of homeschooling, 25 years of mothering, and 30 years of gardening and canning, I’m doing the math and wondering if mastery is even a possibility in any of these life compartments. Maybe a more realistic goal is gratitude for the way in which the hats I’ve worn and the dailiness of my duties have mastered me. Still, when you don’t know MLB batting averages or the Great Books or how to arrange living room furniture for delightful ambiance, it is reassuring to hear that the things you have given your hours to really matter.
Abigail Dodds has performed this service in the message of (A)Typical Woman: Free, Whole, and Called in Christ where her stated purpose is to encourage women to “be at peace as women, to be grateful for being made women, and to see it all as an essential part of Christ’s mission and work.” (13) She laments the compartmentalization of Christian womanhood in which we are encouraged to “make femininity our entire life,” or, conversely, to try to “rise above womanhood as important humans, not silly women.” (13) In Christ, we are women in identity; women in action; and women in a free and fearless following, and this embrace of gender identity and the biblical role of women serves as the backbone of Dodds’s argument for a life of loving Truth and serving others.
Elisabeth Elliot famously said, “The fact that I am a woman does not make me a different kind of Christian, but the fact that I am a Christian makes me a different kind of woman.” With her outspoken manner and her laser-like logic, Elliot brought her own panache to the definition of what it means to be a “Christian woman,” and it turns out there’s room for everyone here. It is far better for a woman to focus on becoming Christlike than to become subject to purely cultural interpretations of how a true Christian woman looks or behaves.
“How we feel about being a woman doesn’t have any bearing on what we are. We may feel like we don’t fit the mold, but God calls us to live in a way that shatters the world’s expectations.” (61)
Too, more important than carrying a pink Bible or adhering to the visible signs and signals of the submissive woman is the need to embrace our role as image bearers of the God from whom both masculinity and femininity emanate and originate. We are first and foremost His. We are fallen, redeemed, and deeply dependent upon a righteousness that comes to us only through the cross. Any idea that womanhood is small and confining likely arises from confusion over what the Bible really says about being made a woman in God’s image, for it’s clear that both men and women are subject to limitations–and blessed by fullness of opportunity!
Women in All We Do
Dodds is straightforward in addressing current and controversial topics around gender and even takes on some of the more sensitive topics, exploding stereotypes around singleness, probing the tendency toward media obsession and distractedness in mothering, and looking squarely at the elephant in the room–submission. Her clear and concise definition of submission (“willingly placing yourself under the authority of another”) draws a straight line directly back to the submission of Christ to the Father, reminding both men and women that all Christians live and work under authority and we all submit to Christ first.
A highlight of Dodd’s good writing is her employment of creative metaphor in making a point. This summer when I look at my tall, majestic sunflowers, I will be remembering that the sunflower “gladly sways this way and that, turning its face wherever the sun shines. In so doing it assures its own growth.” By contrast, if a sunflower is not following the sun, any attempt to force it to change direction would snap it off at the stem. Submission forced upon someone from outside “is not submission; it is coercion.” (83)
Women, Free in Christ
As a wife, a mum to five, and a leader in her home church, Dodds brings her own experience as well as her conversations with other women into her offering of wisdom, and she encourages women to live our actual life and to do it with hope. We are all workers, we are all in the process of being transformed, and we are all disciples who are also called to be disciplers.
We are strong enough to bear children — and “weak” enough to cry when they leave home for the first time. We are wise and gifted, but we are also humble and receptive. Like Job, we are full of questions and even complaints, but we trust for grace to lay our hand over our mouth in humility as we lean into the hope of resurrection life. Most importantly, we are finite women, rooted in geography and circumstances, but we are indwelt by an infinite Christ, and it is this alone that makes us free to lean into our identity as Christian women and to hear and fulfill His unique calling to us with contentment and gratitude.
Many thanks to Crossway for providing a copy of this book to facilitate my review, which, of course, is offered freely and with honesty.
Grateful to be free, whole, and called in Christ,
I am a participant in the Amazon Services LLC Associates Program, an affiliate advertising program designed to provide a means for sites to earn advertising fees by linking to Amazon.com. If you should decide to purchase (A)Typical Woman: Free, Whole, and Called in Christ simply click on the title (or the image) within the text, and you’ll be taken directly to Amazon. If you decide to buy, I’ll make a small commission at no extra cost to you.
Subscribe to Living Our Days to get regular content delivered to your inbox. Just enter your e-mail address in the field at the top of this page.
I link-up with a number of blogging communities on a regular basis. They are listed in the left sidebar by day of the week. I hope that you will take a moment to enjoy reading the work of some of these fine writers and thinkers.