by Katharine Armbrester
Some of this is uncomfortable to talk about, but we aren’t called to be comfortable.
Aimee Byrd is unquestionably one of the most humble, careful, deep-thinking and Biblically sound Christian bloggers out there today. In the wild west of “Christian mommy blogging,” Byrd sticks to her guns of sound Christian theology whilst challenging the status quo in Christian living today. She repeatedly takes aim at the harmful and blasphemous idols that many Christians cling to, while doing her very best to drive her readers back to the Word—not social media, popular opinions or mere feeling. Byrd does not want any more Christian women to fit the description of 2 Timothy 3:6-7: “For among them are those who creep into households and capture weak women, burdened with sins and led astray by various passions, always learning and never able to arrive a knowledge of the truth.”
A self-described “housewife theologian,” Byrd has been upfront about not having attended seminary, but in No Little Women, as in the rest of her books, she augments her texts and grounds her arguments with a profuse and careful abundance of sources from a wide variety of Christian publications, both recent and classic, popular and scholarly. In this book, she repeatedly exhorts her female audience to read regularly and with discernment, and she has obviously followed her own advice. Her commitment to examining controversial issues with multiple points of view and drawing from the rich history of Christian writing (and not just the latest hip bloggers) is refreshing.
In No Little Women, Byrd eviscerates the damaging belief that Christian women are less valuable to Christianity than men, that they are fundamentally, emotionally vulnerable and morally weak and are thus unfit to teach, and destined always to get into squabbles over potluck dinners and “women’s studies” curriculum. Women are just as equipped to be used by God for his glory as men, for they are also made in his image. As Byrd reveals, this is a great responsibility that is not pressed upon women as much as it should be.
No matter what our different circumstances and vocations may be, every woman is a theologian. We all have an understanding of who God is and what he has done. The question is whether or not our views are based on what he has revealed in his Word about himself.”
No Little Women should be read slowly and carefully, for there is a great deal to absorb. It is an excellent resource for women of all ages in the church, for along with discussing how to be discerning in one’s reading, Byrd also clearly and concisely lays out ways for women to be careful in how they operate within not only women’s ministries but also suggests ways for other women to serve and teach that are outside the box.
Our theology, what we know to be true about God, is an eternal matter! Everyone in the church needs to be a good theologian. There will be no little women in the new heavens and the new earth. So, what does that mean for the church now?
Byrd also expertly analyzes the damage that has been wrought by rigid adherence to complementarianism, which many forget is a fairly new counter-cultural development.
We don’t bear witness to God’s mission to the world by micromanaging male/female relationships, regulating the details of femininity and masculinity when it comes to serving in our vocations, or insisting on some kind of blanket male authority over all women in society. It is a lot more nuanced than “men can do this, and women can do that.” And women are not merely sidekicks in male vocations. We love our neighbors in service together, as men and women.
Too much time has been spent within Christendom harping on the differences between men and women—time wasted, when instead they need to be reminded to be friends with each other, encourage one another, and together seek to be like Christ, rather than just be an idealized man and an idealized woman. The aforementioned rigidity leads to distrust and resentment, among other vices, and as Byrd continues: Ultimately, all of God’s people are called to ‘see to it that no one fails to obtain the grace of God’ (Heb. 12:15). This is a call for all members to have oversight over one another as brothers and sisters in God’s household, promoting one another’s holiness.
Although No Little Women is primarily geared toward a female audience, she also has pertinent and probing questions to ask of male Christians, questions that might be uncomfortable, but which desperately need to be asked of many a churchgoing man in many a congregation. Who do you surround yourself with? Jesus and the apostles, including Paul, had women in their inner circles. And it wasn’t just a strategy to ‘reach the women’ and use their feminine appeal to their own kind. These women were helpful to them as friends… Women are not only necessary allies to their husbands within their personal households, but are also necessary allies to the men in carrying out the mission of the household of God.
Byrd has, understandably, no patience with the non-biblical and largely cultural segregation of men and women from each other in church, which is very often the case, as men are not often encouraged to have friendships with women not their wife, and vice versa, despite the fact that there are Biblical precedents for such friendships, where both parties can encourage each other in the faith, serve the church and glorify God. This is a discussion that Byrd continues in her follow-up book, Why Can’t We Be Friends?, which will be reviewed next time.
Ultimately, No Little Women is an immensely valuable resource for women who want to serve the church and grow in the faith, and it is immensely readable as well, thanks to Byrd’s warmth, humor and, most important of all, clarity. She dearly loves the church, and it shows, and is therefore not afraid to make her readers uncomfortable, such as below, when she charges her readers to examine themselves, and discover where they fall short in their pursuit of Christ-likeness. It is a desperately needed reminder.
Women, do we warn others to turn away from evil, or are we complacent? Do we prefer gossip to godly confrontation? Do we serve alongside the men as cobelligerents against evil, or do we leave all the dirty work to them? Or, worse, are we the ones stirring the pot? Are we steeped enough in God’s Word so that we can provide wisdom, encouragement, and counsel from it?…Do people seek us out for wisdom? Do we offer our resources and time when we see a need? Do we respond in faith to God’s calling, or are we irritated every time it seems to interfere with our own agenda? Are we sharpening our gifts of empathy and relational connectedness by the truth of God’s Word, or are we letting our emotions take the lead?
Katharine Armbrester is in the MFA creative writing program at the Mississippi University for Women. She is a devotee of Flannery O’Connor and Margaret Atwood and fully intends to be an equally disconcerting playwright—she thinks Alabama needs one.