[The Influential Woman 3] What Went Wrong?
Susan smiled as she brushed a damp strand of hair behind her ear and sank wearily into a chair. She had completely rearranged the living room furniture and had bought some new accent pillows and plants. The task completed, she was delighted with the results.
It looks like a different house! she thought to herself as she proudly surveyed the results. I just hope Jack likes it . . . he'll be home any minute. At the thought of Jack's possible reaction, fear rippled inside her. It just depends on his mood . . . The sound of the front door latch interrupted her thoughts.
"What on earth?" Susan's husband Jack stood in the doorway with a deep scowl on his face. "What do you think you're doing?"
Susan was immediately apologetic. "I'm sorry Jack . . . I wanted to surprise you. I thought a change would be good . . .") Her voice was a little shaky, and her words faded into silence.
Jack looked at her coldly. "You know better than that. Haven't we been through this before? I'm the head of this house, and you are supposed to ask my permission before you make any decisions!"
Summoning her courage, Susan murmured, "But it's my house, too, Jack!"
"Look, Susan. This is a Christian home, and I'm the head of the house. You can check your Bible if you want. But you're rebelling against God's plan for marriage when you don't ask me before you make decisions."
"My other Christian friends have more freedom than I do." By now Susan was almost pleading. Enraged, Jack took several steps over to her, grabbed her upper arms and shook her firmly.
"Look, Susan, you're a woman. The Bible says that your husband is supposed to rule over you!" He abruptly released her from his grasp, and she fell back into the chair, trembling and terrified.
Jack folded his arms and glared down at her. "I want this furniture put back the way it was, and I want everything you bought returned to the store. Maybe you've learned a lesson and maybe you haven't, Susan. But I'm the head of the house and you're going to obey me. Whether you like it or not, that's the way it's supposed to be!"
The Devil's Plan
God created a wonderful world—beautiful, harmonious, and perfect. And he designed relationships between men and women to be completely fulfilling and satisfying. But when we look around, instead of friendship we see misunderstanding and resentment. Instead of cooperation, we see conflict. Instead of compassion, we see abuse—both physical and emotional. Why isn't the world the way God wanted it to be? What went wrong?
In the third chapter of Genesis we encounter a sinister being whose actions and intentions dramatically disagree with those of the Creator God. Satan's first appearance in Scripture is most instructive for us. You have to remember that although Satan is much more intelligent than we are, he is not omniscient, omnipresent, or omnipotent. However, he has had a long time to polish his strategies. And, believe me, what he did in the Garden of Eden he is still doing today. In fact, he's not even original—he keeps repeating the same deceits he's always practiced.
Now the serpent was more crafty than any of the wild animals the Lord God had made. He said to the woman, "Did God really say, 'You must not eat from any tree in the garden'?"
The woman said to the serpent, "We may eat fruit from the trees in the garden, but God did say, 'You must not eat fruit from the tree that is in the middle of the garden, and you must not touch it, or you will die."
"You will not surely die," the serpent said to the woman. "For God knows that when you eat of it your eyes will be opened, and you will be like God, knowing good and evil."
When the woman saw that the fruit of the tree was good for food and pleasing to the eye, and also desirable for gaining wisdom, she took some and ate it. She also gave some to her husband, who was with her, and he ate it. Then the eyes of both of them were opened, and they realized they were naked; so they sewed fig leaves together and made coverings for themselves.
Masks and Masquerades
From the beginning, Satan's entire purpose has been to deceive and destroy. That was his intention then, and it's his intention now. It didn't matter whether he approached Adam or Eve—either one would do because they were one flesh and they were joint rulers of the earth. Sometimes we hear statements like, "He came to the woman because he knew she was weaker. She was more emotional and a little less balanced." I don't believe that's the case at all. I think Satan approached Eve because she was so influential with her husband.
The first thing we notice is that Satan appeared in disguise. The serpent was an animal, and one with high intelligence. He is described as "crafty," which means he was clever and smart. It was through the body and the mouth of this animal that Satan spoke.
Satan usually comes to us incognito, and it's no wonder. If we saw him as the Prince of Darkness we wouldn't want anything to do with him. So he comes to us in various forms, and often as an angel of light. "I come to you with knowledge; I come to you with enlightenment. What I have to offer is really good for you." That's what he says, and that's why people fall for it.
How subtly Satan posed his question: "Did God really say you must not eat from any tree in the garden?" He emphasized God's prohibition and not His lavish provision. Isn't that the way we often view life? We look at the flaws instead of all the good things about our circumstances, our husbands, our children, our parents.
I think it's important for us to observe that Eve was not yet created when God gave the rules about the tree of the knowledge of good and evil to Adam. What she knew she had heard second-hand. So she explained to Satan that they couldn't eat from the tree or even touch it, because they would die if they did.
Satan immediately retorted, "You will not surely die."
An Evil Pair of Lies
There are two basic tactics that Satan still uses against men and women. The first is to make us doubt God's Word. In this case, he boldly declared that nothing would happen if Adam and Eve disobeyed God. He contradicted the spoken word of God, and asserted that they could defy His rules without consequences.
Satan's second tactic was to tempt Eve to distrust God's character. What Satan implied was, "God doesn't really love you, and He isn't doing what is best for you. He's keeping something from you that you really ought to have. And He's doing it with dishonorable motives—He doesn't want you to be like Him." What foolishness! Adam and Eve were already like Him. They were made in His image.
Jesus says in John 8:44, "he [Satan] is a liar and the father of lies." And his two big lies are right here: God's Word is not true, and God is not good.
I think that most of our spiritual problems come from these two basic untruths. We don't believe His Word, so we disobey what He's told us. We doubt His goodness and question His love for us, so we try to take care of ourselves in our own way. Sometimes we feel that if we say, "God, I just want Your will," He's sure to bring the worst thing in the world upon us. We assume God imposes His sovereignty on us by forcing us to do what we most hate. We don't really believe He is a good God.
As for Eve, what was her response? Notice that her attention was now focused on the forbidden tree.
When the woman saw that the fruit of the tree was good for food and pleasing to the eye, and also desirable for gaining wisdom, she took some and ate it. She also gave some to her husband, who was with her, and he ate it.
Satan plays a successful game, and he has an impressive record of wins. We see his three best weapons in 1 John 2:16: "The lust of the flesh, the lust of the eyes and the pride of life" (KJV). Satan always approaches us through these same channels.
Satan's purpose was to cause Adam and Eve to act independently of God. "Listen," he warned them, "God is not taking care of you the way He should. You have to take care of yourselves!"
One of today's psychological gurus, Abraham Maslow, says, "Fulfillment and growth come from close attention to the needs of the Self." Self becomes sovereign instead of the true God. That is exactly what Eve chose to do—she looked at the tree and its fruit and said, "That's good! I should eat it." She discarded revelation from God and replaced it with human reasoning. She chose instant pleasure over obedience to God's instruction. "I really need to become wise," she said.
How often does our own intelligence stand between us and simple, childlike faith?
Deceived or Disobedient?
Eve saw the fruit, concluded that she needed it, and then gave it to her husband who was with her. I wonder why Adam didn't interrupt the process. He was with her! Why didn't he say, "No, we shouldn't do this"? The Scripture is careful not to put the blame on Eve. It says, instead, that she was thoroughly deceived (1 Tim. 2:14). More responsibility was placed on Adam, who completely understood what he was doing.
In Romans 5:12 and 17, we read that through one man sin entered into the world. Adam is given responsibility for the fall. This tells me something—that we women have a great influence, so great that it must always be godly. Adam had to choose whether to follow a fallen mate or to obey God. He chose Eve.
You will notice how God deals with the two of them.
Then the man and his wife heard the sound of the Lord God as he was walking in the garden in the cool of the day, and they hid from the Lord God among the trees of the garden. But the Lord God called to the man, "Where are you?"
He answered, "I heard you in the garden, and I was afraid because I was naked; so I hid."
And he said, "Who told you that you were naked? Have you eaten from the tree that I commanded you not to eat from?"
The man said, "The woman you put here with me, she gave me some fruit from the tree and I ate it."
Then the Lord God said to the woman, "What is this you have done?"
The woman said, "The serpent deceived me, and I ate."
Lost Innocence, Lost Intimacy
The first evident consequence of Adam and Eve's disobedience was its toll on their marital relationship. They noticed that they were naked and they covered themselves with fig leaves. From whom were they hiding themselves? From each other. There was nobody else there. Immediately, guilt and shame entered into their open, vulnerable love. The intimacy of the marriage was gravely damaged. There was no longer complete trust. Instead there was fear of exploitation and, with it, insecurity. And, of course, there was blame.
Karen sat down across from Phil as he read the newspaper. She put her hand on his arm, gently stroking it. I hate to interrupt him, she thought, but we've got to communicate.
She spoke softly. "How was your day, Honey?"
He paused a moment, making quite an effort to lift his eyes from the sports page. "Fine." He smiled, nodded, and resumed his reading.
"Anything exciting happen?"
Again, a pause. And this time, when Phil answered there was an ever-so-slight edge to his voice. "Nope. Nothing exciting." He smiled politely again, turned a page, and continued to read.
"Honey, I need to talk to you about something I've been thinking about. Something is really troubling me, and I need you to help me understand."
"Hmmmm?" Phil didn't look up, and Karen wasn't sure if he was listening.
"I need to talk to you." When she repeated the words a little more loudly, Phil folded the paper and laid it down. He sighed in resignation, crossed his arms, and said, "Okay, so what's the problem?"
"Oh, it's not really a problem, Phil. It's just that I've been feeling a little bad about myself, and I wanted to talk to you about it."
"There's nothing wrong with you. You're fine."
"But I'm just not myself at the moment. I don't look as good as I used to, and . . .
"You look fine to me, Baby." Phil raised his eyebrows and smiled flirtatiously. "In fact, I think you look terrific. You want to go talk about it in the bedroom?"
Tears stung Karen's eyes. Why is it always like this? she asked herself. "No, that's not what I mean, Phil. Can't we talk about it here? I'm just kind of depressed, and . . ."
"I know what you need." He reached for her, and she pulled away instinctively.
"That's not what I need!"
"Oh, Honey, of course it is. You just need a little lovin', that's all."
"Phil," Karen snapped at him. "It's your fault we can't communicate with each other. I hope you realize that."
Insulted, Phil picked up the paper again. "Hey, look. If you want to buy some new clothes or something, just go ahead. Anyway, you're the one with the problem. Not me. I'm perfectly happy with you."
Karen jumped up, her face flushed with anger and frustration. "What I need is for you to listen to me for once instead of always trying to get me into bed. All you're interested in is satisfying your stupid sex drive. You couldn't care less about who I am or what I want!" With that, she stormed out of the room.
Phil stared sadly at the doorway for a moment. "Women!" he muttered. "I'll never understand them. Aren't they ever happy?"
The loss of intimacy between men and women first occurred in the Garden of Eden. And it continues today, along with its accompanying maladies—mistrust, misunderstanding; and manipulation.
When God confronted Adam with his disobedience, Adam's answer was to blame his wife, then to blame God because He put Eve there with him.
Our sinful nature drives us to protect ourselves. We blame others in order to shed responsibility from ourselves. The first step toward getting ourselves straightened out is to admit our responsibility and to humbly take the consequences for our own actions.
Someday you may counsel with a woman who shares with you the fact that she has committed a terrible sin. Perhaps she's beginning to feel the consequences of it. Explain how she can find forgiveness through the Lord Jesus Christ and encourage her to accept God's forgiveness. Then you'll want to help her understand that while the consequences are always part of the package, God is still there to give us strength to bear them.
If you can encourage her to admit that she's responsible for her wrongdoing, she'll be able to move forward, taking some essential steps toward recovery.
Learning to Be Afraid
The first relationship visibly affected by sin was the one between husband and wife. But Adam and Eve's relationship with God was also broken. He came to them. He initiated contact. He made the move for reconciliation. He said to Adam, "Where are you?" Of course, He already knew.
Adam said, "I was afraid, so I hid."
Fear is the first emotion named in the Bible. It came as a result of sin. What was Adam afraid of? Punishment? Exposure? He and Eve first hid from each other; then they hid from God. In both cases they acted to protect themselves. God had said, "For when you eat of it you will surely die." We know that Adam did not physically die until he was 930 years old. So wonderful was the first created body that it took nine centuries for it to expire. The physical consequences of disobedience didn't happen immediately.
But something else did. Spiritual death transpires when man's spirit is separated from God. And that is what happened instantly. We know it happened because instead of walking with God in love and in communion, Adam and Eve were afraid and hid from Him. Spiritual death occurred, even though Satan said it wouldn't happen.
Curses and More Curses
God's next move was to give Adam, Eve, and Satan a preview of coming attractions. He told them, "This is the way the world is going to work as a result of your sin." Then He cursed Satan, who spoke through the serpent.
And I will put enmity between you and the woman, and between your offspring and hers; he will crush your head, and you will strike his heel.
There is something wonderful here. At the same time that sin and its consequences fell upon the whole world, God gave the first promise of the Savior. He said to the serpent, "I will put enmity between you and the woman and between your seed and hers" (KJV).
"Seed" always refers to a man's offspring in the Scriptures. This is the only place where it refers to a woman's seed. Of course it is looking ahead to the virgin birth, where Christ is born of a woman without a man's involvement. Right here at the dawn of creation, just as sin appeared, God was promising to send a Savior. The promise was made to Satan. The promise was kept through a woman.
Pain, Longing, and Humiliation
When God spoke to the woman with regard to her consequences, he didn't say "because." God knew that she had been deceived. But He did say,
I will greatly increase your pains in childbearing; with pain you will give birth to children. Your desire will be for your husband, and he will rule over you.
For woman, what was meant to be pleasurable became painful. There would be misery both in childbearing and child rearing. Eve experienced this poignantly when her second child was murdered by her first.
The expression, "Your desire will be for your husband" has had many interpretations. I think it predicts a wife's yearning for intimacy that is not reciprocated by her husband. I believe every woman, at one time or another, has felt this longing for intimacy with her mate—a longing that he just would not or could not meet. Someone has put it this way, "Woman wants a mate but she gets a master. She wants a lover but she gets a lord."
For Eve, the first result of sin was distress in mothering. The second was domination, a complete mastery by the man. This was never God's original intention, and it most certainly was never His command. "And he will rule over you" was, however, a prediction—and how true it has been throughout history.
Instead of being one of the two original rulers, woman is now one of the ones ruled. Since God first spoke those prophetic words, the heartless domination and exploitation of women has occurred worldwide. This is especially true in non-Christian cultures where women are often viewed as nothing more than property.
History speaks for itself: Jesus Christ is the only true liberator of women. Unfortunately, even where Christ is known, I do not believe that the full extent of the scriptural liberation of women has been clarified. The domination of man over woman is an ongoing reality within many of our churches, despite the fact that it is certainly not taught in Ephesians 5. There the husband lovingly lays down his life for his wife, sacrificially and in selfless love. In response to his devotion and commitment, she voluntarily submits to him.
Blood, Sweat, and Tears
As God continued to spell out the aftermath of the sinful episode in Eden, the man was affected both in his person and in his function. God said,
"Because you listened to your wife and ate from the tree about which I commanded you, 'You must not eat of it,' cursed is the ground because of you; through painful toil you will eat of it all the days of your life. It will produce thorns and thistles for you, and you will eat the plants of the field. By the sweat of your brow you will eat your food until you return to the ground, since from it you were taken; for dust you are and to dust you will return."
The death sentence fell upon Adam. Furthermore, he was thrown out of the garden into a world where the soil resisted cultivation, where thorns and thistles grew, where he would experience a lifetime of struggle and toil. Now there would be physical death as well as spiritual. Instead of perfect fellowship there would be alienation and conflict.
But here, in the midst of sin and death, God made wonderful provision for His fallen creatures.
The Lord God made garments of skin for Adam and his wife and clothed them. And the Lord God said, "The man has now become like one of us, knowing good and evil. He must not be allowed to reach out his hand and take also from the tree of life and eat, and live forever." So the Lord God banished him from the Garden of Eden to work the ground from which he had been taken.
A Portrait of Redemption
In all their shame, Adam and Eve had covered themselves with fig leaves. But God covered them with skins. And in doing so, He taught them a glorious lesson. He had already alluded to a Savior. Now He gave them a picture of what the Savior would do.
God killed two lambs and made coverings for Adam and Eve from their skins. And what did the man and woman learn? For one thing, they witnessed the fact that sin caused death, and that without the shedding of blood there is no forgiveness. They also learned that God was the only one who could provide a substitute suitable to take their penalty. What a superb picture of Jesus!
Sin entered the picture, and Paradise was shattered. God's exquisite creation was perverted by evil. And that evil is still with us today.
So—what has changed and what remains the same?
Humankind—Scarred and Crippled by Sin
Are we still created in God's image? Yes, although the image is marred and flawed.
Are we still persons? Yes, and as persons we still have a thirst for relationship and for impact. But now those needs often go unmet, and we are inclined to use wrong strategies to satisfy them.
Self-protection has now become our major goal. Why? Because at the core of every one of us is fear. Down deep inside me is the fear that if you really knew me you would not like me. So I put on a superficial layer of something I hope gives me acceptability. You are the same, and you have a layer of acceptability, too. When we meet, we bump into each other's layers, but we seldom really get to know one another. Fear of exposure, fear of wrong motives, fear of exploitation, fear of rejection—these keep us from being real with each other.
Are we still rational beings? Yes, but now our minds are darkened and we quickly believe a lie. We can reason, but we can't really know how the universe fits together. We don't know how to make our world work without a knowledge of God. That is why human philosophy is so irrelevant. When there is no acknowledgment of God, society's "great minds" substitute all kinds of logical-sounding concepts. But there is nothing of substance, only empty jargon and disappointing results. Apart from God there is no truth.
We are still emotional beings, but now our emotions can be destructive, leading us away from God instead of toward Him. We are still volitional beings, but now we choose unrighteousness. Even righteous things are sometimes done for the wrong reasons.
We are still in dominion over the earth, but now we exploit the earth to satisfy our greed. Meanwhile, we live in a hostile world rather than the perfect environment of Eden's garden.
Marriage—A House Divided
But of all the consequences sin brought upon humanity, the wonderful relationship of marriage has been the most tragically affected. Instead of intimacy, there is intimidation. Instead of equals, man and woman have become enemies. Instead of completing one another, there is now competition. And instead of having dominion, woman is now dominated.
Sexuality remains an integral part of our lives. Sex was originally intended for unity and oneness, for parenthood, for pleasure and for the prevention of immorality (1 Corinthians 7). Now it has become an appetite. Like hunger or thirst, it is viewed as something that must be satisfied at any cost. Sex has been removed from the protection of marriage, and the results are self-evident. Multiple partners. Serial marriages. Group sex. Homosexuality. Abortion. Venereal diseases. AIDS.
Reclaiming God's Perfect Plan
It was mankind's disobedience that brought the curse and its devastation upon Paradise. But Christ came to redeem us from that curse. If you have not trusted Jesus Christ as your Savior, there is no hope of reconciliation between God and you. There are no fig leaves that God will accept—no membership in the church, no good works, no being a nice wife and a good mother—none of this will do. You must recognize that you are a sinner by nature. That the punishment for sin is death. That Jesus Christ died in your place on the cross. That He rose from the dead. That He is the only substitute God will accept.
What is redemption? Redemption means that God has bought you back for Himself through the blood of His Son. It means that He has made a way for you to walk with Him and talk with Him, just as Adam and Eve once did. It means that sin no longer separates you from Him.
Once you have received God's redemption, some profound changes will occur. Some of the effects of the curse will be removed from your life! When we trust Christ, salvation changes the way we live. It also transforms the way we view life. We can go back to Genesis 1 and 2 in order to understand what God had in mind for us in the first place. And then we can begin, by faith, to live that way—right now.
Christ's redemptive power at work in us will enable us to reclaim our proper role as women—the women God intended us to be. Our integrity as persons can be restored. Our functions can be realigned with His will. And our God-given authority can be reinstated.
His redemption should put us on guard to protect our marriages. Once we realize how much God believes in marriage and how much Satan is against it, we will be on the alert. In the Garden of Eden, Satan didn't attack the man until he was married. I believe Satan's purpose today is to break up Christian homes, and he is having a heyday. We should unite with our husbands against the real enemy.
Through redemption, those who are single and redeemed can be brought to perfect completion in Christ. Whether His ultimate will for us is marriage or not, He has promised to complete the good work He has begun in us through Christ Jesus our Lord.
Are you redeemed? Yes, you are if you have trusted Jesus Christ as your Lord and Savior. Once you've received God's redemption, you can be restored, to some degree, to His original design for you. God's Spirit will transform your mind. He will bring health to your emotions. He will redirect your will. He will breathe new life into your spirit. He will define and develop your own special role as a woman.
Redemption means that you can stop believing the lies of the enemy.
Redemption assures you that God is a good God.
Redemption frees you from the powerful control of sin.
Redemption establishes your value before a Holy God.
Redemption proves that God loves you and that God's Word really does come true.
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