We all ask questions of identity.
All of us.
Our identity isn’t stagnant, figured out when young, and never changing or developing. No, it is formed throughout our lives, especially during transitions. While some aspects endure, others mature, some are added, and still others are cast off.
When I was about sixteen, a pastor told me to be less assertive and strong because otherwise I’d never find a husband. Mom says I came home saying I couldn’t deny who I really was in order to please others.
But my husbandless twenties left me wondering about who I was. Not about whether I was assertive or strong, but about my identity as a woman. I had only understood womanhood in the roles of wife and mother, roles I did not have.
After college graduation, I moved to South America to teach school. The church kept me in the jovenes group—the one for teenagers and other unmarried folks. Two years later, in my rural Pennsylvania church, people treated me like I was still a college kid. I knew I was in the fourth year of my teaching career, but was I a woman or still just a girl? Single and in my 20s, the church treated me like a kid. Click To Tweet
Naming Myself “Woman”
Life continued and I found myself teaching Theology and Bible at Nyack College after I graduated from seminary. Though I felt like one of them as I looked out into the sea of young faces, I deeply knew that I was an adult, not a college student, and a woman, not a girl, so I began a journey of naming myself “woman” and seeking to define it.
Though we’ve not grown up the same and our experiences profoundly differ, I find that many women still wonder about womanhood in a similar way, regardless of how their backgrounds defined womanhood. Media and society say identity is found primarily in sexuality or career. The Christian church negates these ideas, but offers discipleship that is often one-dimensional teaching about following God’s commands. She needs more than that. She needs to know what being a Christian woman is and when and how she can become one. That’s what I was searching for when I began to name myself “woman.”
Identity Transformation Through a Rite of Passage
And that search inspired my dissertation on Rites of Passage for Christian Women, an article on discipling daughters a Rite of Passage called Woman for seniors at Nyack College, and another article on its effectiveness. The purpose of the rite is to help participants find their identity as Christian women in relationship with God, self, others, and creation, rather than in a role they might fill. Roles don’t define us. God does. Roles don't define us. God does. Click To Tweet
Today, we are in the middle of the year-long rite of passage journey for the sixth class of participants! This is the third class to read The Book of Womanhood, written specifically to aid in identity formation and recently published by Cascade Books. The transformation catalyzed by the rite of passage and the book is best told in the participants’ words:
“The Book of Womanhood was a voice of truth encouraging me to love, accept, enjoy, and grow myself as a Woman of God. It helped me connect with the women God speaks about in His Word and be empowered by their stories. It also helped me see that being a woman is more than just biology, that I am specifically made by God in female form and that my identity as a woman is important to God.”
“My specific transformation had to do with viewing my voice as strength. Our voice is a sentimental part of who we are, as it vocalizes our heart’s concerns and joys. For so many years, my voice had been silenced by hidden physical and verbal abuse. But, I spoke up and it made a difference in my life.”
“Through Woman, I learned I can only be who I was created to be. I have no other options. Being uniquely me is risky, and yet a risk worth taking; one that apart from Jesus, I could not take.”
The Book of Womanhood is not just for those who participate in the Rite of Passage, however. It is for women everywhere who ask identity questions, especially in various life-transitions, as one reader wrote:
“When I was a young woman, it was normal to take time to contemplate my purpose and explore my identity. As years advanced, however, bad habits and wrong thinking went unchecked; I found myself trapped in ruts, feeling discouraged and uninspired.This is why Davis Abdallah’s book, The Book of Womanhood, is so important for women of all ages. For me, being middle-aged, her book reminded me how to reexamine myself, relish my femininity and beauty, and evaluate God’s work in and through me. Davis Abdallah’s book celebrates what it means for me to be a woman with my unique personality, vibrant emotions, intelligence, loyalties, concerns, physical capabilities, and creative offerings. Here is a book that does not place more restraints, parameters and expectations on women, but sets us free and encourages us to embrace who we are becoming as we follow a loving and empowering God.”
Find more testimonials to transformation here.
An Invitation to a Journey
Are you like me? Have you wondered about your identity as a woman? Are you a man who wants to encourage transformation in the women you love? Though I address women below, this book is also helpful for Christian fathers, husbands, brothers, and friends.
I invite you to a journey of transformation. It’s a journey you’re already on, though you may not know it. It’s the journey of womanhood, a journey that continues throughout this life. We are all at different spots on the journey, and yet we can journey together.
With discussion questions at the end of each chapter, The Book of Womanhood helps us share the journey. It’s meant to be read and discussed with friends, or used as a resource for families, churches, and colleges. In this world of varied messages about womanhood, The Book of Womanhood creates a path through the confusion to God’s purposes.
Don’t worry—this not another box to fit yourself into. It’s the story of the journey, containing bits and pieces of the stories that make my life and my womanhood and bits and pieces of my friends’ and students’ stories, too. Mostly, it’s a guide that helps us understand ourselves as women, using the framework of relationship with God, self, others and creation.
It’s a flexible framework. Its purpose is to inspire you to think, not to tell you to change yourself to please others. In fact, as you read, I hope that you realize being a woman is simply figuring out how to fully be yourself, not fulfilling some kind of “womanly role.” I’m a Woman, and my Church Didn’t Know What To Do With That Click To Tweet
May The Book of Womanhood help answer your identity questions.
May it encourage and empower you to be fully yourself.
May Holy Spirit Fire restore the Divine Image in you, woman of God!