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 Avenged

Woman utters seven words, which declare, “I have been stripped of my dignity, worth, and power by this, my enemy.” Woman confesses her sin and laid her shame bare before the Lord.

No one in history has been more distressed than Woman that day. Why? Because Woman lost everything. In order to lose everything, one must first have everything. Until that moment, Woman had never experienced anything beyond perfect harmony, capability, and utter satisfaction.

If you consider her purpose as in-the-nick-of-time helper, Woman’s sin was ultimately a mis-application of her God-given position and power. I don’t know about you, but nothing wrenches my soul like hurting someone I’m supposed to help.

Woman’s confession was not a beggarly excuse from someone who is weak and incapable. It’s a plea for understanding from the only One who could fathom the depth of her sorrow and loss.

What an invitation. Without hesitation, God confronts Woman’s Enemy and defends her with breath-taking accuracy. He declares a blood feud between Woman and Satan. And He pronounces Satan’s ultimate destruction.

If that sounds unimpressive to you, think back to the last time God declared something. “Let there be light” had immediate and comprehensive effect (Gen. 1:3).

Have you ever wondered why it seems that Satan has it out for you personally? Why he just won’t leave you alone? Satan is fighting so hard because he is a cornered, wounded animal whose doom has been pronounced. He has lost. His time is running out. He knows it. And you are an echo of the original Woman.

God’s vengeance encompasses the enemy that Woman knows about (Mr. Snake) as well as the enemy of creation itself (Satan). You know who else it encompasses? Woman’s faithless husband, Adam.

God reclaims all the dignity that Woman lost to her three accusers. He corroborates her claim of being cheated (Gen. 3:14), letting all three know that God is not deceived by any of them.

He lays no blame on the Woman (Gen. 3:16-17), despite laying blame both on the serpent (Gen. 3:14) and Adam (Gen. 3:17). God declares Woman the conduit for Satan’s destruction through her descendant, Jesus Christ (Gen. 3:15).

Then God returns to Woman the dignity of life-giver (Gen. 3:16) and describes the desire she will always have to return to perfect unity of relationship with her children and her husband (Gen. 3:16).

After God’s thorough defense of Woman, including His pronouncement of Adam’s sin and consequences, Adam repents and reclaims his wife. He names her Chavvah, which means life-giver. He gives her a name that describes her vengeance from God. Every time someone hears it, they will be reminded of the time God Almighty defended her. Talk about being clothed in dignity!

Eve’s vengeance is complete. She, Adam, Mr. Snake, Satan and God all know it. But Eve is still in danger from two quarters. She and Adam:

  • Ate the forbidden fruit, which demands death as payment (Gen. 1:17), and
  • Might eat the fruit from the Tree of Life, which gives eternal life (Gen. 3:22).

God addresses the first threat by appeasing the requirement with a substitute—an animal whose blood mitigates Adam and Eve’s guilt and whose skin covers them from the now-difficult terrain and temperatures of Earth (Gen. 3:21). Why did He bother? Due to the nature of God’s vengeance for Eve, she cannot die childless. He clothed her to facilitate her continued life and vengeance.

God addresses the second threat by sending Adam and Eve out of the Garden and setting a cherubim guard over the Tree of Life (Gen. 3:22-24). Why? Up until now, the Tree wasn’t forbidden, but since Adam and Eve are now vulnerable to the warring options and desires of good and evil, God protected them from bearing the weight of sin for all time.

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.

“You could make this all go away!”– Emery

What do you do when you know that God can but you don’t know if God will?

Or where is God when good things happen to bad people and bad things happen to good people?

If you look back through your life, I’m sure there are many shadows that defy a good, solid “Look at what God has done” proclamations. There sure are in mine.

Those are the moments that we kinda shuffle from our memories and avoid bringing up in conversations, particularly with unbelievers.

In fact, that is probably why we all dread that moment when darkness envelopes a friend, coworker, family member, or acquaintance with tragedy or depression.

Because we Christians, the ones who believe in a loving, all-powerful God are confronted through our friend’s grief with our own doubt: can God really be good if he allows these horrendous circumstances?

My life has been far from shiny. There are rusted, rotted, rank moments, days, weeks, even years where the easy answer that God is good rings just a bit hollow.

Many days I spend asking God why, if he loves me so much, he doesn’t get off his butt and help me.

In fact, this week has been another such moment where life, calling, and God’s character are not adding up. Then I read Isaiah 50.

In Isaiah 50, God’s prophet details his troubles. Abuse is a good word for the treatment Isaiah suffered at the hands of God’s own people (does that resonate with anyone else who has spent time around the Church and been burned, or is that just me?).

Here is a man who was the mouthpiece of God for years. That would have to be a pretty intimate relationship between God and Isaiah.

And yet Isaiah struggled with abuse, depression, death threats, and suicidal thoughts.

Why didn’t God take that away? Based on what he proclaimed and worked through Isaiah, it wasn’t an issue of impotence. But God didn’t take those things away.

Here’s what Isaiah says in the midst of abuse:

  • “But the Lord God helps me; therefore I have not been disgraced,” (Isaiah 50:7, ESV),
  • “Behold, the Lord God helps me” (Isaiah 50:9, ESV), and finally,
  • “Let him who walks in darkness and has no light trust in the name of the Lord and rely on his God” (Isaiah 50:10, ESV).

There are many other instances where Isaiah’s attitude was a bit more bleak. The comfort there is that we know that even a prophet of God can droop under the weight of divine purpose on a profane planet.

The book of Isaiah offers us an intimate view of God in the midst of darkness, both internal and external. It proclaims the faithfulness of God even when the circumstances don’t make sense.

We will never know all of what God is doing and all of who God is. If we could, what would be the point of faith?

But we can trust that no matter how dark our days get, the Lord our God is right there with us, watching our steps, picking us up when we fall, and beating back more enemies than we would be comfortable knowing are out there watching our steps.

There is no easy answer in our dark days. But there is a God who invites us to cry out, shake our fists, and ask the hard questions. He is not threatened by our confusion and doubt.

This week has been dark for me. But I’m choosing to believe that God is actively working in my favor, doing things on my behalf that would stagger me with the force of his love if only I knew.

I may never know the whys behind my dark days, but I can know the God who is bigger than the dark days.

Song credit goes to Emery’s “The Less You Say,” from You Were Never Alone.

Sunshine Through the Darkness

Life is not very kind.

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Have you noticed that? I certainly have. Particularly lately. God has been walking me back through the scrapes, miseries, and heartaches in my life.

Some of the scrapes were my own sin bringing me to my knees, but much of it smacked me sideways when I felt most safe and secure. Not wanting to relive those memories, I asked God why I had to remember such heart-sore times. After a few more weeks of memories, this was my answer:

God is reminding me of His faithfulness to me.

Many people assume that Christianity is the “EASY” button. That Christ somehow makes everything easier and smoother as soon as you sign up. That certainly has not been my experience. The more I press into my relationship with Christ, the more difficult my life seems to get.

In fact, Jesus straight-up tells us “In the world you will have tribulation” (John 16:33, ESV). Sounds like fun, right? Not only did Jesus tell us, he walked painful, blistered steps through temptation, deprivation, torture and death that most of us could not conceive.

The apostle Paul reinforces this theology of suffering like this:

“Yes, and all who desire to live godly in Christ Jesus will suffer persecution” (2 Timothy 3:12) and “But you be watchful in all things, endure afflictions, do the work of an evangelist, fulfill your ministry” (2 Timothy 4:5).

design-1162241_1280We daughters of the King were not called to luxury and ease in this lifetime. We were called to suffer. Why?

Phillip Keller answers that question this way:

“I know of nothing which so stimulates my faith in my Heavenly Father as to look back and reflect on His faithfulness to me in every crisis and every chilling circumstance of life” (80).

Let’s return to John 16:33. “In the world you will have tribulation. But take heart; I have overcome the world” (John 16:33, ESV, emphasis mine).

Jesus came to walk through our suffering and temptations. He came to die. But make no mistake, the cross was not the end. Jesus came to die so that he could live.

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If Jesus had stayed dead, there would be no gospel. He would have succumbed to the ultimate consequence of sin: eternal separation from God with a side order of death.

Jesus came be resurrected. By coming back to life, Jesus defeated death and sin for all people who would call on his name. Because he came back to life, our suffering has purpose. It has meaning.

No matter how much you suffer, Jesus has suffered more in your place. He has himself borne the sting of death so we won’t have to.

Yes, we still suffer. Living in a fallen world, hostile to our Father, we should expect to experience suffering.

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But there is beauty in our suffering because of the goodness of our God. Our suffering can bring us into more intimate knowledge of our God than we could ever achieve without it.

Suffering allows you to see your all-powerful Creator God step into your suffering and walk through it carrying you, his Beloved.

Jesus experiences your torment with you. He shields you from the brunt of your suffering. He carries you when you’re too weak to walk.

What an intimate knowledge of our God! You and I get to experience the peace and presence of God. Our suffering provides the opportunity to proclaim with confidence that

“My God will hear me…. [W]hen I fall, I shall rise; when I sit in darkness, the Lord will be a light to me” (Micah 7:7-8).

How else will we be confident in God’s presence and peace until we have experienced it?

None of the suffering you experience has not been endured by Jesus. What’s more, no measure of suffering you experience do you experience alone.

Even in the bleakest darkness, our God is faithful.

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.
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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.

What’s So Threatening?

I often wonder what would happen if I just became. If I stopped trying to be or act like any- and everyone else and truly accepted me. Of course when people ask what I’d change about myself, I say I’m pretty happy with myself. Which is true– isn’t it?

My husband once took 24 days to hike the Colorado Trail (approximately 500 miles, with all the variations on the trail that he threw in for himself) from Denver to Durango. By himself. Straight through. He talks about how those 24 days were a microcosm of life and all he had was himself— to enjoy, confront, wrestle, and embrace. As he starts the story I find myself nodding and dreaming of doing the same. The some hidden, dragonish speck of my brain whispers that it’s just me. Alone. With myself. And immediately, the rest of my brain scuttles into houses, closets, under beds, bolts the doors, shutters the windows and nary a curtain waves in the breeze.

What is so terrible about me?! Some– not all– people like me. Several even love me! My husband– poor soul– knew many of my flaws and still chose to be my life buddy. If he can choose me for (hopefully) 50+ years, why do I run from the thought of myself for 24 days?

But lately, my question has shifted from “what’s wrong with me” to “what is so threatening about me?” Why the shift? I believe that there is a battle raging in the universe– impacting even the most mundane grocery run– I believe that we have a Creator who made each person, mountain, stream, raindrop, frog, flower, bug, cat, dog, and– yes– woman with a purpose of glory, meaning, impact, and beauty.

The battle started when the Enemy– he’s not my personal archenemy but God’s– decided he wanted to be the Creator. He wanted to be as beautiful, holy, worshipped, necessary, omnipotent, good, and beloved as the Creator was.

Does this sound familiar, ladies? It should. I’m convinced our catty comparisons and jealousies are an echo of this supernatural quarrel. So you can guess that happened next. That’s right. The enemy carefully and oh so casually went to the Creator’s most beloved friends and started a rumor. And just like that, relationships and reality unraveled just as the Enemy intended.

You may be wondering how this fits in with womanhood, but stick with me. It’s coming up. The unseen(ish) war between Creator and Enemy is conducted in the lives and interactions of the Creator’s children. The Creator has never given up on us and has gone to Hell and back to restore us to Him. So, if we are the Creator’s beloved, what will the Enemy attack? The beloved.