The following is a book excerpt from the introduction to the Manual for Women by Danielle Bean.
“Heaven better be real good,” a struggling friend once complained to me over the phone as a stomach virus raged through her busy household. “Not just a bunch of people standing around talking to each other, but real good. Do you know what I mean?”
For sure I did.
Life is a messy thing. Sometimes, in the midst of pain and sacrifice, all we want is some tangible assurance that our efforts will be rewarded. As we struggle through piles of bills and car repairs, rebellious teenagers and cranky bosses, and all manner of foul weather and human weakness, we would just like a little dose of heavenly perfection now and then. Is that too much to ask?
There were no stomach viruses in the Garden of Eden. There were no rashes, no bug bites, no burnt toast, no anxiety, no depression, no exhaustion, no unpleasant work, and no sin. There were none of the evils and annoyances, big and small, that we post-fall humans find ourselves contending with every day.
Can you even imagine such a place? Most of us can’t, because the world we are living in feels impossibly far away from paradise.
Do ever think about original sin and get just a little bit annoyed at Eve? I mean, Eve had it made. There she was in her very own paradise, freshly created, beautiful, and intelligent. Her husband adored her, she knew no hunger or weakness, she had the perfect body, and she was surrounded by perfection and beauty in a natural world God had made just for her and her beloved man.
Why did she have to go and mess it all up?
In fairness to Eve, though, we must also ask why we continue to mess it all up. It is an inevitable part of the human experience to find out just how messed up the world is, sometimes in deeply personal and painful ways. We see it in war, broken families, addiction, violence, and abuse. But we see it in subtler ways too — sometimes in our own pride or jealousy, or our own temptation toward anger, lust, or greed.
What We Are Made For
And yet those of us who believe not only in original sin but also in the redemptive power of God want to know and do God’s will in our lives. We want to fix the ways in which we and others are warped, wounded, and broken by sin. We want to be what God made us to be and calls us to be, despite our fallen nature. We want to take seriously the mission God calls us to.
But what might that be?
Ultimately, seeking to know who we are and what we are made for as women brings us back to the Garden of Eden. To know God’s plan for human beings, and in particular God’s plan for us as women, we must look to Eve, the first woman, and find out what we can learn from her story.
In the familiar story we read in the Old Testament book of Genesis, we first meet Eve, in all her perfection, when God creates her from one of Adam’s ribs. When Adam sees Eve for the first time, he is overcome by her beauty and perfection.
“This at last is bone of my bones and flesh of my flesh; she shall be called Woman, because she was taken out of Man.” Therefore a man leaves his father and his mother and cleaves to his wife, and they become one flesh (Gn 2:23–24).
Adam’s words of joy highlight the complementarity and connection between man and woman as God planned it and as it existed, in perfection, in our natural state. Woman is made for man; man is made for woman. The two become one. This beautiful description of the unity that God intends between the sexes is a popular reading at weddings. We like to be reminded that we were made good, we were made perfect, and we were made for one another. We like to remember God’s original plan.
But let’s read on. Because then sin creeps in — a less popular wedding reading, perhaps, but a real part of the story nonetheless. A serpent somehow enters the paradise Adam and Eve share, and he singles out Eve for temptation. We all know that God gave Adam and Eve all the fruit of the garden for eating except for the fruit of one tree, which he warned them not to eat from, lest they die.
Taking and Trusting
It is telling that the serpent does not tempt Eve by pointing out how delicious the fruit looks on the forbidden tree. Eve succumbs to a temptation that has little to do with the fruit itself. Instead, the serpent tempts her by suggesting that God is not to be trusted.
The woman said to the serpent, “We may eat of the fruit of the trees in the garden; but God said, ‘You shall not eat of the fruit of the tree which is in the midst of the garden, neither shall you touch it, lest you die.'”
But the serpent said to the woman, “You will not die. For God knows that when you eat of it your eyes will be opened, and you will be like God, knowing good and evil” (Gn 3:2–5).
You will not die.
The Father of Lies, in the form of a serpent, speaks the first of his lies to the first of humans. He paints a warped picture of a selfish God who is not to be trusted, a God who keeps good things only for himself.
Eve believes the lies. She believes, even if only for a moment, that God is not to be trusted. He will not provide good things. He is keeping good things from her, and so if she wants good things, she must take them for herself.
And have we not just described every sin? Every sin we might ever commit, or be tempted to commit, has little to do with the substance of the sin at the beginning. It begins with a lack of trust in God. We believe, even if only for a moment, Satan’s lie that God is not to be trusted. He will not provide good things. He is keeping them from us, and so if we want good things, we must take them for ourselves.
Prayer of Parents for Their Children
O Heavenly Father, I entrust my children to You. Be their God and Father. Mercifully supply whatever I lack through weakness or neglect. Strengthen them to overcome the corruptions of the world, to resist the temptations of evil, whether from within or without; and deliver them from the secret snares of the enemy. Pour Your grace into their hearts, and confirm and multiply in them the gifts of thy Holy Spirit, that they may daily grow in grace and in the knowledge of our Lord Jesus Christ; and so, faithfully serving You here, may come to rejoice hereafter; through the merits of the same Jesus Christ, who with thee and the Holy Spirit lives and reigns forever. Amen. (Manual for Women, p. 230, used with permission)
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Copyright 2020 Danielle Bean
This excerpt from Manual for Women is reprinted here with the kind permission of the publisher, TAN Books.