Book Report: Women of the Word

Women of the Word: How to Study the Bible with Both Our Hearts and Our Minds by Jen Wilkin

Believers are caught up in a spiritual war, and malnourishment is one of the biggest issues among our ranks. While throngs of God’s daughters rely exclusively on secondhand food to nourish their souls, Women of the Word presents a case for personal biblical literacy. If you break out in hives just considering the weighty task of studying Scripture, please read this book. It’s fairly short and crammed with practical help and questions for processing. Jen’s level-headed approach is such a nice break from the typical message that we shouldn’t expect women to be Bible scholars. (And isn’t the enemy all too happy to provide us with reasons why?) Sisters, it’s time to put on our big girl pants. We’ve been neglecting Scripture for far too long, and the kingdom is suffering for it. This really is a matter of life and death; fighting with someone else’s sword won’t do us much good. Let’s throw out our excuses, grab a copy of the Word, and take our place on the front lines.

Especially memorable quotes:

A woman who loses interest in her Bible has not been equipped to love it as she should. The God of the Bible is too lovely to abandon for lesser pursuits.

Here is good news: the One whom we most need to behold has made Himself known. He has traced with a fine hand the lines and contours of His face. He has done so in His Word.

The heart cannot love what the mind does not know.

You and I are called to become participants in the process of creating and maintaining an orderly, beautiful place within our hearts where the Lord may dwell.

The Bible does not want to be neatly packaged into three-hundred-and-sixty-five-day increments. It does not want to be reduced to truisms and action points. It wants to introduce dissonance into your thinking, to stretch your understanding. It wants to reveal a mosaic of the majesty of God one passage at a time, one day at a time, across a lifetime.

We are like Moses. The Bible is our burning bush—a faithful declaration of the presence and holiness of God. We ask it to tell us about ourselves, and all the while it is telling us about “I AM.”

It is not the job of the female teacher to make the Bible relevant or palatable to women.

Interestingly enough, what I found most encouraging about this book was how natural it is to feel discouraged when studying Scripture. Here’s a snapshot of my typical morning: I crack open the Bible, get a few verses in, and then hit a wall of questions I’m not sure how to handle. After stubbornly plowing ahead out of sheer willpower, I finally turn to a reputable commentary, feeling empty and stupid. Exasperation has been the defining characteristic of my study time. But Jen offers comfort:

Unlike a newspaper, the Bible is far more than a delivery system for information—it aims to shape the way we think. This means that, more often than not, we should expect to experience frustration when we sit down to read it.

Wait, what? Expect to experience it? This was so good for my soul to hear. I’m not doing it wrong! If I’m falling short in taking my first (or tenth) stab at a passage, I’m probably doing it right! How often have I gotten depressed because I wasn’t comprehending much? This, apparently, isn’t the time to give up but the time to get excited about pressing through:

Contrary to our gut reaction, feeling lost or confused is not a bad sign for a student. It is actually a sign that our understanding is being challenged and that learning is about to take place. Embracing the dissonance of feeling lost, rather than avoiding it (giving up) or dulling it (looking for a shortcut), will actually place us in the best possible position to learn. We must extend ourselves permission to get lost and patience to find our way to understanding.

As silly as it might sound, I didn’t realize that discomfort comes with the territory; I just assumed something was wrong with my brain, that I was pretty much a Bible flop. Jen’s bolstering words have breathed a fresh sense of hope into my study of Scripture and a new, more graceful, way forward.

Some questions I’ll need to journal through:

  • Whose opinions about Scripture have I substituted for reading Scripture myself? Why?
  • How have I expected Bible study to be more intuitive than it really is?
  • Where have I misapplied the Word by assuming an Old Testament promise was meant for me personally?
  • Have I focused more on accomplishing a set amount of study or on making a steady progress in the right direction?
  • How have I seen Scripture conform me? divide me? render me whole?
  • Where have I been missing out on the blessing of prayer-laced study?
  • How can I resolve not to hurry through my time in the Word?
  • Have I gauged the strength of my faith by how close to God I feel at the moment?
  • Where is the Lord inviting me to grow in biblical literacy right now?
  • What would be a realistic expectation for my pace of study during this season?

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