We were Eve once – unashamed of our bodies and ourselves. Eve is not the enemy. We grow closer to our Savior by remembering when we were Eve
I received a copy of Colleen Mitchell’s When We Were Eve in exchange for a review. All opinions are my own. This post contains affiliate links. Please see my disclosure policy for details.
It had been on the chilly side of mild when we finally left the house. The air by the creek was a different story, though. It was raw, and I pulled the sides of my cardigan closer to my chest.
I watched as she stood on the shore opposite me, her muddy boots close to the water’s edge.
“Stay out of the creek, kiddo. It’s too cold to go wading.”
“Okay, mom. I just have to do something real quick.”
My irritation simmered. Her siblings had climbed the hill behind me and were heading up the wooded trail. The wind blew; I dreamed of my coat back in the hall closet.
Be patient, I shivered and whispered. I had time to let this play out.
She crouched down; a 7-year-old knee poked through a hole in her jeans. Her steady hand reached out and touched the surface of the water.
The wind grew still.
A bird sounded in the foliage.
My daughter’s reflection rippled outward in the creek.
A second later she was beside me – she had flown across the stepping stones with practiced ease. She was beaming, satisfied with what she’d seen in her reflection.
Please, don’t ever lose that, baby, I whispered. Don’t let go of your Eve.
The Story of the Downfall
The day my father died, I was 27. I was 5’6” and weighed 120.
My husband swears he could see my ribs just above my waistline, but I don’t remember that. I remember being frustrated with all the food the neighbors brought us.
I couldn’t lose 10 more pounds eating lasagna and mac and cheese.
Eleven years; three children. Some therapy. A blue pill I take every day. It’s gotten better, but quite often there’s a lovely stream of consciousness.
You’re worthless and a failure. You have only yourself to blame.
I haven’t talked about the complex calculations I make before I put food in my mouth.
I haven’t mentioned the tape measure I keep in the jewelry box top drawer.
I haven’t told you about the jeans I keep hidden in my closet – the ones I’ll never fit into but remain a brutal reminder of the time I was so thin I thought I was fat.
And yet – I am not fat now.
I am not a failure.
My body is not flawed. It is not broken, beaten, or betrayed.
But like a million other women, I question the beauty of His creation.
I stand alone on a shore just east of Eden, wondering who I was when I was Eve.
Rediscovering When We Were Eve
Eve. The first woman, the first cause of sour sorrow, right? I’ve always harbored a sort of resentment toward her, this mysterious creature who was too weak, too gullible to hold on and preserve and believe and trust in the goodness He’s given us.
Sure, the serpent was clever. He knew exactly the right words to ask to plant doubt. But come on, lady. You’re face to face with a talking animal WHO IS NOT YOUR CREATOR.
You’re going to believe him? You’re going to do what he says?
I held on to this frustration for a long time – years, actually. Until one day, I began to question what I’d taught myself to believe. It started with this image, and then the words I finally listened to, “Oh, happy fault!”
I’m sorry – come again? You were saying?
Surely, that couldn’t have meant my nemesis, Eve.
Well, it did. I mean it does – and there are plenty of other places I found it, too. Like this passage from the Catechism which quotes St. Gregory of Nyssa:
“Sick, our nature demanded to be healed; fallen, to be raised up; dead, to rise again. We had lost the possession of the good; it was necessary to bring us the light; captives, we awaited a Savior; prisoners, help; slaves, a liberator. Are these things minor or insignificant? Did they not move God to descend to human nature and visit it, since humanity was in so miserable and unhappy a state?” (457)
Adam and Eve – Eve, really – played a valuable role in our salvation. It was something I had never considered before. I began to wonder if perhaps I shouldn’t be so dismissive or even angry.
Enter Colleen Mitchell and her latest title, When We Were Eve.
In When We Were Eve, Catholic author and speaker Colleen Mitchell takes us to Eden and back. In its walls we discover the paradise God created – we find the first woman, the ultimate act of His creation:
the being He fashioned though He’d already created the stars and the sea:
“God looked at the world he had created, teeming with life, stars flung across the heavens, every bird and bug and animal in its most glorious state, the rivers and mountains and valleys and seas, and man – perfect in his reflection of the image of God – he looked at all of that, and saw that it was incomplete, that something was still missing. Before the Lord of the universe could sit back and rest, knowing his creative work was done, he longed for one more thing – he longed to bring woman to life.”
Mitchell builds on this premise through the entirety of When We Were Eve, sharing her own story and those of nine other women as they learned to embrace the perfect femininity of our first Earthly mother. In gentle, straightforward prose nestled in a heart not for themselves but for the true benefit of other women, Mitchell and her contributors share the truth and the beauty of womanhood unfettered by the chains of shame. Mitchell herself presents a clear argument for Eve’s role in our salvation, one in which our beauty, our wholeness, our perfect place in God’s creation is not negated by the shame of the Fall but instead propelled forward in a fountain of mercy and love.
Eve is not the enemy
She is the ultimate version of ourselves, unashamed and grateful for the perfection of our womanhood, wholly dependent on His grace – freely given – helping us to move forward when we are bogged down in sin.
What strikes me most about Mitchell’s work here is the wisdom in its pages, in line with Scripture and the words of the saints. Her words mirror those of Isaiah 55 in that we will not return to him empty; rather, we will accomplish the purpose we have been sent for and will prosper. As Mitchell tells us, we were created to cultivate grace.
And then, there is the truth from St. Catherine of Siena, noting what God desires of our souls:
“You know that to join two things together there must be nothing between them or there cannot be a perfect fusion. Now realize that this is how God wants our soul to be, without any selfish love of ourselves or of others in between, just as God loves us without anything in between.”
What are we letting in between us, ladies?
Mother Teresa wrote that “when you know how much God is in love with you, then you can only live your life radiating that love.”
This, my sisters, is what Eve did, not in spite of her mistakes, but because of them.
Maybe it’s time to remember where we came from, to remember who we were when we were Eve.