Echoes of Eve

When you think of a Christian woman, what do you think of? Personally, I think of anything and everything I’m not (which can mean a lot of different things depending on my mood).

What we should be expecting and seeing in the Church, however, are women who are assured that they are defended by the Creator who molded them for a specific purpose that only they can carry out. Because that is exactly who and what we are—beloved, purposed, empowered, and defended.

What I see instead are women who are afraid to tell their stories because they

  • Don’t have it “all together,”
  • Believe their sin is worse than anyone else’s,
  • Expect that they truly are unloveable,
  • Carry overwhelming shame,
  • Know their image is only skin-deep,
  • Can’t keep their house, children, husband, cars, clothes, and dishes in perfect order and happiness,
  • Ache with loneliness for someone to love and be loved by,
  • Feel unnecessary, unimportant, overweight, ugly, too much, too little, too smart, too dumb, not enough and certainly not defended.

Satan has distorted Eve’s story so that all we see are short-comings, doom, and a wrathful God. Historically, western society seems to expect women to suddenly strip naked and offer random people apples, seducing the world into sin and moral depravity. We ourselves suspect that we are less than the woman next to us, aren’t what we should be, and can’t offer anything worthwhile until we “get it together.”

And when we don’t pull off perfection, we expect God: the Old Testament Tyrant to judge us, then smite us for the tiniest mistake. And if he doesn’t punish us sufficiently, we take on the job and replay our mistakes, shames, and failures over and over again until we are incapacitated by our worthlessness.

What a victory for our enemy.

But I have news for you. God made you perfectly you. Utterly capable to achieve the good purpose He created you for (Eph. 2:10). You are an echo of Eve: life-giver, nick-of-time-helper, relationship-inviter, and enemy to Satan.

No matter the availability to evil and consequences of life after the Fall, no matter your mistakes or screw-ups, you are created in the image of God and you have dignity. But you also have an enemy. This enemy wants you shackled, shamed, and utterly deceived about your true role, power, and dignity. You’ll be no threat to him then.

Eve’s power came from accepting her role and identity as prescribed by God. Her extraordinary defense occurred because of her humility and honesty before God. I suspect that I am not the only woman who has been deceived, mocked, cheated, and shamed in my lifetime. We are no longer perfect beings living in a perfect world. That is not our role or identity on this earth. Our role as women is to stand before God and invite Him to defend us and reclaim our dignity, worth, and power.

Eve’s story guarantees that He will.

Eve: Facing the Music

Paradise—freedom, intimacy, contentment, soul-filling work without sweat or toil, as well as unity between man and woman, animals and earth, humanity and earth, creation and Creator. Even the temperature’s so perfect that nudity is not only an option, but lovely, comfortable, and slimming.

Then suddenly, with one bite, nudity is embarrassing. Intimacy is no longer comfortable and welcome. Schisms form in a marriage formerly composed of respect and nick-of-time coordination.

Two details that we need to understand at this point are 1) Adam and Woman have never had trust issues before and 2) Woman does not know Satan exists. Neither has she any reason to despise or fear snakes.

So back to the Tree. What’s so bad about knowing good v. bad? The Hebrew word for knowledge in this verse connotes an openness or experience (“Damah”). An availability to both good and evil. Whereas creation was protected from evil and provided good, there is now a leak and creation is doomed to experience both.

Similarly, Adam and Woman now experienced the duality of their form—spirit (Gen. 2:7b) and dust (Gen. 2:7a)—in contrast to the utter holiness of God. No wonder they reached for the nearest fig leaf. Now they knew there was an otherness, a separateness between themselves and God, but also between each other.

Enter God, stage right. He, as the all-knowing Creator, is not surprised at this shift. But rather than descending in power and accusation, He continues in the pattern of their relationship, inviting them to join Him for a walk (Gen. 3:8). When they do not appear, He calls to them (Gen. 3:9).

Imagine what would have happened if Adam and Woman had broken cover and run to Him, spilling out their fear and shame and confusion. That’s what God is inviting them to do. Instead, they hid and He drew them out.

When questioned by God, Adam does not take responsibility for his choice. He accuses God of dooming paradise by creating Woman. Remember, Woman was once perfect, made to match, help, and save Adam from the not-good-ness of being alone.

This is the first time something false has been spoken over Woman’s identity. You know how that feels because you’ve grown up in a fallen and false world full of sin. Imagine the sheer pain, shame, terror, and aloneness Woman felt. For the first time.

Her purpose and calling just rejected her in the presence of the Creator who could obliterate her with a word.

For those of you who consider the God of the Old Testament to be overly trigger-happy in the fire and brimstone department, let this sink in: instead of speaking Woman out of creation, God asks for her side of the story.

Her answer is surprisingly simple: “The serpent deceived me, and I ate” (Gen. 3:13). Unlike Adam’s answer, Woman conveys the facts of the situation: she was deceived and she chose to disobey.

The word she chose to use was hathal (“Hathal”). It means to deride, cheat, or mock (“Deceived”). Her confession isn’t simply an admission of her own guilt; it was an admission of what she lost at the hands of the serpent.

Think about it: when you’re bamboozled, even in fun, you feel smaller, stupid. Depending on the scam, people lose time, a bit of money, or everything. But no matter what size scam, there’s a little piece of you that feels less capable, intelligent, and powerful than it did before you were cheated.

That’s what Woman is describing. She’s not denying her choice. But she’s also telling the full, behind-the-scenes story. And guess what?

Woman had the ear of the Creator God who designed her to embody power and dignity. And Satan had just messed with her.

 

Strong, James. “Damah.” The New Strong’s Complete Dictionary of Bible Words. Thomas Nelson Publishers, 1996. Print.

— “Deceived.” The New Strong’s Complete Dictionary of Bible Words. Thomas Nelson Publishers, 1996. Print.

— “Hathal.” The New Strong’s Complete Dictionary of Bible Words. Thomas Nelson Publishers, 1996. Print.

Eve: Stripped, Mocked, and Shamed

For the last two weeks, we saw that Woman was innocent, perfect, and powerful. She was fully known to herself, her husband, and her God. Woman had no reason to fear the corners and undercurrents of her heart, mind, or soul. She had absolutely nothing to hide and no trust issues.

We have finally arrived at Genesis 3 and it’s going to take some time to set up the context. Here are some details to consider:

  • Both Trees (Life and Knowledge of Good and Evil) were placed at the center of the Garden (Gen. 2:9)
  • Adam was tasked with filling, subduing, the earth; ruling all living things (Gen. 1:28); and managing the Garden (Gen. 2:15).
  • Most commentaries suggest that the command not to eat of The Tree of the Knowledge of Good and Evil was given from God to Adam (Gen. 2:15-17). Then Adam passed it on to Woman.
  • Satan is too smooth to use a startling, scary method of temptation, therefore, it’s possible that animals (or at least snakes) originally spoke.
  • Adam was nearby when Woman was being tempted (Gen. 3:6).

Keep these details in mind while we dive into Genesis 3:1.

Let’s set the scene: Woman, ezer, and Adam, steward, were in the center of the garden near the two trees—The Tree of Life and The Tree of the Knowledge of Good and Evil. This does not necessarily mean that they were flirting with temptation; as the gardeners and stewards, both man and woman had the right and responsibility to tend to all that lived.

Many expect Woman to be seeking trouble that day, but she didn’t have to look for it. It is entirely possible that Woman was simply caught up in Satan’s hidden agenda. In my opinion, Satan tempted Woman while she was operating in her gifting and calling. He engaged her in what must have been a fairly benign (from Woman’s standpoint) conversation.

God told Adam that he could eat freely of any tree in the Garden, except one, otherwise he would die (Gen. 2:16-17). Satan, however, exaggerated the limitation, excluded the consequences, and suggested a gap in the provision of God (Gen. 3:1).

Woman acknowledges God’s provision, but adds a little caveat to the original command: she says that she can’t even touch the fruit or she’ll die (Gen. 3:3).

Who knows whether Adam or Woman added that little hedge of protection around God’s command? Most religions start off with the same kind of innocent bumper for sin. But here’s the problem: God will not provide the consequence to a command he never gave.

When Woman touches the fruit in Gen. 3:6, nothing happens. Suddenly, there’s the possibility that God is lying.

But I’m getting ahead of myself. There’s one more detail I’d like to point out. If we can assume that Woman was fulfilling her calling and gifting to help Adam in his responsibilities, then what Mr. Snake suggests next is crucial.

He says that the fruit will grant wisdom (Gen. 3:5). The Hebrew word used here is saw-kal, which means to have skill, understand, and guide (Strong 535). Remember, if Woman wasn’t willfully eyeing this fruit, then she was performing her job—to be the in-the-nick-of-time help for Adam— and what better tool could she use than wisdom?

Next, Woman double-checks her information. She knew God created the fruit and trees in the Garden to be pleasing to the eyes and good to eat (Gen. 2:8). So she examined the fruit and found it pleasant to the eye and good to eat (3:6). It appeared to align with what God had planned, just as Satan knew it would.

I’m not saying that Woman is the victim and isn’t responsible for her choice. Ultimately, she chose to believe Satan and disobey God. But what I’m seeing here is a pattern that the Enemy has used on me over and over again.

What I’m seeing is a tailor-made trap to strip Woman of her God, her power, and her dignity.

 

Strong, James. “Sakal.” The New Strong’s Complete Dictionary of Bible Words, Thomas Nelson, 1996, pp. 535.

The Eternal Bubble Bath: Sabbath

Yesterday, I practiced my first Sabbath.

This may seem silly since we all have Sundays, but I’m currently working my way through Priscilla Shirer’s Breathe with my women’s Bible study. Granted, we only started it last Wednesday, but it has been dovetailing perfectly with the promptings and yearnings in my own spirit for the last year.

Did you know that Sabbath actually means to experience “tranquility, serenity, peace and repose” (Ibid qtd. Shirer 15)?

And that when God rested on the seventh day and made it holy, He was expressing satisfaction (Shirer 15)?

Over the last year, God has patiently been walking me baby step by baby step towards Sabbath. It’s taken me a year to sort through many of my identity issues (not fix, mind you, but at least they’re labeled and organized).

Since writing this blog forced me to walk through some warfare and shifts in perspective on my context (the war zone we live in and the romance of Christ), I’ve begun to think differently. I’ve become uncomfortable, even discontent in my life of apathy, guilt, and insecurity.

In order to deal with some of this mess, God and I retreated last Fall. What did we discuss?

My home décor.

It sounds absurd, but God knew that what I had allowed into my house and the furniture and knick-knacks I arranged did not suit the home my husband and I wanted to share. It wasn’t the home God wanted us to invite people into. It was directly contrary to the purpose He has for us: deliberate, Christ-centered conversation.

Having in an unexpected rush moved into a new home several weeks ago, Fritz and I automatically saw it as an opportunity to rid ourselves of clutter and confusion. Our home now matches the purpose and style God showed me five months ago.

What does this have to do with Sabbath, you ask?

Well.

How many of you come across a new spiritual revelation and immediately start lists, schedules, and plans to implement that revelation and fail almost immediately? In case you didn’t notice, both my hands are up.

Sabbath is about rest.

Repose.

Tranquility.

That can’t be muscled into your life. And, if you’re anything like me, it can’t be thought into your life either because your brain is caught in a hamster wheel.

The beauty of this last year is that God, knowing that Sabbath would be a big part of my spring, began last summer to rewrite my thinking and identity so that instead of charging in and taking control of Sabbath (which defeats the purpose of tranquility), I’d ease into Sabbath like a warm bath.

Will there be relapses? That, friend, is what grace is for.

However, yesterday, I allowed God to set up my Sabbath and I’m celebrating by sharing what it was:

Sabbath is looking back through your life and seeing all the hundred thousand ways God has blessed you. All the dreams He fulfilled without you noticing. All the struggles you’ve overcome by His power. All the goals you’ve accomplished and never celebrated.

On my Sabbath, I looked and saw a God who loves me and blesses me without measure.

Shirer, Priscilla. Breathe: Making Room for Sabbath. 2nd ed. LifeWay Press. 2014.

Confused, Alone, and Discouraged

Once we believe that Jesus is the Son of God who came to save us,  we stumble through a little prayer, then are pronounced Christians.

A Bible is dropped in our laps, we’re told to go to church, and be “Christians.” And that is the extent of our education.

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But what about those of us who actually have a sense of humor or– God forbid– adventure? Or life is so busy we can barely breathe much less devote an hour to read and try to understand the Bible?

Or we fall asleep praying because, let’s face it, talking to the ceiling just ain’t what it’s cracked up to be? Or the unthinkable happens and God doesn’t answer our prayer? 

Everyone else seems to get it and look great but here you are drowning with a good Christian smile on your face?

Or you have a fantastic walk with the Lord but you’re alone, lonely, discouraged, and wondering what in the world is so unlovable about you?

I’ve been there.

And there is hope. Do you know why I’m sitting here writing this? Dragging my little black moleskin and Bic pen up mountains, into deserts, across state lines, to work, into my backyard, and to bed with me?

Because I’ve been there. And one thing that the church, bless its little heart, is doing wrong is allowing its women to drown in insecurity, anxiety, and despair.

We have not been equipped to be Christians. We have not be equipped to be warriors. And we certainly have not been equipped to be women.

That is why I’m writing this blog. I am done watching women like me drown in churches with smiles on their faces and broken hearts stuffed up their sleeves.

I am not an expert, but God has led me through more swamps and dark places than I care to remember most days. And he has taught me a few things.

I want to share what I’ve learned. Hopefully it will help you. And hopefully it will help you avoid some of the traps I’ve stumbled into.

For now, just know that God really does love you. He has never left you. And he never will.

 

Broken and Enslaved

I am no match for Satan and neither are you.

The power of God which raised Jesus from the dead is more than a match for Satan. So, again, how is it that I am a threat? Because God freely gave me that power (Eph. 1:19-20).

No, I’m not God’s super-secret, superhuman weapon dressed in black leather and armed with nasty little toys to take down the Enemy.

God gives all his believers power to defeat Satan. That’s part of the deal.

Then why aren’t all Christians attacked? They are. Look at our churches. At your neighbors. Our Christian brothers and sisters are asleep! It’s as though they stumbled onto the Island of the Lotus Eaters, ate the flowers, and forgotten their homes, identity, and mission.

So maybe I should say they’ve been captured and put in POW camps. From what I see, they are so used to it, they no longer want the sunshine.
jail-451447_1280

Most of us American Christians never knew that there was a battle raging for our minds and hearts. If we did know, we stopped using the power God gave us because

A) there are so many distractions in life, and

B) there are so many distractions in life.

In the Church in Nicaragua, however, warfare and Body maintenance are taken very seriously. To become a member of a local church, a person must successfully complete the two-year trial period!

What is the trial? Prioritizing the Body over everything else. That means that when a mission trip comes up, you are available. A person needs a place to stay, your home is theirs. If work conflicts with a church service, you go to church.

Can you imagine doing that? I can’t either. However, there is a woman there who so desires to be part of the church that she has gone through several jobs because the church takes precedence. And God has provided every time.

When I think of my life and my commitment to church, I think of a two hours on Sunday and three hours on Wednesday night. With occasional “vacation” from the rigors of church attendance.

Sure, I help out when someone needs a meal. If I have time and can juggle my schedule.

Church is not my number-one, prepare my heart all week, apply the message to my life, and fight for and serve the Body every day, no matter the consequences, focus of my life.

There are too many other shiny things that distract me– like snuggly, warm covers on a cold morning; grading that extra stack of papers; attempting to tame my jungle out back; going on a breakfast date with my husband; going to see a students’ football game; grocery shopping; or laundry.

None of these things are inherently bad (well, maybe laundry…). However, and here’s where the POW American Church comes in, when my to do list and hobbies become my priority over my God and his Body, I have just handed Satan my free will, stepped into the dungeon, and chained myself to a wall.

Suddenly, I am so anxious, harried, focused, exhausted, and driven that my heart and mind are no longer 100% surrendered to my Lord. In fact, most of the time we wander or rush through life not even hearing our Lord. To be perfectly blunt, most Christians look exactly like Non-Christians.

So maybe you’re right. Christians aren’t being attacked. They’ve been overcome. Maybe because they’re too busy being Americans to live like Christians. Or, maybe it’s because they aren’t actually Christians.

Becoming a Warrior

I’m starting to suspect that we women, especially if we have a relationship with the Creator and His Son and truly grasp that we are the crown of creation (Genesis 1 and 2) and Beloved, we are one of the biggest threats to the Enemy’s plans.

Women have an enormous capacity for passion and action. During times of struggle or terror, if you get a women invested in the cause, she’s going to be a force to be reckoned with.

I am not saying that the feminine is all-powerful. I am saying that God created women for a divine purpose. And it wasn’t just to shop and eat cookie dough and make doilies. Nor was it to dominate men.

When we women finally lay down our rights and trust in the God who made us– unique, fierce, intelligent, and beautiful– when we believe that He has only good for us and choose to walk in obedience, that is when we become a threat. 

I don’t want to be collateral damage. I want to be a warrior. I don’t want to be a victim anymore, but a soldier with a life that matters. With a purpose and a King to fight for.

The moment I truly decided to take strategic, defensive and offensive action in obedience to my God, the Enemy attacked.

I am not sitting at home, enjoying a nice cup of tea and writing something theoretical on this blog. I’m sitting in a corner, praying for my husband, and wondering what is going to happen in the next ten minutes.

I’m in the middle of a battle right now, fighting for my husband, my life, and my marriage. And I have been all summer. Why? Because, by the grace and power of my Lord Jesus Christ, I have joined the ranks of Christian soldiers who threaten Satan’s survival.

Wait…Who’s a Threat?

The Enemy does all he can to separate us from the Creator’s love and open arms. So, my question shifted from “what’s wrong with me” to “what’s threatening about me” when I realized that one-half of the Creator’s children (i.e. women/feminine) is so profoundly exhausted, harried, lost, unprotected, fearful, and hardened. In a word: war-torn.

If I’m considering taking someone or something out, I will attack on of three things: 1) the weakest point, 2) the most beloved, or 3) the biggest threat. It’s simple logic! I’m not going to attack the bigger, more capable enemy, I’m going to either remove the biggest tactical advantage or damage the most meaningful thing or person to my enemy. Countless movies and books are written and sold out based on this premise.

My worldview proclaims that as humans, we are vulnerable because of our separation from our Creator.

Automatically, as fallen human beings, we are weak and generally unaware that we’re being slavered over by a vicious, ruthless, unseen enemy. Satan can attack us with impunity because we don’t even know we need a defense, much less how to go about setting one up!

If, however, we enjoy the re-connection with our Creator, then we have access to secure, foolproof defense and devastating offensive weapons that allow us to live in confidence, peace, and bad-ass security.

How does that work? It comes back to the fact that you are loved. God is so passionately and dizzyingly in love with you, He made a way for you to move from defenseless and broken to defended and whole. No wonder the Enemy doesn’t want us reconnecting with God! It’s easy to win a battle against broken, hopeless, defenseless people who don’t know a battle is raging. But through God’s miraculous love, you and I become very dangerous.

Welcome to the War Tent…

When you think of a woman, what comes to mind? Perhaps it’s an anatomical answer. Or an age answer or a female in a suit and heels, calling the shots or a mother with a husband, children, committees, and a house to run? What about a Christian woman? Or—possibly even worse—a “Proverbs 31 Woman”?

Whatever your mental image, I can bet that it is a) vague and b) not you. Don’t worry; it’s not me either. Womanhood is a vague, intimidating, just-this-side-of-dangerous concept. Can you feel it? The uncertainty, longing, disgust, and despair creeping up on you?

That is because womanhood is a dangerous topic that makes everyone just a little bit uneasy. Why? Because a woman unleashed is an awfully powerful thing.

You know Mother Nature? Mama Bear? “If Mama ain’t happy, ain’t nobody happy”? Humanity and creation both recognize the feminine as a wildly powerful, ravishingly beautiful, intensely untamable force.

So. Do you feel that way? I don’t. Not most of the time. At my best, I’m perky. At my worst, I’m annoying. But fierce? Powerful? Frightening? Me? Hardly.

So what happened to me—to us? Remember those poems about sorceresses, druids, shield maidens, and women so fiercely inspiring, nations rose and fell? I don’t know about you, but that’s not the woman I see blinking in the mirror at 6:30 in the morning. In fact, if I’m honest, I don’t even see a woman. I see a girl.

Depending on your worldview, the fact that women are encouraged to out-do men at being men– tackling the business world and domestic world simultaneously, while also walking the tightrope of gorgeous but not slutty, trim not flabby, makeup but not too much, feminine but not doormat– or encouraged to be stay at home moms without any other options might tell you a bit about the nature of womanhood.

Depending on who you are, those options may imply a progressive world where women can be who and what they want. Or you might think we still have a long way to go. Or even that we’ve fallen into an immoral society that entices women away from real work: raising and rearing children.

My worldview tells me that regardless of your particular perspective, femininity, and womanhood are under attack.

I’ve never once met a woman (including myself, by the way) who is content with her lot in life, much less who she is. Women in love with their careers are haggard from the necessity to out-pace men otherwise they’ll lose their hard-earned respect or position. Mothers who dote on their children and husbands are frazzled, unfulfilled, and insecure in whether or not they’re enough.

Women are overloaded, underfed (emotionally, physically, spiritually, psychologically), overwhelmed, under-appreciated, and constantly trying to be more, feel more, do more, talk less, look this way, be that person, take on the world, never miss a beat, and look fantastic doing it all.

Do you see what I see? Look. Really look. Society demands that woman do. So? If women spend their entire lives juggling their lives when will they ever have the chance to be? Be women?

Women aren’t machines but we the world sure expect us to act like it. Think back to the inspiring beauty, the windswept sorceress of poems, history, and fiction. Did they seem frazzled? Distracted? Too busy? Perfect? No.

That image was inspired by real women. I want to be that woman. I desperately want to be fierce, passionate, vibrant, and a force to be reckoned with. I’m tired of being attacked and torn to bits. My worldview tells me there is a way for me to be that woman. That, in fact, I was created specifically for that purpose.

Do you want to be that woman? Or, if you think that’s a bit far-fetched, at least make it through the day feeling like you aren’t a failure? You’ve come to the right tent, my friend. Step right in and we’ll get our makeovers started together.