As a cofounder of Cruciform Press, I like to provide occasional updates on news and tell you about our most recent titles. I want to mention a book that came out earlier this year, Grace Is Free: One Woman’s Journey From Fundamentalism to Failure to Faith by Marci Preheim.
It’s natural to want to emulate those we look up to. This can be done biblically, as Paul said in 1 Corinthians 11:1, “Be imitators of me, as I am of Christ.” The danger comes when we lose sight of Christ and focus instead on outward actions.
Marci Preheim kept noticing this phenomenon among Christian women. She saw that in many churches, even those that are otherwise biblically faithful, the idea of a godly woman was a list of tasks rather than a heart attitude.
My whole life I’ve watched women fall into the same quagmire of conformity. I’m not talking about biblical conformity to the image of Christ, but conformity to an unwritten code of some elusive “godly woman” that doesn’t exist. Her dress, behavior, personality, and hobbies are subtly different in each church. But if her behavior becomes a code to live by, then she is a false gospel. This nonexistent woman robs us of intimacy with each other, condemns us as mothers and wives, and holds us in a prison of law that none of us can live up to. She is a form of godliness that denies the power of the true gospel in women’s lives. But she is widely preached as the standard of righteousness, which is why the godly woman must be redefined in our generation.
As the title indicates, this book draws from Preheim’s own story. As a young girl, her idea of a “good Christian” had nothing to do with grace and everything to do with appearances. But as a teen, she lost her desire to be seen as a good girl. She quit trying to keep up the charade and rejected Christianity completely. It wasn’t until her young adult years that she finally embraced the gift of grace.
But though Preheim chronicles much of her own spiritual journey, it’s more than just a memoir. Her experience in women’s ministry, both in the church and a women’s prison, gives her a deep well to draw from. It also helps her show how God’s grace is sufficient for all people from all walks of life.
Preheim then goes back to the basics. In other words, she starts with the gospel definition of a godly woman (a woman saved by grace through faith in Jesus Christ), and explores how that affects every area of a woman’s life. The gospel changes how she will handle sin, work, trials, friendship, marriage, and motherhood.
It’s sometimes hard for this type of book not to confuse celebrating grace with celebrating sin. Preheim does a good job emphasizing that though grace alone saves us, it also changes us: “Obedience is not the debate—we all agree that we must obey the Lord. But what exactly should we obey? This has become confusing because people have added their own rules—things God does not require—to the gospel.”
Preheim has a heart for women and a heart for the gospel. She found freedom in Christ, and she wants other women to experience that as well. This isn’t a new message, but a fresh celebration of an old one.