Erickson writes of Motherhood in Honest Advent, exploring the impact of an image that was unfamiliar to me.
My first reaction to this drawing of Eve and Mary was resistance. Surprisingly powerful resistance.
Feelings of resistance are important spiritual indicators. When my response to some thing or some one or some idea or some image is anger, frustration, irritation, or just an emphatic “NO!”, it’s a sure signal that I need to pay attention.
When I looked at this image, my first reaction was a big, fat “NO.” It made me mad.
I considered this odd emotion for a while, trying to figure out why a representative image of two women, important in the historical understanding of my faith tradition, would make me so mad.
It didn’t take long for the connections to come. It’s all about Eve.
Actually, not so much about Eve, the woman, but about how Eve was used as a teaching tool in a certain era of my theological history. Specifically, the idea that Eve represented the weakness of all women, as she fell under the spell of the evil snake and ate the apple that resulted in the fall of all mankind. My recollection from a few years sitting under a very fundamentalist Southern Baptist preacher includes a foundational premise that women need correcting and corralling by men, and that Eve started it all. I recall a definitive line being drawn from Eve to me, as a female who was prone to sin and necessarily requiring oversight by a man – not just a husband, but all men.
The Genesis story is forearmed with teeth that can bite and injure, in the hands of those who wish to use it to subjugate.
This chapter of Honest Advent talks about motherhood, but all I can think about is the pain and humiliation and frustration of a community that never let me forget that I was insufficient and unequal, because of my gender. I’d like to tell you that I’m past all of that – I live in a markedly different environment now – in my internal understanding, in my marriage and most important relationships, and in my faith community. But resistance doesn’t lie: I struggled to see past my own baggage today.
Sitting with this mess of emotions, I experienced a small awakening, filled with grace. The truth is, the Genesis story of Adam and Eve does zero in on a weakness that is, perhaps, my most onerous vice: Pride. And if I give space to that knowledge, without judgement, it makes room for the gift of all that Mary represents. Erickson writes:
…Immanuel means “God with us”…and this divine Gift comes to us through one of us, into the womb of a blessed and humble teenage woman, and honors and dignifies the sacrificial and (w)hol(l)y involved life of being a mom.Scott Erickson, Honest Advent
A redemption story is woven throughout ALL of the text that informs my Christian faith. Resistance pushes me to unclench my fists and see the connection between Eve and Mary as perhaps a reclamation of what the Creator intended, all along. Pregnancy, childbirth, motherhood – it’s all messy, an unrelenting and all-powerful agent of humility. I’ve often said that my own children were the necessary vehicle that (mostly) kicked my self-centeredness to the curb.
I think it will be good for me to sit with this image for a bit, and see what other walls might need to come down.