I love this painting. Adam’s shrug. The snooty horse. The weird cupid heads… And of course, pale Eve.
October 6, 2008, 3: something in the morning, I am trying to do what mothers have done since, well, Eve.
I’m trying to have a baby.
It was all so different from what I thought it would be. Babies tend to trump that whole “not what I expected” thing across the board. I realize this now, but, as I recall, birthing plans were laughed at, time just seemed to groan, and pushing for what felt like four days was producing no baby. I’m not going to give you all the details, but let me clarify this:
I don’t like pain. I was allllll for the epidural. However, I must have ordered the half-price brand because my epidural only worked on half of me. And whatever half was left out, it was the wrong half. This was a very big problem. Ya’ll, I’m not brave. I can’t even go to the dentist without contacting my church’s prayer group and cancelling at least two times. Last time I did a yoga pose that caused a twinge I just simply downward dogged right to the floor and stayed there.
The whole birthing experience thing ended with me being raced down a hallway on a gurney, groaning like I was on my own ER episode except it WAS a real live emergency, and then bright lights and lots of shaking and a c-section that I think happened, right? I do have the scar to prove it. Well, it was a bit painful. (THIS IS PUTTING IT LIGHTLY. It’s like saying, “Bungee jumping? It’s concerning,” or something.)
Moms to be, I am sorry. It is painful. But worth it.
(Don’t you worry. It all worked out. I am now the proud owner of a bouncing five-year old.)
My theory is this: if pain occurs, there must be a culprit. It makes the pain more bearable, I guess, to pin it on someone. Y’all know where I’m going with this, don’t you?
This is all Eve’s fault.
Now, granted, on October 6, 2008, at four:something in the morning, I wasn’t going to delve into theological query about Eve’s culpability. I was too distracted by all the beeping and the way they kept making me roll from side to side like a peevish beached whale. But guess what? 18 months later, I found myself anticipating another little bundle of joy (we like to pack things close together in this family; we’re full throttle like that) and so I had a full nine months full of hormones, difficult sciatica, and searing heartburn from water (WATER) to ponder the unfairness.
Bedside table: Chapstick, glasses, lotion, notepad, and a good book
I’m posting today for Beacon Hill Press as an Off the Shelf Blogger. As so often happens in my life because I’m not very smart, and I think God has to send me object lessons really, really often, the book I chose has been a game changer for me.
Reclaiming Eve: The Identity and Calling of Women in the Kingdom of God by Suzanne Burden, Carla Sunberg, and Jamie Wright, set me straight. But kindly. I have to say, it was a book that reframed a lot of my thinking about my role here on this planet – and I am grateful. I had a “focus” problem with Eve, as do a lot of us. I tended to focus on Eve’s sin, and somehow, the book suggested, somehow that sin and that burden and that big messup – sorta was defining and weighing down my daily walk with God as well.
I really had no idea.
My “grudge” with Eve started when I first became a Christian, and thus I had to find another Christian to marry. I just had to. First of all:
1. If you are a Christian and you don’t get married and have kids – what good are you?
2. If you are a Christian and you don’t get married and have kids – what’s WRONG with you?
It only took me EIGHT YEARS OF CONSTANT LOOKING before I “found” my sweetheart. I do realize that whether or not I had found him is not really the point here, and that God’s plan needs to be in play in my life. The book kinda talks about that. A lot. But my gosh, I really lost sight of that at times when I was single. The FEAR of being alone – it was dizzying. Sorta like bungee jumping.
But I digress.
My grudge really solidified when I became what all the neighbor kids call me: “RedandBlonde’sMom?” (Always with a “?” on the end, and you moms know why. Mothers rarely get to just have conversation. 87% of our verbal utterances is answering requests and questions. We’re like Google, only we also make snacks. It’s our thing.)
I had these kids, and I found myself at home, not teaching, not working, with my entire day planned and molded around these two small whimsical tornadoes, and I lost… me. And yes, I do see the irony now about how I thought I wasn’t “teaching” or “working” anymore. This whole Mom thing is the biggest teaching gig ever, however underpaid. At least I’m union.
Suzanne Burden digs deeper into this: “… I realized that for many if not most of us, it is Eve’s sin that defines her. Those irrevocable moments when she sought wisdom apart from God. If only she hadn’t listened to the serpent. If only she hadn’t pursued her own self-importance (me: gulp). If only she hadn’t eaten the fruit. If only Adam had stopped her. If only.
Here’s the difficult truth: Eve’s disobedience colors the way we feel about ourselves as women, even when we don’t admit it. I’ll say it again another way. The way you feel about Eve reflects the way you feel about yourself. If Eve is dangerous, you are dangerous. If Eve is gullible, you may be gullible too. If Eve is inferior, then surely something about women in general is simply not up to par.
So tell me, what’s a girl to do with the problem of Eve?”
This chapter goes on to explain that we have largely put Eve in pause mode – forever stuck on that dreadful moment with the serpent and the scratchy fig leaves and the most painful thing of all – separation from our Father. Burden suggests we need to go on and “press the play button, unfreezing Grandmother Eve.” And then, it occurred to me, I have Eve in a very tidily labelled box: “Selfish.” And the hardest part was accepting that “Selfish” was… also me. Being selfish and being a mom are contrary and just plain painful. Those little ones came along and my universe became very crowded. Marriage had shown me a couple of key lessons about selfishness vs. service. But, babies? Babies asked me to get my Ph.D in selflessness, and then start my own school with open enrollment. Not easy.
Reclaiming Eve outlines a view of Eve that helps us see her (and thus, ourselves) as the “ezer” we can be. An “ezer” means “helper” in Hebrew, and as you recall, it’s in that famous verse, “It is not good for man to be alone. I will make a helper for him” (Genesis 2:8) from which “ezer” is taken. Here’s the best part: “ezer” translates to “strong power.”
In chapters such as, “Identity” and “Alliance” and “Sisterhood” and “Wholeness” we learn about overcoming and healing and love. And I learned, very quickly, that I needed to pray about all this. I told God I was sorry – because lately, I think, I had become a rather Eeyore, NOT “ezer” version of Eve in my household. “Oh, Ok… don’t worry about me… I’ll clean that up and do all this over here too… that’s what life is like as a Mom… let me walk trudge about and sigh a lot…” You get the idea.
It wasn’t a happy house.
I’m working on a “StrongPower” me. I am a wife, and a mom, and a sister, and a writer, and a runner. But first? A woman. A child of God. And Eve was my Grandmomma. This family line was not random – God worked it all out for a reason. So I best pay attention and, as an “ezer” truly restore myself to God’s image of me. As Carla Sunberg stated in the epilogue:
“It seems that for far too long God’s ezers have been like the light that has been hidden. In Matthew 5:15 Jesus said, “Neither do people light a lamp and put it under a bowl. Instead they put it on its stand, and it gives light to everyone in the house.” We as women are God’s light and we are to be set free to shine the message of hope and freedom into the world.”
Claiming God’s identity is not putting on a mantle of weight and obligation and heaviness. It’s a freedom and release to be His. Some day, Eve and I are going to sit down over a tall glass of sweet tea (of which there will be an unlimited amount) and she might say, “You know? I am forgiven. I am loved. I was the very first picture of grace.”
It’s a beautiful painting. And we’re all in it, together.
Adam and Eve by Domenichino courtesy of the Web Art Gallery
Poissy, Women in a Garden by Maximilien Luce courtesy of the Web Art Gallery