In what would normally turn my world upside-down (because, you see, I’m prone to turn-on-a-dime frustration and bitterness when my imaginary schedule is inconvenienced/compromised), the power went out at 8 AM. On the first day of my weekend. The day that I had planned to sleep in.
I had assumed I’d sleep until 10, 10:30, and even that was a bit “early.” I’d downloaded a new app, Sleep Bot, on my smartphone the night before. It’s supposed to track your movement during sleep and then wake you up gently at the best time for your sleep cycle. Whether or not it actually works, I was excited to try it out. Until, you know, the power went out, which in Thailand means you’re now bound to the inevitability of feeling hotter than you already were, which means that you’re now bound to the inevitability of wakefulness no matter what time it is. To make matters worse, I looked down at my phone to see that I’d only slept six and a half hours. So much for sleeping in. (First world problems much? I know.)
But, for whatever reason, I wasn’t totally crushed. I went straight for my Kindle and picked up reading my advanced copy of Sarah Bessey’s Jesus Feminist right where I’d left off, somewhere around the 50% mark. You’ll just have to believe me when I tell you that I quickly forgot about my no-sleeping-in woes as I became immersed in the words on the electronic page.
I have to be honest. That first 50%, I was uncertain. I’d been expecting something very different from Jesus Feminist. I think I’d kind of been expecting the book to appear in thin air and just fit with the magical, poetic, dreamy flow of the writing Sarah Bessey usually does on her blog. But it didn’t. It’s . . . different. I’m not sure if it’s because I’d been used to something different in her writing or because what I’m about to say is true, but I felt that the first half of the book is a bit slow and stumbling, a bit disjointed – some parts research-heavy and quote-full, some parts a nod to the poetic flow – and, on top of that, a repeat of hundreds of other conclusions by Christian feminists. But finally, finally, I came to that second half, and it all changed. Hallelujah!
Literally at the 50% mark, we have a dive into vulnerability, and it’s the Sarah Bessey we’ve known and loved, and the research finally comes together the way we’ve hoped it would because it’s being bound by words that are living and genuine, by the hues of storytelling.
And . . . I can’t really say more than that other than to say: I recommend this book to you wholeheratedly! If I was reading this review, I’d be very skeptical of my saying that only the second half of a book is gratifyingly wonderful yet, at the same time, is worthy of purchase. But really. I mean it. Snatch it up, bear with it for the first bit (though, hey, maybe you’ll love both halves!), and then ease into some beautiful words. You’ll learn more about the history of feminism; you’ll be humbled; you’ll be stretched and affirmed; you’ll learn much about what church and community really are; and you’ll be led further into the very personal presence of God. (I don’t mean to say that presumptuously; I say it because Bessey’s words lead you into an up-close-and-personal meeting with God and then leave you there to conclude however you wish.) All that to say, Jesus Feminist is not a book fit only for those touting a specific ideology. It’s fit for a wide Christian audience, and beyond that as well.
I won’t say much more because I don’t want to give any specifics away considering that the book will not be released until November 5. (I was able to read an advanced copy thanks to NetGalley.) But I’ll leave you with this: One of my favorite parts of the book is the consideration of biblical passages in which God is referred to as ezer kenegdo, or helpmeet. How do these passages help us understand what it means when women are referred to with the same phrase? Well, Bessey says, “In the Old Testament, the word ezer appears twenty-one times in three different contexts: the creation of woman, when Israel applied for military aid, and in reference to God as Israel’s helper for military purposes (in this context, ezer appears sixteen times). God isn’t a helpmeet in the watered-down milquetoast way we’ve taught or understood that word within our churches, is he? No, our God is more than that: he’s a strong helper, a warrior.”
More for your reading pleasure! A post by Ed Cyzewski that reminds me very much of my favorite passage from Jesus Feminist, the section about Lydia. And 25 Biblical Roles for Biblical Women, which is a heck of a lot better than it sounds and quite possibly the best article I’ve read all year.