Colleen Mitchell has written a new book! It’s called When We Were Eve and it’s pretty much what you’d expect. Lovely, heart-wrenching, uncomfortable and yet comforting at the same time. I’ll be honest, I didn’t want to read it. I didn’t feel like opening up my soul to some truth that would probably make me laugh and cry and stare at my own ugly. I knew I’d read it eventually because I like Colleen but December didn’t seem like the right time.
I’m writing this at the time of Advent and I really just want to think of the miracle of Jesus, not my own brokenness. I know they’re connected and Advent is a wonderful time for self-exploration and digging deep but you have to be brave to go on that journey.
God gave me the strength to be brave and it’s just what needed at precisely this time of year!
This book is about the raw truth of womanhood starting with Eve and then woven with truths from the rest of the Bible. It’s about how God sees us, how we see ourselves, and about the sin that keeps those two images from being the same.
Each chapter involves a story about Colleens own struggles with womanhood and you’ll feel like her friend by the end of it. At the end of each chapter she includes a story from a different woman, which honestly, made me feel like I was part of a beautiful community of Catholic women. We’re all broken and trying to figure this thing out together. We need more reassurance of that these days.
I was surprised how much I came away feeling as if I knew and understood Eve so much more. Previously, she was sort of a mythical princess of Eden. Pretty to be sure but also too difficult for my mind to comprehend as a real person. This quote in particular really struck me:
We know it, too, the inexplicable foolishness of wanting what we know we don’t need and how our minds can cloud with desire until it becomes doubt about what God really said. I used to look at Eve with a certain bitterness, blaming her for my own depravity. But when I am honest about my temptations and how easily they convince me that I know better than God, I can only embrace Eve with compassion and suffer with her what it is to know the shame of disobedience.
Colleen writes a lot about body image and perhaps that’s what I didn’t feel like reading. I mean who’s ever in the mood to stare their own body image issues right in the face? But it’s precisely what I needed even though I didn’t know I needed it. God reached out through this book and held me. He told me that He loves me just the way that I am and goodness, lately I had been doubting that a little.
This book gave me the courage to see my own body the way the Lord does. It also gave me a deep appreciation for Eve’s pain and how that echoes in each of us that have come after her.
In that heartbreaking moment, when Eve first looks down at her own body and sees it as bad, the flesh becomes, for the first time in human history, the object of a woman’s shame, something other than her apart from who she was made to be, something that risks her goodness rather than houses it.
I was pleasantly surprised how often Colleen talks about virtues. I’ve been reading about virtues a lot lately wanting to instill strong ones in my children. I was not expecting how she ties virtues, specifically growing in virtue, to our innate womanhood and our understanding of our purpose and our bodies.
When we practice—and practice we must because we will surely be imperfect in our efforts— the virtues, we learn to keep our sensual pleasures ordered toward God and away from evil. Virtue becomes the measure that allows us to enjoy freely the beauty of this world we so naturally long for; we can be naked and without shame in the measure to which we desire those things as a pathway to earthly and eternal joy—a longing that we brought along with us when we left Eden behind.
My favorite section of the book is when she opens up Proverbs 31. I have always wanted to feel connected to the Proverbs 31 woman but every time I read about her, I feel a deep sense of hopelessness that I could never be her. Is this what God wants from me? Colleen takes your hand and leads you through this scripture in a way that makes you feel a little taller, a little stronger.
You probably won’t feel like reading this book. You’ll see the beautiful, soft green cover and you’ll want to toss it in a drawer so it stops looking at you. You know what waits there, growth and growth is always painful.
Read it anyways. It’s probably exactly what you need right now. Yes, I mean right now, no matter the season. You need some truth. You need some love. You need God to reach through these pages and give you the softest most comforting hug you’ve ever had. You need to cry and let our doubt and bitterness leak out of you so you can fill yourself back up with love and joy.
When you’re done, give it to a friend. We need to pour gold into the cracks of our broken sisterhood and see that God loves us through our mistakes. We can do this one woman at a time and eventually it will create and ocean of warmth and loveliness in the world.
Here’s a link to When We Were Eve. Share it with your friends.