When I was a child, I remember a discussion with my mother. I told her that Jesus lives inside us and tells us what is right and what is wrong. Somewhere along the line, I lost that conviction as the world began to project its own guidelines for how to determine what is good. Author Colleen C. Mitchell in her book When We Were Eve: Uncovering the Woman God Created You to be, brings it back to me with soul-shattering power.
It never occurred to me to consider who Eve was before being tempted by the serpent, but this is the first woman created by God who makes everything good. Why did I not know her perfection totally free of artifice and shame in the beginning? And the epiphany moment: we are created as Eve in the image and likeness of God. In bringing ourselves back to Eden before the fall, we realize the person we were meant to be as God created us and loved us.
This book is so much more than a counter-point for women who have lost their confidence and self-esteem through the battering ram of unrealistic expectations as defined by media and the material world’s definition of success. This book is more than relaxation tips and methods for meditating yourself out of listening to the criticism of yourself and others. This book reminds us that we are good enough. We don’t need more to be more for others.
The outline of the book is important. Mitchell initially describes her body as a “battleground” due to sexual abuse, high-risk pregnancies, miscarriages, and the loss of a child. She says, “Yet this body has given itself to me again and again as a blessing. It has danced en pointe and given me the gift of making the magic of ballet, has conceived ten babies and gestated six until it birthed them into this world in its own unique way…”
She opens herself up fully and emotionally in relating her own story at the beginning of each chapter. She then includes a story from another woman who tells of her journey to unite spirituality with the physical reality of her life. Finally, each chapter ends with “Further Up and Further In.” Mitchell invites you to reflect on Scripture and take situations to prayer in your own life. Her questions are deep and to the point. Her language is specific and frank.
This book has an intimate tone. It feels as if she were sitting across the kitchen table from you, talking about how she handles the pain in her life, what she knows about the pain other people suffer, and what all of this has to do with our body and soul relationship with the Triune God. She emphasizes always the love of our creator, the sacrifice of Christ, and the presence of the Holy Spirit as our guide to keep ourselves balanced in the world.
Mitchell’s book never leaves you feeling inadequate. I found myself relieved in recognizing the simplicity of the truths she reveals. Though she summons us to remember ourselves like Eve before the fall, naked and unashamed before our creator, she also invites us to share in our Mother Mary’s fiat to God and her joy when she says, “my soul magnifies the Lord, holy is his name.” Mitchell reminds us that no matter how many times we surrender to the fall as did Eve, we have the grace of the Sacraments to reconnect ourselves with the Eden God meant for us to enjoy.
Each chapter tackles a challenge such as caring about ourselves, enjoying pleasures and passions with balance provided by virtues, embracing the vulnerability of our sexuality, opening ourselves to the compassion of God through our suffering, and delighting in our lives in relationship with others and God.
I read this book twice, gaining more insights with each reading. It will never leave my bookshelves because there is so much to gain from Mitchell’s writing. If you are looking for a good book club choice, this is a winner whether you are Catholic or Protestant. This book makes a beautiful gift for friends who aren’t sure about the existence of God. It is definitely a perfect read for young women considering what is their vocation in life.
Year Published: 2017
Author’s Worldview: Catholic
Audience: Adult Women
Themes: Women, Religion, Christianity, Eve, Mary, Triune God, Sacraments, Creation, Body Image, Self Care, Suffering