Discovering Lewis (and maybe a bit of me too)
I was a middle school girl when I first picked up the Chronicles of Narnia. I marveled at the magical eternal winter. It was such an enchanting, unbelievable idea to a girl raised in the desert of west Texas. As Lucy ventures into Narnia, she is called a Daughter of Eve. I still remember the visceral reaction in my gut as I read about Lucy being referred to as a “Daughter of Eve”. A Daughter of Eve seemed to me an insult. But the story continued and Aslan himself refers to Lucy and Susan Daughters of Eve. To be addressed as a Daughter of Eve is an honor.
Shocking and horrifying were my thoughts when I first realized Lewis uses Daughters of Eve as an honorific. Eve? But she’s a woman! And she led the entire world astray! And we would all still be living in Eden if she had just shut up and listened to her husband or at least not had any original ideas. Why would I want to be called a daughter of Eve? I wanted to be as little associated with Eve as possible. I was running as far from Eve as I could.
The Battle Within
I remember as an 8-year-old girl knowing exactly what I would do and be if I were a boy. I would go to seminary and I would teach the Scriptures as accurately as I could. But I was a girl. Girls couldn’t teach the Scripture (at least not in mixed company). I never desired to be a boy, I enjoyed being a girl and all it entailed. I wasn’t even upset or angry about it, simply…. disappointed. I just knew what my calling would have been if I was a boy. And I grew up knowing it could not be.
Being a female has always been being “the other” in the church. Women are often “the other” in a litany of ways from our emotions, our bodies, our abilities, and our role to be pleasing and desirable (but not too desirable). My emotions or those of other females would never be as important because we are probably ruled by flimsy emotions and those emotions could never be taken seriously. Because, you know, uncomfortable emotions probably aren’t a gift of God.This resulted in spending much of my adolescence attempting to have as little female emotions as possible in an attempt to be taken seriously in a “man’s world.”
I enjoyed debate and studying theology in high school and while my parents encouraged those pursuits, it was always thought of as odd in the evangelical circles I was a part of. So I was trying to straddle a dichotomy of enjoying my femaleness, enjoying my mind, my gender, and my body bestowed on me by my Creator and yet, hiding so much of myself in an attempt to not be that “other.” I desired to simply be accepted as a Christian without my gender, my body, my abilities and gifts, and my emotions viewed as not up to par in the body of Christ. Obviously, this is my own personal experience, but talking with many other Christian women it certainly is not a unique experience.
Lewis’s honoring reference to Daughter’s of Eve was the first chink in my armor. Years later I was part of a terrible and obnoxious book study about women’s roles. And although I did not enjoy the study, it provoked me to dig into Scripture and examine numerous things, starting with a word study of ezer.
Ezer is translated help meet or helper in Genesis 2:18. I discovered that ezer appears 21 times in the Old Testament. But here is where ezer became interesting; ezer is used twice to refer to Eve in Genesis 2:18 and 2:20. The other 19 times it is found in the Old Testament, the word refers to allies in war or God, Himself, acting as a deliverer. When I looked up all 19 passages for myself and saw how the word is used, I was blown away. I wasn’t quite sure what to do with it, but I was fairly certain that Eve was not traipsing after Adam in the garden saying, “Whatever you wish, dear.”
The NET Bible translates ezer as companion and the translation notes observe, “The English word “helper,” because it can connote so many different ideas, does not accurately convey the connotation of the Hebrew word עֵזֶר ezer Usage of the Hebrew term does not suggest a subordinate role, a connotation which English “helper” can have. In the Bible God is frequently described as the “helper,” the one who does for us what we cannot do for ourselves, the one who meets our needs. In this context, the word seems to express the idea of an “indispensable companion.”
Hmm, interesting. And about that time, my mother sent me a book she was reading, When Life and Beliefs Collide by Carolyn Custis James. And I quote a paragraph from page 187, “The military language associated with the word ezer ties the same bold imagery to the strong helper. She is a valiant warrior conscripted by God, not to fight against the man but to fight at his side as his greatest ally in the war to end all wars. Even before creation, the battle lines were drawn between God and the powers of darkness.”
Discovering My Identity
I don’t regret not attending seminary or being a pastor. But having a deeper understanding of ezer and my role as an ezer has helped me develop my gifting. I speak out about my concerns in the body and work with others to accurately understand Scripture and being a woman is not an impediment for me anymore.
I don’t claim to have my gender, my role, or my personality all figured out. But working through a word study of ezer has cast Eve in a new light for me. She is the first woman, created in the image of her Creator, adorned with His gifts, blessings, and love. She is to be valued and honored as a fellow image bearer of God, just as we all are. And so slowly, I have embraced my title, my honor, and my value as a Daughter of Eve. And I am grateful to C.S. Lewis for forcing me to explore my honor as a Daughter of Eve. My hope and prayer is that my sons and daughter read Lewis for the first time delighting in the beautiful reminder that all of us image our Creator without the fear and shame so many of us have experienced.