I just finished reading Rachel Held Evan’s “A Year of Biblical Womanhood.” It is one of the best books I’ve read in a long time. In it, Evans describes her year of trying to live out all the rules for women in the Bible as literally as possible. She examines Proverbs 31, and digs deeply into Paul’s teaching about women speaking in church. She re-discovers inspiring Biblical women, some named, some anonymous that must never be forgotten. The book is about a lot of things. It is about the Bible. It is about a self-avowed feminist calling her husband “Master.” It is about discovering ancient spiritual practices, communing with Quakers, and the value of a well-baked loaf of cholla bread.
As I read the book, I was enlightened by her expert examination of the Biblical texts. I was touched by her vulnerability when sharing her fears about motherhood. I laughed with her when she made mistakes, and worried with her as she prepared meals. Evans’s writing grabbed me, and invited me not only into her experience, but into the Biblical stories in a refreshing and powerful way.
Perhaps her greatest achievement in the book was the way she re-framed Proverbs 31. She takes a passage that is so often used (abused) to describe the ideal of Biblical womanhood, and transforms it. Instead of being a nearly impossible prescription for what a woman should do, it is really a love song to men reminding them of all that women are able to do. It is not a checklist for women, but a reminder for men. I read this chapter in the Nashville Airport, and had tears streaming down my face. I wondered if Sarah knew how amazing she truly is, and I worried that I had not done enough to let her know. I felt compelled to take her, hold her, and tell her “You are amazing. You are strong. You are brave. You are a woman of valor, and I am honored to be your husband.”
Evans’s book is about a lot of things, but to me it is above all a love story. It is a story not just of a woman, but of a team; Team Dan and Rachel, they call it.
Tomorrow I am going to run the Soldier Field 10. It is the next step in my journey to love God, live well, and do good. Less than one year ago I ran in my first 5K. Sarah and I did it together, and afterwards we nearly collapsed in each others’ arms. At that 5K, I was able to jog for the first two miles, and had to walk/jog most of the third mile. I finished 3.1 miles in about 35 minutes, which bested my goal of a 12-minute-mile pace. Tomorrow, my goal is to run 10 miles in 100 minutes. I don’t know if I can do it, but I know how far I’ve come.
I have only been able to do what I’ve done because of Sarah. All along I’ve said I’m doing this for my daughters. I’ve done this so I can see them grow up. I’ve done it so I can carry them up the stairs at night and not be winded. I’ve done it so that I will see them in caps and gowns and white dresses and business suits and hospital gowns. I have done it for my daughters, but I’ve done it because of Sarah. Tomorrow we are going to conquer the Soldier Field 10. We have already conquered so much.
We have conquered ten (almost eleven) years of marriage. We have conquered selfishness and over-sensitivity. We have conquered snarky comments, rolled-eyes, and cold shoulders. We have weathered floods, heat waves, Snowpocalypse, and power outages. We have screamed and cried and punched walls. We have laid in bed at night and pondered the great mysteries of faith, the universe, and life itself. We have struggled with Scripture and shared in prayer and Communion.
We have grown, sometimes kicking and screaming, into a faith that embraces wonder and gray. We have laughed hysterically and spit drinks out. We have celebrated wildly and emptied a few bottles of wine. We have built enduring, life-giving friendships. We have endured sickness, and mourned loss. We have started the arduous and amazing task of raising two girls in a world that is full of danger. They have lost a tooth, but have broken no bones. We met after a Theta Chi party 15 years ago, and because of that night I cannot believe the saying that “Nothing good ever happens after 2 a.m.”
Tomorrow when we conquer the Soldier Field 10, I might be the one that crosses the line, but she will be there. It will be her power that gets me there. No, it will be our shared power. It is the power that we share with Christ, who conquered even death. It is our shared power that has given us strength to conquer all things. It is our shared power that will guide us into the future, ready to face the next challenge, the next Mount Laundry, the next 10 miles, the next ten years, the next chapter in our shared lives.