Tuesday, January 05, 2016

Becoming Eve

"We are deeply saddened that you have thereby separated yourself from the visible church, outside of which there is no ordinary possibility of salvation." So ended Form 2B, a Word document emailed to me in regard to my soul about six years ago.

After printing out this certificate of dismissal from the church of my youth, I didn't know where to file it away. In the back of my Bible? In the fireproof box under my bed? I folded it and carried it around in my shoulder bag for several weeks, pulling it out now and then to make sure I was reading correctly.

I tried drafting various Form 2Bs for other parting occasions: We are deeply saddened that you have left this political party, outside of which there is no ordinary possibility of social progress. We are deeply saddened that you have separated yourself from this company, outside of which there is no ordinary possibility of gainful employment.We are deeply saddened that you have chosen not to patronize this Denny's, outside of which there is no possibility of enjoying our delicious Grand Slam breakfast. We are deeply saddened that you have separated yourself from this relationship, outside of which there is no ordinary possibility of love.

Sometimes I can smile, shake my head at this ultimately impotent piece of paper, this well-intended warning of eternal perishing. But every so often I'm still anxious, fearing that Form 2B has been faxed to heaven, where Jesus will locate my name in the Book of Life and blot it out with his decisive red pen.


Looking back on some of the messages I received and what I recorded around the time I confessed deep doubts and was threatened with excommunication (before instead being sent on my rebellious way via the gentler Form 2B), several patterns emerge, including repeated invocations of a certain namesake.

A cousin wrote to warn me of my peril: "The very first temptation to mankind came when the serpent said to Eve in the garden, 'Did God really say?' Eve questioned what God had said and decided to live and make decisions apart from his Word. I pray that you will not make the same mistake."

A friend forwarded me a note from her mother, who was praying for me at the time. "Today, as I've thought about and prayed for Evie, I was struck by the thought that another voice is playing a role here. I thought of Satan's words to Eve in the Garden and was overwhelmed by the thought that Evie is being faced with the same battle. Trusting that Evie is born again, as I believe, then is the huge voice of doubt and accusation coming from the Serpent? Is Evie able to identify Satan's voice?" I neglected to answer these questions. I was not confident that I could identify supernatural voices, having never heard one before.

A loved one told me one day, "When we question God, we become like Eve. And what in the world would have ever led you to see the Bible as fallible, after all you've been taught?" She was upset, hurt, and I knew it was not the time or place for me to give a list of reasons. But I did have some. "I don‘t mean to be hurtful," I said, "but there are things I'm not convinced of, and it would be dishonest for me to pretend that I am." She softened for a moment and assured me that she was simply trying to be honest about what she believes to be true. "But it's also God's truth," she added.

Another family member told me he'd thought more lately about my name, Mary Eve, and how Eve was the mother of sorrows and Mary the mother of hope. He hoped that one day I'd mirror Mary more than Eve, though I've been "Evie" from day one. I watched his beloved face crumble, telling me this. Mine did too.

More than half a decade later, I'm far from knowing what to make of it all. I know I was loved and am loved still. I continue to feel a lot of guilt over leaving the tradition in which I was raised, and I still have great regret for becoming a source of pain I'm powerless to soothe. But I also still think I had to leave.


In the biblical account of Babel’s creation and collapse, the human remnant aspires to survival and even success, and a steeple takes shape above the landscape. Call it pride, hubris if you will, but see too it is human potential at its peak. The all-wise Adonai, seeing this, registers unusual surprise and concern.

"Nothing they plan to do will be impossible for them,” he concludes, then proceeds to confuse the language of the people. Understanding fails and the community is undone.

Construction does not end overnight but scatters to the ends of the earth, each pinnacle mimicking the gesture of the ill-fated original—come, come here and be secure. We live in its wake, in places splintered between hope and disappointment, clinging for life.


Kathy Stegall said...

I did not know your name was Mary Eve. Beautiful!

Tomm said...

I am certainly as interested in your struggle as I am in the destination at which you arrive. My mother was always amazed that I had not thrown over faith and God entirely. Even with the lifelong struggles with the PTSD that is the heritage of my childhood,it has not somehow happened. I retain faith in God, although, much disappointment in many who profess to represent Him.
All the best in your sorting out of these things.

Mary McCracken said...

Though I probably should have, neither did I know your name was Mary Eve; and I, too, think it's beautiful! My name also being Mary makes it especially meaningful to me. I have often said, 'no one ever names their girls Mary anymore.' Having come from a completely opposite place than you did in your heritage, Evie, I can appreciate your 'struggle', journey, the path you have traveled; as neither was mine really what might be called 'conventional' or 'traditional' or easy! I believe it is better to be honest with yourself and with others -- authentic -- than to fool yourself or anyone else into a sense of false perception of who you really are and where you really are in your life; and besides, God already knows you and your heart, even better than you do. God has given you a beautiful gift of writing/expressing yourself, and I'm so thankful you are using it. Obviously, you are touching many lives on a daily basis. "Becoming Eve" is well written and beautifully expressed . . . thank you for sharing your heart with us in such a forthright manner. Whatever your destination, Evie, just know that you are loved along the way; and of course, I my heart's desire for you is only that you would have God's very best. <3

Laurisa said...

Sadly, because of sin, we are in the tenuous position to endlessly question and doubt...even with assurance of faith, there are moments of human frailty and uncertainty that creep into our minds and cloud our ability to truly KNOW...because we are forever separated from Him because of sin. Yes, Eve questioned God...and suffered much pain and tragedy because of it, as did the rest of humanity. However, God never, not once, stopped caring for her, calling her back to Him. She was His, even though she was now separated by a chasm of doubt and fear of her own creation. To doubt is our sinful human destiny...nothing we can do will get a across that chasm. The Spirit can move mightily, though, and can give you the assurance that your soul craves...ask Him. He is a gracious God who loves His daughter Evie, just as He loved his daughter Eve.

Stonecypher said...

One of the hardest things about trying to find God on this earth is that the only representations we can look to are the imperfect people who surround us. We all have preconceived notions and prejudices that cause us to try and conform others to our vision and views of how God would want us to live. What this causes is hurt and pain in anyone who doesn't fit into that mold, and ultimately it's the reason why many leave the church. The ones who don't often end up falling into the social pit of people-pleasing, and ultimately live an empty faith.

This only confirms what we know: that human beings are imperfect and ignorant in so many ways. The shining hope in all of this is that we are reminded that our relationship with God is not dependent on anyone but ourselves. It's just you and Him left now, and despite the imperfect all around us He has a plan for our perfection. Where you are now is a season, as evidenced by the pain you still carry over what happened to you. Evie, you are still being pursued by love, and He will not leave you with this wound.

I'm so sorry that you were hurt by the people you trusted. As Jesus said while being crucified, "forgive them for they know not what they do." It was a human version of love that crucified him, and God's love that allowed him to forgive them. 1 John 4:18 says, "There is no fear in love; but perfect love casts out fear, because fear involves punishment, and the one who fears is not perfected in love." My prayer is that you would experience His boundless love for you, and through that be healed.

Alison Agnew said...

I don't know you, though being formerly RP myself (from a long line, to boot), I know the name well. I'm curious as to whether you did just leave a church or the church. My particular leaving was not due to rebellion against a denomination or a turning away from the gospel itself. I'm certainly wondering about the rest of the story.

mjchaas said...

The irony of discussing a biblical story is not lost.

Joel Minor said...

I commend you for not wanting to be dishonest with yourself and your loved ones and your tradition. I have no problem with the idea of God (in fact I have a hard time not believing in it) but definitely do with those who think they have God figured out--or, more so, those who think their convictions about something as important as God should be imposed on others. Kudos to you for maintaining your strength, dignity, love and creativity even after that scare tactic of a letter. A church that can't handle free thought is too weak for you. I've been thinking lately that Eve is due for a reconsideration. To understand the whole story better and maybe gain a new perspective on it I'm hoping to read Paradise Lost soon (so many things to read). Your poetic interpretation of Babel is beautiful.

reece&company said...

Please don't forget that those who may SEEM to have God figured out are also just doing their infallible best at understanding. And too often I think peoples passion for their Savior and a deserve for others to experience that same love and forgiveness can be construed as forcing their beliefs on others. If you found a cure for cancer or something that guaranteed no one would ever suffer pain again...would you want EVERYONE to experience it and benefit from it? It's a similar thing. Of course their are people that are trying to force their beliefs on others... But I think the majority of people genuinely want to share the blessings that they have found in Christ, not from a judgmental perspective but because that is what they themselves have been convicted of.

Evie Hemphill said...

Many thanks to each of you for reading and sharing your thoughts!

Anonymous said...

There is a knee-jerk reaction when reading Scripture (one which I succumb to at times) to chide God for getting involved. For intervening when things seem to be unfolding "naturally." It's easy to think, "Just stay out of it! They were on to something!"

In the case of Babel, however, it's important that God's response to the construction not be separated from what the people said before it:

“Come, let us build ourselves a city, with a tower that reaches to the heavens, so that we may make a name for ourselves...”

The people are not only building a tower (as is often implied when the story is told secondhand), but a city. A civilization. The tower was merely the chief monument or central feature of this city. The crown jewel or defining feature. The signpost (if you will) of this new society. And what is their chief motive? Fame. Conquest. Empire. Greatness. Renown. They haven't yet established a form of government or law (or even laid a single brick), and yet their driving motive behind uniting together is a lust for power! To me, that notion is truly frightening.

If human history has taught us one thing, it's this: There are no depths to which people will not sink. Just as soon as we're tempted to say, "Well, no human could possibly be capable of this or that," we have only to read and weep. Yes they could. Yes they have. Yes they are. And much, much worse.

The Lord said, “If as one people speaking the same language they have begun to do this, then nothing they plan to do will be impossible for them."

United under this single vision ... this worldly wisdom ... this first step toward acquisition, occupation, and rule in the name of greatness—nothing would be impossible for them. There are no lengths to which they would not go, and no depths to which they would not sink. God was not threatened by their potential. But rather, I believe, he mourned it. He was horrified by it. He saw the sorts of unspeakable acts (which we have since seen from smaller nations, empires, governments, tribes, and factions) being carried out as one united people on earth, and he stopped it before it started. He scattered the mob before the streets ran red with innocent blood.

Are people, when united, capable of truly marvelous achievements? Undoubtedly. But if the maxim is true, "The road to Hell is paved with good intentions," where do the superhighways paved by greed lead us?

Dave S said...

"But every so often I'm still anxious, fearing that Form 2B has been faxed to heaven, where Jesus will locate my name in the Book of Life and blot it out with his decisive red pen."

This beautifully expresses my own feelings as an ex-RPCNA member and confused ex-Christian. There's a part of me that wonders if God binds himself to the church's declarations and that he will truly honor their decision to bar the entrance way to the kingdom.

I didn't have the courage to face the possibility of excommunication. I ceased attending and refused to meet with the elders. Eventually, I received a letter stating I was barred from communion, ironic given that I had been voluntarily refraining from taking it for some time. I eventually sent a letter asking to be removed from the membership rolls and, to my surprise, they responded by saying that I was and wished me well. I don't know if this counts as a form of excommunication or just leaves things up in the air.

I found your blog by accident, but I'm glad I found it!