In the “April” chapter of A Year of Biblical Womanhood, Rachel Held Evans goes camping. Camping, you ask? What does that have to do with Biblical Womanhood? Well, nothing, really, but it was Evans’ playful way of separating herself during the week of her period, as outlined in Leviticus 15. While these laws are not incumbent on Christian women, which Rachel readily acknowledges, they are still practiced by other “Biblical Women”: Orthodox Jews.
Although Rachel’s friend Ahava thought the ideas in the novel The Red Tent, which Rachel loved, were nonsense, she taught her about the laws of niddah and taharas hamishpacah.
While I never signed a purity pledge, or really even remember hearing about sex in church, the general message I recall, somehow, was that sex was for marriage. This was not necessarily the same message I received in school, in which students were taught the “facts of life” in middle school and were taught about birth control in high school health class (although I do remember that abstinence was stressed as best).
I do remember when I heard about these Biblical laws for the first time, though. I’d made some Orthodox Jewish friends online, and they opened up my small Christian world and invited me into their world, present and past. And so, when I read this chapter, I smiled, as I could more bridges of understanding being built, because we Christians really have such little knowledge of the Judaism from which our own Christian religious history was born.
Rachel writes that her time of niddah “was lonely and isolating, one of the most difficult tasks of the project so far”; she could only be consoled by Dan’s words, not his touch, when she cried over the recent death of a friend.
She ends the chapter with the story of the woman in the gospels who suffered from bleeding for years. For years, this woman would have been an outcast. For years, this woman could not have had the comforting touch of her husband. She was isolated physically and emotionally.
As I think about this, and how we teach and talk about sex in the church and our culture, despite varying degrees and reasons for “wait until marriage” or “just be sure to use birth control”, what seems to be missing is talk of intimacy and talk of the importance of touch, and how to deal with being lonely and isolated.
Touching Jesus changed the life of that woman; she was made whole again. She was no longer isolated from touch, from her community.
While we both we Christians and society in general do not follow these purity laws, we surely do understand the isolation that the bleeding woman felt. In different ways, we all experience isolation (and many will feel that way with Christmas coming soon). We all are bleeding.
But we can all reach out to Jesus and become whole.
You are reading A Year of Biblical Womanhood. Read more from this series of articles.
- A Year of Biblical Womanhood [group project]
- Gentleness [Biblical Womanhood]
- Defiant Domesticity [Biblical Womanhood]
- Valor [Biblical Womanhood]
- Eye of the Beholder [Biblical Womanhood]
- Modesty [Biblical Womanhood]
- The Power of Touch [Biblical Womanhood]
- Submission [Biblical Womanhood]
- Justice [Biblical Womanhood]
- Grace [Biblical Womanhood]