by Jodi Hiser
I am a self-proclaimed book nerd. I gush over good literature. My husband makes fun of my TBR (to-be-read) pile that continues to grow on my nightstand. There are so many books and so little time!
Every book nerd needs someone to share in their literature experiences— a bosom friend, as Anne of Green Gables would say. That is why, when my dearest bosom-book friend sent me a new title, I sat up and took notice. In a text she wrote to me: “This is my favorite nonfiction book. I would love for you to read it. I really hope you like it!”
Of course I was intrigued. But when I saw the title and the subject matter, I sighed with dread.
Eve in Exile by Rebekah Merkle is a book on biblical femininity. My sighs came from past experiences of too many book clubs with too many books on femininity, with all the same results of my walking away feeling like I would never measure up. My clothing wasn’t feminine enough. My house wasn’t meticulously clean or organized enough. My personality wasn’t submissive enough. My cooking wasn’t elaborate and healthy enough.
I admit I didn’t want to read it. But, out of a great love for my bosom-book friend, I decided to open up the pages and give it a whirl. And boy, am I glad that I did.
Eve in Exile shares a mission, the gospel mission, given to all women. As we know, the gospel is the good news in the truth of Jesus Christ that exists in His perfect life, His substitutionary death, His glorious resurrection, and His ascension into heaven. It is the power of salvation for all who believe. The gospel mission, therefore, is defined as being witnesses of this good news and sharing it with others.
Rebekah Merkle’s thesis is that the success of the gospel mission depends on men and women fulfilling the roles in which God has designed for them. Women have a unique role in this gospel mission. We as women are His witnesses. And our home is our mission field.
The book begins by uncovering two categories of distraction, leading Christian women away from their ultimate mission. These chapters identify mistakes that women have made out of response to the world. Next, the book takes a walk through history, teaching us how feminism has shaped our culture, and even how it has infiltrated the thinking and teaching of the church. Lastly, Merkle reminds women of our design and God’s call for us to subdue, fill, help, and glorify. Merkle proclaims that these principles bring abundant fulfillment, far more than any other womanly adventure on this planet.
Eve in Exile has encouraged me in two ways. Firstly, this book reminded me of my unique purpose as a woman. Merkle encourages women to understand that we were created to run like a racehorse. Biblical femininity is not about asking women to be hollow housekeepers and perfect decorations, such as the quintessential housewife of the 1950’s. We were created to work hard and to run hard. But the ways and directions in which we run are essential to the fulfillment that we seek.
As she teaches this concept, Rebekah Merkle walks through several scriptures, showing us the biblical view of a woman’s identity. Through scripture, Merkle teaches that women are not inferior. On the contrary, women are the glory of the glory of God. Women bring fruitfulness and beauty. God’s purpose in Eve’s design wasn’t to create an inferior sidekick to Adam. God made her to be an equal. As equals, women are called to carry out the gospel mission in a role that is distinctly different from that of men. And when we do this well, we bring the potency of Christ’s message by being the harmony, beauty, and glory.
Secondly, this book reminded me that the home is a place of nobility. The home is not a brainless duty that wastes a woman’s gifts and talents. On the contrary, the management of a home requires intelligence, education, and skill. The home is a place of dignity and great purpose. It centers around the people God has given to each individual woman. Our hearts should be aimed at and circled around those people.
Realistically speaking, it’s not a secret that this job of showing Christ in tangible ways is difficult. It is easy to be overcome with distraction or discouraged with the amount of self-sacrifice it requires. It is a job that doesn’t receive praise or accolades from the world. And yet, it is a position of great worth. As Rebekah Merkle so eloquently states:
“Our job is to make holiness beautiful, to make it taste. We draw people to the truth by showing the beauty of life in Christ, and in real, actual, tangible ways…Righteous women preach the truth, but in parable, metaphor, incarnate poetry. What pastors explain with words, women sing with hot food, with wine, with welcoming homes, with love and joy that spills out into everything they touch and that draws people irresistibly to the truth that is being embodied.”(page 167)
Some think that the idea of women managing the home is an archaic concept. Others say that Merkle’s principles are too patriarchal, focusing on glorifying men, and commanding women to be subservient. I disagree with this. Merkle’s concepts elevate the woman’s worth in the gospel mission and augment her job in the home from being despised to honored. This book reminds women of their God-given intelligence and gifts that He has given to nourish and encourage others. If we could put aside our culture, and only use the scripture to evaluate this book, we would see that Merkle’s principles are absolutely biblical.
Some say that while Merkle is biblical, she is too militant in her tone. After reading this several times, I would argue that she presents a tone that is bold, but not militant. We live in such an era where our culture is so upside down and inside out that our days and circumstances are dire. As the Apostle Jude wrote in his epistle, it is necessary to contend for the faith in the midst of a world that perverts the grace of God. Our culture takes wrong and trumpets it as right. Right is declared as wrong. We live in desolate times, and our world needs Jesus more than ever. Merkle’s tone is justifiable in that she recognizes the urgency of transformation needed for our culture, and desperately calls women to stand up and do their part.
Eve in Exile has been a feast of truth that has left me with much to ponder. This book has stamped me with renewed understanding of who God created me to be, the purposes He has for my life, and the honor of translating the gospel mission outward to the people whom I have been given. It has also created an opportunity for me to reflect and pray over the beautiful principles of subduing, filling, helping, and glorifying.
Merkle makes the point that women are born translators. Therefore, it is our job to take these principles and translate them for our own individual lives. We all share the same calling, but the ways in which we fulfill that calling will be different, as each of us lives in a different season with unique circumstances. Some of us are young, and some are seasoned with age. Some of us are married, and some are called to be single. Some of us are parents to physical children, and some are called to disciple spiritual children. We all have different people that God has placed in our sphere of care. As you read for yourselves, deep questions will emerge:
~Who are the people God has placed in my life for me to bless?
~How can I take the gifts and talents that God has given me and use them to bless my people?
~As in the parable of the talents, how can I invest in my people in such a way that I turn a profit?
~How can I bring beauty, glory, and fruitfulness to my home?
When I gathered with my bosom-book friend for an afternoon of lunch and literature, we talked about the encouragement we both received from this book. Throughout our conversation, my heart had the overwhelming feeling that no matter the stage and season of life, Eve in Exile can apply to every woman. The principles are universal; they are adaptable to our unique circumstances that God has given us. And for those who feel that the calling of Biblical womanhood is too vast and too great and too hard, Rebekah Merkle encourages us not to despise the small things, “for in the logic of the gospel,” she says,”it is the small things that turn out to be the greatest.” (page 197)
Even in these small things for our home and for our people, we can transform culture one living room at a time. With every act of faithfulness that we as women can achieve, whether it is feeding the mouth of a hungry toddler or feeding the mouth of an aging parent, we have been given the task of this gospel mission. Let us, as women, reclaim our roles in the home as a place of nobility and beauty, turning holiness into tangible beauty. After all, as Rebekah Merkle claims, “Our jobs are poetry.”