Wednesday, April 3, 2013

Let Me Be A Woman: A Book Review

I know I shouldn't judge a book by it's cover, but sometimes the title of a book just jumps out at me.  It happened recently when I was trying to find a book to read.  As I was scrolling down the page on, the words Let Me Be a Woman grabbed my attention.  As I read the description of the book by Elisabeth Elliot, I knew it would not disappoint. 

Ms. Elliot is a prolific Christian writer and speaker.  Her first husband was killed by South American natives as he tried to reach them with the gospel.  Elisabeth and her young daughter later spent three years living among the same tribe to continue her husband's mission.  Since that time, she has been married twice more, taught at the college level, and written numerous books.  In all of her work, she gives God the glory.  No one can claim that she is a downtrodden female, the "barefoot and pregnant in the kitchen" type.  That is one reason I respect her message of accepting the roles God has given to us as women.

Let Me Be a Woman takes the form of a series of short letters that Elisabeth wrote to her daughter, Valerie, over the course of Valerie's engagement.  The quote on the first page of the book sets the tone. "In order to learn what it means to be a woman, we must start with One who made her." The author describes taking the roles that God has given to women (disciple, submissive wife, mother), and living in them in glorious freedom.  

Her first letters talk about womanhood in general.  I was especially struck by how she uses nature to make a point about the nature of being a woman. 

Every creature of God is given something that could be called an inconvenience, I suppose, depending on one's perspective.  The elephant and the mouse might each complain about his size, the turtle about his shell, the bird about the weight of his wings. ...  The special gift and ability of each creature defines its special limitations.  And as the bird easily comes to terms with the necessity of bearing wings when it finds that it is, in fact, the wings that bear the bird -- up, away from the world, into the sky, into freedom -- so the woman who accepts the limitations of womanhood finds in those very limitations her gifts, her special calling -- wings, in fact, which bear her up into perfect freedom, into the will of God.

Throughout the first part of the book, the author elevates womanhood.  She asks questions like: Why would we subject women to masculine criteria?  We're women!  She praises motherhood, the nurturing quality women have, and the important jobs wives do for their husbands, such as creating a climate of cheerfulness in the home.  While Ms. Elliot doesn't shy from criticizing women who attempt to fulfill roles that were not meant for them, her overwhelming praise of femininity is eye-opening.

In contrast, my favorite discussions about marriage were very blunt and to the point -- and exactly what I needed to hear.  When the author discusses the trap women set themselves by making a laundry list of their husbands' faults, she reminds her daughter: "But you will find yourself disarmed utterly, and your accusing spirit transformed into loving forgiveness the moment you remember that you did, in fact, marry only a sinner, and so did he. It's grace you both need." 

As she praised womanhood, Ms. Elliot also promotes the role of wife.  She makes it clear that those of us who are married must make our marriage our primary vocation.  Now, she continued to be a missionary after she married her first husband, and she continued to be an author during her second marriage.  In no way is the author claiming that women can't continue to have careers.  She simply states that the vocation of being a wife is the first responsibility of any married woman.  As a woman who has frequently put her husband behind jobs, children, or hobbies and suffered for it, I truly appreciate this standpoint.

Although Let Me Be a Woman was written in 1976, it has weathered the time well.  The challenges that faced women in that day to stay feminine, to submit to their husbands, to live free within the limitations given to us are challenges we still face today.  I believe this book will enter the ranks of the books that I read every year to help me focus on pure and praiseworthy things
Scripture taken from the NEW AMERICAN STANDARD BIBLE(R), Copyright(c) 1960, 1962, 1963, 1968, 1971, 1972, 1973, 1975, 1977, 1995 by The Lockman Foundation. Used by permission.

No comments:

Post a Comment