Okay, I know what you’re thinking. You’re thinking: “news flash?! What news flash!? Of course we live in a heliocentric universe! Everyone knows that!’ And yes, I know that, too. (Even without a PhD.) I’ve read my Copernicus and Galileo. I know our planetary place in the universe, in theory. But here’s the problem: I live from moment to moment, day to day as though this were an anthropocentric universe. And if you’re honest, I’m willing to bet you do as well. My universe, to be specific, is a Kimberly-Renee-Montgomery-Hill-centric universe. It’s a very small universe, with few inhabitants, and none of them particularly happy about it. But there it is nonetheless. We are all selfish. Many of us struggle with perfectionism and control issues. We want to be right, to be heard, to be obeyed, to be in control, to have the ultimate authority in our little universe. We want to be gods (though we may not own up to it). And it is to us and for us that Susanna Foth Aughtmon wrote her latest book, I Blame Eve: Freedom from Perfectionism, Control Issues & the Tendency to Listen to Talking Snakes. (Right now you’re thinking: “I do NOT listen to talking snakes!” But hang with me a minute, you might find that you do.)
There was a time, Susanna writes, when everything was perfect. Life was good and pure and cellulite-free. And then came Eve and her apple. From that moment we have lived in a world that is distinctly not the way it was supposed to be. We live with brokeness and pain, with poverty and injustice, and with all those little irritants throughout the day that rob us of joy and peace and hope. In short, we live in a world beset by sin. (Yes, I know it’s unfashionable to use that little three-letter word, but euphemisms take up too much space. Let’s just call it like it is.) Like Sister Eve, we desire to make that world over into the way we want it to be. We organize our time, manipulate those around us to make them increasingly into the image we have of them, we demand perfection from everyone we meet, and most of all from ourselves. And yet, this is not how the world is supposed to be either.
With openness, honesty, and a large dose of humor, Susanna shares her own struggles with the legacy of Eve, all the while gently holding up a mirror into which we must also gaze, and from which we see Eve and her apple staring back at us and just over her shoulder there’s a snake whispering in her (or is that our?) ear. You can have it all, he says. You can be the perfect wife, mother, student (okay, that’s what he whispers to me) if you just dot your i’s and cross your t’s. And like Eve, we listen to and believe his lies. And like Eve, we walk away from the gift of grace from the One who loves us best and into the arms of chaos and fear. Susanna writes, “The snake is keen on us going it alone. He wants us isolated from the One who knows us inside and out. He wants us to fail miserably. If he can get us to go it alone, if he can urge us to try to heal our own hurts and bind up our own wounds using less than stellar methods, he will triumph.” He is the enemy of our souls. The destroyer. He is doing his best (or worst) to convince us that we are the masters of our fates and captains of our souls, but we are not. In fact, we are far from it.
All of us who live or have lived under the tyranny of perfectionism, selfishness, and pride, long to be free. We long for joy and peace. And yet we cannot seem to leave the tyrants behind. With refreshing and straightforward simplicity, Susanna reminds us, “There is only one person who knows how to right the wrongs in our world…..He does not want us bound up in methods and rituals, trying to make sense of the life he gave us. He would like to make sense of them for us.”
At the heart of this book, lay the beautiful and much-needed message of hope. Eve screwed up (and, lest we forget, Adam was right there with her). We screw up. But the same God that we betrayed, that we walked away from, that we try to supplant (though we would rarely admit it), that God provided us with hope and grace through Jesus. Susanna puts it this way (this might be my favorite quote): “We can keep striving and struggling, trying to find that perfect place in life where everything looks and feels like it is going our way. We can keep grasping for a life that we can never have, or we can let go–let go of the mounting pressure that presses in as we fail ourselves over and over, let go of the thoughts that drive us to keep trying to control others, let go of the fallacy that we can reach heaven here on earth–and with both hands grab the One who can set us free. He sets us free from the desires that keep us trapped, from the gnawing hunger that is in us to be perfect in every way, from the drive that keeps us focusing on ourselves. He sets us free to follow the destiny the Creator has for us. Whom the Son has set free is free indeed. There’s just one question for you. Are you ready to be free?”
To all of us out there who are tired of trying to control a world that is so clearly out of control, of trying to make perfect that which is so patently imperfect, I cannot recommend this book highly enough. Susanna knows whereof she writes. She pulls no punches. You will laugh. You will cringe. You will, on occasion, be thankful that you live your life, and not her’s. But in the end, you will see that there really is hope. That life can be seasoned with grace. And that joy can be found in this journey. You will see that though Eve made a huge mistake and left a powerful legacy, there is One who has come to break the power of that legacy, quiet the sibilant whisperings of that snake, and reintroduce us to life as it was supposed to be.
Aughtmon, Susanna Foth. 2012. I Blame Eve: Freedom from Perfectionism, Control Issues & the Tendency to Listen to Talking Snakes. (Grand Rapids, MI: Baker Publishing Group.)