A Brief Theology of Periods (Yes, really)

Periods, probably not the topic you would expect a man to read about and review a book on. You probably won’t hear periods being mentioned in sermons or church services that often. I’d never heard it spoken about in church until a few months ago my allocated sermon text was Leviticus 11-15. That was fun. I must say that when I saw this new book by Rachel Jones, A Brief Theology of Periods (Yes, really), I wasn’t planning on reading it. But I’m glad I did.

I’ll confess from the very beginning that I picked up this book with very little knowledge about a woman’s menstrual cycle. It’s not something that I was taught about growing up and it’s not something that I’ve looked into. So, for that reason I found bits of this book fascinating.

Jones starts by explaining what a period is and how it all happens. She then goes on to ask ‘why?’. A very valid question. Especially when you consider the stories (Jones sprinkles a few throughout the book) of women who have a horrific experience very regularly with their periods. I think that Jones poses a lot of good questions in this book and she offers a lot of biblical wisdom which impacts the topic of periods. But, the book doesn’t really unpack how a women’s menstrual cycle should point her to God.

I really enjoy Jones’ writing style. She is very conversational and light. You’ll find sarcasm, small side comments (potentially a wee dig at the ESV, which is funny), humour and a good bit of banter. But most importantly, Jones is pastoral in the way she approaches this topic. She expresses the difficulty and pain that many women suffer on a very regular basis and takes them to God’s Word for comfort.

One of the interesting things I found Jones mentioning was the feeling of shame that women can feel about their periods. Here’s what she says…

“The problem with periods is not just the pain. For many, it’s not even mainly about the pain. Think periods, and we think – we feel – shame.”

“Cultural taboos around periods lead to serious outcomes for women and girls around the world. A sense of embarrassment is what prevents many women from seeking medical help for gynaecological issues. Period shame leads teenagers in some countries to miss several days of school every month; in parts of India, as many as 20% of girls drop out of school altogether when they reach puberty. Even if our own shame manifests itself in less significant ways, we all know how it feels: terrible.”

On top of thinking through the pain and the shame that women can feel during their period, Jones also talks about the emotions and the hormonal aspects.

Throughout the book Jones takes the reader to the Bible to wrestle with some key texts. One such text is Leviticus 15. Having preached this passage not that long ago, I was glad to see Jones taking it head on and discussing some of the approaches to this particular text. Jones does a great job of helping the reader see the broader context of Leviticus and the impact that has on Leviticus 15 and the terms clean and unclean. Here’s one of her comments…

“We can’t make ourselves clean and stay clean by just trying harder. Maybe the point was to communicate to the Israelites that all the washing and all the sacrifices were just a temporary band-aid. A more radical solution was required.
These verses are also a reminder that no part of life is conducted beyond the gaze of a holy God. Even this most intimate part of a woman’s life – her period – is seen, anticipated and regulated.”

Jones also unpacks other passages, such as Mark 5 and more. There is also a helpful appendix which tackles 7 different questions about periods. The questions cover a wide range of topics from talking in church about periods and whether married couples should have sex during the wife’s period to pondering when periods started (pre or post-fall).

I think that this book could be helpful to many people. I enjoyed reading it and have definitely grown in my understanding of the menstrual cycle. This book isn’t only for women, it can help pastors, husbands, brothers, etc. be more sympathetic and understanding to their female relatives and friends. A Brief Theology of Periods (Yes, really), makes you think. All of your questions won’t be answered, but it is a helpful start to get you thinking at least. Go grab your copy here. If you read it I would like to hear your thoughts on it!

Rachel Jones is the author of A Brief Theology of Periods (Yes, Really), Is This It? and several books in the award-winning Five Things to Pray series, and an editor at The Good Book Company. She helps teach kids and serves on the mission core team at her church, Chessington Evangelical Church, in Surrey, UK.

*** I received this book from the publishers in exchange for an honest review. This does not change the way I rate the book, my views are my own. ***

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