An (on and off) series begins. Reimagining, retelling and redeeming stories of RENEGADE women. Inviting RENEGADE conversations. Enjoy the first installment.
The Renegade ~
Eve. Her name elicits immediate reaction. Do you feel it? Pay attention. That spontaneous, summoned-up-from-somewhere-deep-inside response matters. It tells you something about the story you’ve been told as well as the story you are living – particularly as a woman. And as women, we need new stories – or at least new meaning from the old ones; new ways of understanding the old tales so that we can rewrite our own in redemptive, powerful, and renegade-like ways.
Storytelling reveals meaning without committing the error of defining it.
—Hannah Arendt, German Political Theorist
Eve’s story is the epitome of error – and harm: in fact, it has long since ceased being a story and instead has become defined meaning – now ascribed to all of us. Rather than narrative, setting, context, characters, dialogue, and emotion we have theological, sociological, and psychological precepts, doctrine, dogma, right and wrong, black and white. Instead of perfection – a woman – a man – a garden – a god – a snake – an apple – and a choice, we have evil – temptation – disobedience – sin – crime – punishment – consequences – banishment – and a curse.
Eve has an opinion about all this. She has a story to tell; a conversation to have.
The Conversation ~
She feels no need to bring you up to speed – or to defend herself. She cannot escape others’ interpretations, projections, triangularizations, total contempt, or even subliminal leanings. True, some have honored her, but they have been far fewer; their voices far quieter. She may not know where you stand, but she’s pretty sure she’s heard it all before.
So let me ask you…Do you ever feel like you just can’t get out from under the weight of one choice, one action, one step taken? Like one thing that you did, maybe in the heat of the moment or maybe even something you really thought through, just all went bad?
She pauses, completely certain that you do have such a story…or at least the fear of such a thing.
What’s that story? Tell me…
She sits calmly across from you. Hands entwined around her mug of tea. Eyes looking straight at you over its rim. Waiting for your response. Knowing that you’ve got one…even if you don’t feel like revealing such.
She feels your tension and chooses to rephrase:
Maybe you haven’t yet done this thing…yet. Ahhhh. That’s it, isn’t it? You can feel that you’re about to do something – say something – choose something – and all hell will surely break loose, yes? You’ll pay. You’ll be cast out. Life as you know it will suddenly come to an end. The man will blame you. The god will walk. And you will be left. Alone. Holding the guilt. And banned from any semblance of happiness ever again. ‘Sort of feels like the sin of the world is on your shoulders, doesn’t it?
Mmm hmm. I get it.
What if it won’t be anything like that? What if you’ve already talked yourself out of what could be the very best thing ever? What if your choice, your risk, your reach-out-and-grab-for-what-you-want action could change everything from this point forward? What if you have a destiny to fulfill…and staying put in a safe, seemingly-perfect place is NOT it?
You can’t hide behind your coffee cup at this point. You’re torn. Stuck. Caught. Confused. You can feel the tears that brim right behind your eyes. You tell yourself, “She doesn’t know. She can’t possibly understand my circumstances, my constraints, my reality.” But another part of you looks at her and feels unbridled, unadulterated rage – not at her, but on her behalf…and on your own. You know she’s right and you are furious. Enraged that you’ve somehow bought into the party line that told you to play it safe, obey the rules, keep quiet, and not make waves (in other words, stay put in Eden). Now, taking a sip of coffee gone cold, you realize she’s no different than you. Except that she followed through. She took the risk. And she paid the price. The price. Is there no other way?
You wonder, don’t you, if I’d do it differently were I given a second chance? If I’d known all that would happen from that one, simple choice? Believe me, I’ve thought about it. But here’s the thing: despite what you’ve heard, my choice was not misguided or sinful or devastating to all of humanity. In fact, my choice is what enabled the story to be powerful enough to even be worth repeating. It was because I did what I did that you even know who I am. It was because I did what I did that you now feel the tension of your curiosity and passion backed into a corner of convention and conservatism. And frankly, it was because I reached out and grabbed what I wanted that I was able to experience a God who actually showed up.
Really. Think about it. Once I took that apple, I was sought out by that God. I was spoken to. I was counseled and taught. I was clothed. I was protected. And I was sent into a bigger adventure than I could have ever imagined – beyond my borders, beyond relational constraints, beyond small imaginations, and beyond all limits. Yes, I’d definitely do it all over again.
I know many have told my story as one of a blatant turning from God. I can see why they might. But they would be wrong. Those who tell my story that way haven’t looked at the larger plot. In fact, they haven’t told my story at all. They’ve chosen to focus on the snake, the choice, the applied character flaws, and the subsequent curse. You know, don’t you, that the only curses went to the snake and to the soil; that Adam and I heard consequences – the natural order of things that we could now expect? It continues to amaze me that I am held responsible for womens’ pain in childbirth and the strain in all marriages. Wow. Really? That’s an awful lot of power to give to me…a woman who, according to legend, couldn’t possibly have known what she was doing.
You can tell she loves telling you her story. Any forum in which she can set the record straight strengthens her resolve to press on. So heavy has been the critique, the shame, and the harm. But in moments like these, when she can speak her truth out loud, she feels both strengthened and redeemed. And somehow, though she’s not certain how, she realizes that it’s in the telling of her story that yours is strengthened and redeemed, as well; as though something binds her to you. Like a thin, red thread that connects you. She can feel it. So can you. And so she continues, realizing that she and her true story have something to offer that you desperately need.
If you’re going to hold me responsible for something, let it be this: I’m the one who chose to risk and, in so doing, realized that the world didn’t come crashing down; rather, that even bigger worlds awaited me. And the God you think I betrayed is the one who showed up in profoundly intimate and kind ways – protecting me and my children and my story (!) – for generations to come. That’s my legacy. That’s my truth. That’s my true story.
She smiles and takes a deep breath. She realizes again how ramped up she gets when given opportunity to speak in unedited, uncensored, unboundaried ways; to offer even one woman another telling that might just change everything.
OK. Back to you. Is it possible that you’re telling a story that’s not really true? Any chance there’s another way you could think about things? Any possibility that the risk you’ve taken (or are yet to take) could open up whole new worlds? And is it even conceivable that maybe, just maybe, God will show up there for you in ways you could never have imagined or known if you hadn’t followed your heart?
I’ve probably said too much. I’ll stop…at least for a while. You talk. I’ll listen.
You aren’t sure what to say – or where to start. So much is spinning in your head and heart. It’s hardly as though everything is resolved for you; rather, in some ways you feel more confused than ever. But deep within you feel a sense of rest, of knowing, of connection. You realize that you are not alone. Eve’s story has been told throughout centuries as one that has separated women from each other and from their own narrative-filled lives. If her legacy is as she says, it is inherent in you, as well. You are her kin. You are connected. You are bound, one to another. And that means that you can risk. You can step toward what you desire. You can experience worlds un-imagined. And you can walk and talk with a God who totally gets you, cares for you, and shows up. What if that could be true?
You realize, perhaps for the first time, that this is story. Deep, earth-moving, life-changing story. Story that you know somehow. Story that is yours somehow. A taste of the story that you are yet to tell.
Eve hesitates, seeing that you are lost in thought.
Can I say just one more thing?
Of course. Of course! You want anything more she has to give.
That apple? It was the most delicious thing I have ever tasted. And you know what? I knew it would be. There was not a doubt in my mind. What’s more, I knew nothing that good, that amazing, that delicious could possibly be wrong – no matter what. That’s what I reached for. That’s what I got: Good. Amazing. Delicious. Unbound. Unfettered. A yet-to-be-determined life. Who can resist that? And why should they?
Reach for the apple. It’s even better than you’ve imagined. And when you take that bite? You’ll know what I did. Instantaneously. No doubt or second-guessing. A knowing that no matter what, no matter how things might appear, no matter what people say or how they react, that you’ve done the right thing. And even more, that you’re not alone. Ever.
Go ahead. You can do it. I know you’ve got it in you. We’re related, after all. Tell and live the story you want!
Those who do not have power over the story that dominates their lives —the power to retell it, rethink it, deconstruct it, joke about it, and change it as times change—truly are powerless, because they cannot think new thoughts.
—Salman Rushdie, Novelist
This post is the first in a series of RENEGADEconversations with women who deeply long to be heard, who have stories that have been at worst lost, at best poorly told. As we have conversation with them, we hear our own story and find ourselves. Indeed, we think new thoughts and step into a more powerful life.
Continue the conversation with Eve, with me, with each other. The thin red thread extends…
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