Tuesday, July 13, 2010

one of my favorite series!

I am re-posting parts 1-3 of the Daughters of Eve series and added part 4 so we can read them in order. It has been a year since I first posted part 1! Wow!



RE-POSTED: Daughters of Eve: Part One (Delicate)

In checking the results of my poll question, I see that the majority of you are choosing the same topic I chose as the most interesting one in a book about women: spirituality and Torah. I don’t know yet exactly how I am going to expound upon that topic, but I thought it best to explore the women who are in the Torah and discover what we can learn from them. What better place to start than the beginning: Bereshit (Genesis) and with the first woman: Eve.

Our ancestor Eve has a pretty bad reputation, doesn’t she? For many (including Adam!), the entire blame for sin entering the world lies on her shoulders because she was first to eat the forbidden fruit. At best, she has been deemed a weak woman who was deceived by the serpent, added to G-d’s words in saying that they were never to touch the fruit (the first “fence” around the Torah, which was not necessarily a bad idea), and took her husband down with her by giving him the fruit to eat also. But how often do we get a glimpse of Eve as she was created to be, before the fall? If women are to understand what G-d’s purpose for creating women in the first place, shouldn’t we look to her? Well, I have found a couple of authors who have really opened my eyes to the reality that we do need to look at Eve as she was when G-d created her. Yes, she sinned (and so have we), but she was G-d’s first female. Her reputation needs to be redeemed, and in doing so, perhaps our view of womanhood will be also.

The first aspect of Eve we will explore is what she unveils about a woman’s heart and her design. “A woman’s struggle with her sense of worth points to something glorious she was designed to be” (quoted from the book Captivating by John & Stasi Eldredge. If you have not read this book, I recommend it!) Think carefully about that statement. Do you ever feel like you’re not living up to what you were created to be? Do you or have you ever struggled with low self worth or self-esteem? I don’t know many women who could honestly answer no to these questions. (I’ve seen an article in a parenting magazine that polled moms on which gender is harder to raise: boys or girls. The results were that girls were easier to raise on every subject except those pertaining to self-esteem. In that area, girls were harder.) It seems that women are queens and princesses somehow ripped away from their kingdoms and domains. We always feel like there is something we’re missing, something we desire but do not have. As the authors put it, “the desire of a woman’s heart and the realities of a woman’s life seem an ocean apart.” This would explain why little girls love fairy tales, love dressing up like princesses…why big girls daydream and keep diaries….why women read romance novels… There’s just something missing. Maybe Eve can help us find it…because she had it…

Something we overlook in the creation account is that Eve was the last creature created, not because she was an afterthought, but because she was the crescendo. She was needed to make the picture complete. Perhaps G-d had Adam wait for her creation so that he would appreciate her all the more when she appeared on the scene. Adam needed to understand that she was taken from him because he needed her. As the Scripture says, “It is not good for man to be alone.” (Genesis 2:18) We often take that to say that men should get married, but here it is saying that the world was not a good creation without a woman: it was incomplete. As we see here, a woman cannot complete (fulfill) a man and vice versa. It was G-d who did the completing, for Adam slept through the creation of Eve! Single women should not feel incomplete (as I will mention later) because G-d is the ultimate source of fulfillment. And He fulfilled His creation mission by creating Eve. I love this next quote (let’s do it!): “Step to a window, ladies, if you can. Better still, find some place with a view. Look out across the earth and say to yourselves, ‘The whole, vast world is incomplete without me. Creation reached its zenith in me.’”(Captivating, p.25) Did you do it? Good. Let’s continue.

We long to be better women, to do more, to love more, to ______ more (you fill in the blank), but we need to understand why we long. We long because we were created to be a holy, loving, beautiful, strong, delicate creature who had a deep and personal relationship with G-d, who walked with her Creator in a Paradise Garden, who had no shame to be naked with her husband, who was the Mother of all the living (hence her name, Chavah), who was co-ruling and subduing the earth, who was commissioned to be fruitful and multiply, who was the perfect image bearer of G-d’s “feminine” qualities…. and we’re not quite there right now, are we? We long because it is G-d’s way of reminding us that we will never be there until we are with Him and know Him as He is… as Eve knew Him…

All women should be able to relate to Eve, as she was the epitome of what a woman was designed to be. In being created in G-d’s image, she possessed His characteristics, especially those that are said to be “feminine” because they are oftentimes more evident in women: compassion, vulnerability, the ability to comfort, tenderness, affection, mercy, desire for relationship, etc. As I wrote about already in “Hide-n-Seek,” women desire to be pursued because G-d desires to be pursued. Women are often G-d’s helping hands, hugging arms, gentle words, and compassionate tears on earth. Writing this makes me want to know more about Eve, makes me love her for who she was…makes me love myself for who I am…I actually look forward to meeting her someday. I have many questions to ask her…but they won’t be accusatory or sarcastic, not anymore. As I will share in the next entry, she was actually trying to do the right thing…

RE-POSTED: Daughters of Eve: Part Two (Bold)

I had no idea that I would have so much to say about Eve, but I am enjoying every minute of it! Moving on, there is a second aspect of Eve that needs to be dealt with: her strength. I stumbled upon another book at the library (yes, at storytime!) called “Lost Women of the Bible: Finding strength and significance through their stories” by Carolyn Custis James. I have only made it through her section on Eve, but I’m hooked!

James sums up Eve’s “lostness” beautifully: “Eve’s role as instigator in the debacle blotted out the wonder and significance of her creation out of Adam’s side, along with Adam’s rapturous delight in her. Rarely does anyone recall her as the sole inspiration for the world’s first poetry. Even if she lived the rest of her life like Mother Theresa, the world can never forgive what she did to us in Eden. There’s no talk of amnesty for the first human being to break the rank and rebel against G-d. No chance we will forget the “rash hand” that reached for the fruit. A few swift movements and it was over. Eve got lost in Paradise—as lost as any woman has ever been. What she was in earlier times is only a dim and distant memory.” As a woman who knows how it feels to be lost, I forgive her… what about you?

Eve, being the ancestor of all females, must have left a legacy that can pertain to all females: married and single, young and old, mothers and childless. We’ve already seen how studying Eve can show us the depths and desires of a woman’s heart. It was that longing that brought Eve to taste the fruit in the first place. As the serpent told her, the fruit would make her "like G-d" (Genesis 3:4). G-d had indeed said that He made them in His image (1:27), and as James suggests, "being like G-d was Eve's true calling as a woman. This was G-d's design for her. The passion of her heart was to be like G-d. The serpent couldn't possibly have offered her anything more desirable" (Lost Women, p.40). The real problem with Eve was that she failed to trust G-d and what He had told them, and she listened to a voice other than His. We can see ourselves here in Eve because we are often tempted by other voices, by our emotions, by our perception of things (Eve "saw that the tree was good for food and that it was a delight to the eyes" Gen. 3:6)) and we can understand why she ate it. Her intentions were good, but she failed miserably... as her husband, Adam, stood by aware of the falsity of the serpent's words (1 Tim. 2:14 informs us that he was not deceived) in silence, and then ate of the fruit also. We have to wonder what Adam was thinking. Was he thinking? Was he even paying attention? Was he distracted by her beauty? Did he not want to say no to her? The possibilities could go on and on, and if you're married, I think you understand where I'm going with this. An assertive, passionate woman and a silent, unattentive man do not go well together, and the result was catastrophic. We have so much to learn from this moment in history...

Eve was created to be Adam's " suitable helper" (Gen. 2:18), his ezer kenegdo in Hebrew. Various translations of the phrase are "helper, strong helper, companion, helpmeet", or as is mentioned in Captivating, "sustainer beside him" (p.31, credited to Robert Alter) or even "lifesaver" (p.32). As you may already know, elsewhere in Scripture this description is used of G-d. G-d is ezer in Deuteronomy 33:26, 29; Psalm 121:2, Psalm 20:2, Psalm 33:20, and Psalm 115:9-11 to name a few places. The world needs women just as someone in danger needs a lifesaver ("to do him good and not evil all the days of her life" Proverbs 31:12). Eve was called to be that, and we know that she failed in the garden. Nevertheless, the purpose for woman's creation remains. "The ezer is a warrior, and this has far reaching implications for women, not only in marraige, but in every relationship, season, and walk of life. G-d created Eve with a mission. The man was alone in the world-- the only one on earth who walked by faith. G-d was preparing to launch the most ambitious enterprise imaginable. The potential for overload, burnout, discouragement, and unbelief was enormous, worse considering the fierce opposition the Enemy was about to mount. Adam couldn't fight these battles alone. So G-d created the ezer as the man's staunchest ally in the life of faith and in fulfilling the Cultural Mandate. Together they exercised dominion to advance G-d's kingdom in their own hearts and on earth." (Lost Women, p.36) I couldn't have said it better myself. I don't know about you, but I needed to hear this. I'm sure I've heard something like it before, but there's something special about the way this author expresses it. I am an ezer, you are an ezer (if you're female), and there is an ezer sleeping in her crib now in the next room. We were called to stand beside men in every aspect of their lives. We are a team, a partnership, a blessed alliance. We learn from the creation of Eve that there are two callings that every female is born with: to be G-d's image bearer and to be an ezer.

As ezers, we are called to join the battle. Men are called to be our spiritual leaders, yes, but that gives us no excuse for sitting on the sidelines. We have to be "responsible to think, decide, and act in ways that honor G-d." (Lost Women, p. 39) There are times when we need to be bold and to initiate words or actions. We also need to encourage and support. We were created for these things.

My hope is that Eve's reputation has been redeemed somewhat by this study of her. There is still more to Eve that I will mention at another time. May she inspire us to be who G-d created us to be.

Be delicate. Be bold. Be a daughter of Eve.

RE-POSTED: Daughters of Eve: Part Three (Cursed)

I've already written about Eve before the fall with hopes of redeeming her reputation in Daughters of Eve Parts One & Two, but now with that done I thought it also necessary to write about her after that fateful day. After all, that day did change the future lives of all of Eve's daughters.

In Genesis 3:16, Eve receives her curse from the L-rd. He says, "I will greatly multiply your sorrow and your conception; in pain you shall bring forth children; your desire shall be for your husband, and He shall rule over you." In other translations, it says "increase your pain in childbirth" so I'm not sure if the curse was to make childbirth painful, or just to make it more painful. If you think about it, it seems unlikely that it could be without any pain, but I do know women who attest to painless deliveries (and frankly, I would like to be one of them!). Regardless of exactly what it is saying here, childbirth has become a very painful experience and unfortunately, some of our modern day medical 'advances' make it more painful than it was meant to be, i.e. inducing labor, falsely stimulating contractions, and requiring a laboring woman to lie on her back in a hospital bed to name a few. The New King James translation above makes me think that this curse had more to do with than just labor and delivery. That would actually be fairly mild of G-d because most labors last about 12-24 hours, which is nothing in comparison to a woman's lifetime. The verse also mentions 'sorrow' and 'conception.' This coupled with the fact that I am a woman, I would venture to say that our curse involves our entire reproductive system. Not to be too graphic, but do you think that Eve would have had a menstrual cycle before the fall, living happily naked in the garden with her husband? I think not. Nor do I think that G-d created Eve barren, and biologically we know that in most cases at least, it is necessary to have a menstrual cycle in order to conceive a child. It is possible (as anything is with G-d) that Eve was able to conceive without this cycle. So does that mean that our monthly 'visitor' was part of the curse? I don't know (but I'm certainly willing to say yes because it sometimes feels like a curse, doesn't it?). Thanks to Eve (but I still forgive her), we have painful monthly cycles, difficulty conceiving or barrenness, complicated pregnancies, miscarriages, stillbirths, and pain in labor and delivery. It doesn't end here, however.

As commentator Matthew Henry suggests, "The sorrows of child-bearing are multiplied; for they include, not only the travailing throes, but the indispositions before (it is sorrow from the conception), and the nursing toils and vexations after; and after all, if the children prove wicked and foolish, they are, more than ever, the heaviness of her that bore them. Thus are the sorrows multiplied; as one grief is over, another succeeds in this world". In thinking about Eve's curse, this is where my mind went also. What about when the babies and children grow up? Through their disobedience, rebellion, and bad choices, their mothers continue to feel the consequences of the curse (G-d knows what I put my mother through during my teenage years!). Thus far, experiencing pregnancy, delivery, and the first ten months of my daughter's life, my potential for joy has increased drastically: so too my potential for sorrow. Any pain, physical or emotional, she has caused me is multiplied greatly because she is my child. As she develops a mind of her own, she is already discovering her power and her independence to make choices, like refusing to eat what is offered to her or continuing to do things that I tell her not to. And it is this point in her life that has brought me to continue this series on Eve because the curse is already being felt in my heart. Perhaps every young mother goes over these scenarios in their minds: how will I handle it when she starts to say 'no'?; what will I feel the first time she slams the door in my face or tells me "I hate you"?; will she be embarrassed by me?; will she make the same mistakes I did?; will she grow up to be a godly person? Of course, they are some of the milder side effects of the curse. I couldn't imagine the pain of losing a child or not being able to have biological children at all. I refuse to even get a dog now because I can't commit to caring for it as a member of the family. I have had dogs in the past that have passed away because I couldn't afford to take them to the vet or I was too busy for them. That pain is enough for me, but I'm sure it is nothing compared to losing a child. Imagine that one of your children takes the life of another of your children. Eve could tell us what that feels like. We don't hear much about her after Cain murders Abel in Scripture besides the account of her other children, but surely she dealt with the resulting pain for the rest of her life.

I'm not trying to be pessimistic (although this is a serious subject to deal with). By faith, I don't expect my little girl or any subsequent children of mine (B"H) to reject me, be rebellious, or grow up resisting the faith and values that I will work hard to instill in them. In this fallen world, it is a known fact that children cause their mothers a great deal of pain, and vice versa. I guess in my mind I am expecting the best, but trying to prepare myself for the worst. For now, I will just continue to enjoy my precious little gift who cannot really speak yet, and pray for HaShem's wisdom and guidance to bring her up to revere and love Him, and in turn revere and love me and my husband.

Unfortunately, the curse doesn't end here. If it did, it would only affect women of child-bearing age and mothers. It continues, "your desire shall be for your husband, and he shall rule over you. I've mentioned earlier that many believe this verse to be dealing with a woman's desire to be in control and to rule over her husband although G-d had given spiritual dominion to men. Henry sums it up like this: " If man had not sinned, he would always have ruled with wisdom and love; and, if the woman had not sinned, she would always have obeyed with humility and meekness; and then the dominion would have been no grievance: but our own sin and folly make our yoke heavy. If Eve had not eaten forbidden fruit herself, and tempted her husband to eat it, she would never have complained of her subjection; therefore it ought never to be complained of, though harsh; but sin must be complained of, that made it so. Those wives who not only despise and disobey their husbands, but domineer over them, do not consider that they not only violate a divine law, but thwart a divine sentence." In this sinful world, where two imperfect people get married, it is commonplace that a man will try to control (even abuse) every aspect of his wife's existence, and a woman will disrespect (even despise)and nag her husband to the point that he wished he didn't exist. If we are both submissive to G-d and His word, however, our marriages will not follow this pattern. I spoke about a woman's most dangerous weapon (her mouth) in my post, "Do you drip?" so I won't go into detail here. Suffice it to say that women sometimes feel a need to be in control of every situation, and this is most certainly a result of the fall. This aspect of the curse also seems to affect a limited amount of women: those who are married. What about the rest of womankind?

If you have not read parts one and two of Daughters of Eve, I invite you to read them now. There I speak of what Eve teaches us about all women: our longing to be loved, to be beautiful, to be accepted, to be pursued...
The curse of Eve affects us all as we strive to fill the voids and the holes in our hearts with anything other than our Creator himself. Without Him, we are lost and indeed continue to be cursed. But with Him, we are magnificently loved, fully accepted, exceptionally beautiful, and constantly pursued...

To be a mother, a wife, a follower of G-d: the sorrows will come, but the unspeakable joys make the journey well worth it.

Daughters of Eve: Part Four (Blessed)

After writing Part Three (Cursed), I realized that I could not end it there because I failed to mention a very important verse in Genesis. I also wanted to end on a very positive note (if this in indeed the end of Eve's series!) So once more, I am peeling away the layers of our mother, ancestor, and model: Eve.

Although G-d is speaking to the serpent in Genesis 3:15, Eve is mentioned. Here, G-d says, "And I will put enmity between you and the woman, and between your seed and her Seed; He shall bruise your head, and you shall bruise His heel." While I am not equipped to go into an in depth study of all aspects of this verse, I just want to focus on the woman's "seed". The word for "seed" in Scripture other places is used for "offspring," but it is usually directed at men's offspring because the same word is also used for 'semen.' That should make us think that this verse is unique. Eve apparently thought so, too. In Genesis 4:1, she gives birth to Seth and says, "I have acquired a man from the L-RD." She was obviously thrilled to have a son after what G-d had said concerning her "seed." In theology today, this is considered the first messianic prophecy concerning Yeshua. He would be the One who came into the world, being carried in the womb of his earthly mother, but with no earthly father to share His bloodline. He was "her seed."
As I wrote about in part three, Eve had her fair share of heartbreak as a mother. However, I would be overlooking a very important detail if I had failed to mention that one of her descendants would be the Messiah. We can count her blessed indeed! As a mother myself, I can say that my child has blessed me beyond words and she's not yet two years old! Our children have a place in our hearts like no one else. They often receive the best we have to offer... of love, of compassion, of tenderness and care. We long for them to be healthy, happy (sometimes to their detrement), and successful. We drown them with affection and strive to give them everything they could ever need (or want). We spoil them (just admit it, we do!) We love them like we love ourselves because they once were (and in our minds, always will be) a part of us. There is no love like the love that exists between a mother and her children. Knowing this, I am certain that Eve's children gave her as much (or more) joy than hardship.
Writing this series has given me a new and immeasurable respect and regard for Eve and her legacy. As we remember her, let's try not to be so harsh on her. After all, if placed in the same situation and under the same deceptive temptation, we would have probably done the same thing... Let us see her as she was created to be, as we were created to be. She was delicate, she was bold, she was cursed, and she was blessed... not much different than you and I. She was the first woman created in His image and likeness. Surely that is enough reason to honor her...