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Book Jacket

0310263905
Jacketed Hardcover
240 pages
Sep 2005
Zondervan

Lost Women of the Bible: Finding Strength & Significance through Their Stories

by Carolyn Custis James

Review  |   Author Bio  |  Read an Excerpt

Excerpt:

A Forgotten Legacy —

Eve

She lost the woman God created her to be.

The last time I saw my grandmother, she was a thin shadow of her former self. My daughter was only a few months old, and more than anything I wanted my grandmother to see and hold her great-granddaughter before time ran out on us. I got my wish one afternoon during a visit to the Northwest when my mother drove us to the nursing home. I didn’t allow myself to dwell on the fact that neither my grandmother nor Allison would remember this historic meeting that meant so much to me, but the moment I saw my grandmother’s blank gaze and sagging form, there was no denying it. The fun-loving, intelligent, energetic woman I had known and admired all my life was nowhere to be seen. In her place a feeble, worn-out body slouched in a wheelchair along¬side several other wheelchair-bound individuals in varying stages of decline. It broke my heart to see her so altered. Yet even in her frail and failing condition, the presence of a baby energized her and brought a glimmer (just the slightest) of the woman I

voice as she extended her trembling hands. “Bring him here. We’ll take care of him.”remembered. “It’s a baby! It’s a baby!” she cried in a weak raspy

Anyone who tried to reconstruct my grandmother from the shell that was left at the last, or who searched for clues to the legacy she passed down to her daughters and granddaughters in this final version of her, would be setting themselves up for failure. The penetrating blue eyes that caused my grandfather’s knees to buckle, that devoured countless books including all the classics and just about everything C. S. Lewis ever wrote, that read to her children and made loving books a family tradition were now clouded over by macular degeneration. There was no trace of the beloved teacher of God’s Word, who nurtured and influenced so many young women in the faith, not the least of whom were her own two daughters. Her well-worn Bible lay undisturbed on the table beside her bed. The vibrant woman I remembered — the woman God created her to be — was lost somewhere in a fallen, aging body that was no longer hospitable to her marvelous spirit.

The last time anyone saw Eve, she was only a shell of her for¬mer self too, a broken-down version of the woman God created her to be. The original Eve was lost in Paradise. Sadly, instead of remembering her in those earlier glory days, the world’s memory of her was frozen in time at the worst possible moment — back in the Garden of Eden just as she swallowed a piece of forbidden fruit and served some to her husband. John Milton, the great English poet, couldn’t get that image of Eve out of his mind.

Her rash hand in evil hour

Forth reaching to the fruit, she pluck’d, she eat:

Earth felt the wound, and Nature from her seat

Sighing through all her works gave signs of woe

That all was lost.

— JOHN MILTON, PARADISE LOST

A bite of fruit, and everyone forgot God’s stunning sixth-day assessment: “It is not good for the man to be alone” (Genesis 2:18). We forgot the woman he created as the perfect remedy for man’s lack. From the vantage point of hindsight, perhaps the man would have been better off without her, considering the damage she had done. Even Adam seemed to think so when he blamed her for his actions. “The woman you put here with me — she gave me some fruit from the tree, and I ate it” (Genesis 3:12).

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 of the world’s first poetry. Even if she lived the rest of her life like Mother Teresa, 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 rank and rebel against God. 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.

THE TROUBLE WITH EVE

We wouldn’t dream of doing to my grandmother what we per¬sist in doing to Eve. We forget what Eve was like in her prime and try to reconstruct her legacy from the broken remnants that remained of her at the end. What would be a simple injustice to my grandmother proves far more injurious where Eve is con¬cerned, simply because of her powerful influence over the rest of us, an influence that remains undiminished despite her terrible failure and our attempts to distance ourselves from her. As one writer put it, “There is no way to talk about women without talk¬ing about Eve.”1

God cast the mold for all women when he created Eve. She embodies the secrets of his original blueprint for us. So we rightly turn to her to understand who we are and to discover God’s

purposes for us. We see and evaluate ourselves, as well as the women in the Bible, through the definition we draw from her. Which makes Eve both powerful and dangerous. Mistakes with regard to our understanding of her are costly for everyone. Like the missile that launches only the slightest fraction off course, we will miss our ultimate target by light-years if we misinter¬pret Eve. Conversely, a better understanding of Eve as God cre¬ated her promises much-needed direction and ensures we have a true target in our sights. So before we attempt to understand any other women in the Bible, much less ourselves, we have impor¬tant groundwork to do with Eve, for she is the foundation of all that follows.

The trouble with Eve is that in the rush to evacuate Eden, we picked up the wrong pieces of her to tell us who we are. On the downside, we’re left with the impression of Eve as a temptress, which leads to the belief that women are morally weak and, if given the chance, will bring men down or seize control. This is a fallen view of women. On a more positive note, Eve is remem¬bered as wife and mother. Yet even this poses something of a problem. It means little girls must grow up before becoming what God created them to be. Moreover, it excludes women without husbands or children. Eve’s old legacy simply doesn’t fit us all.