Eve is a unique character in the Bible. She is unique in that she is frequently referenced as a prototype for ALL women. The rest of the women in the Bible are used to highlight certain attributes of women (with the exception of the Proverbs 31 woman, perhaps), but Eve embodies them all. She is the source of all womanhood, so Scripture and Church tradition alike have looked to her as a model for what women should, and should not, do. For this reason, Christian women throughout the Church’s history have looked at Eve for direction and identity. She was the first woman, and is therefore the definitive woman.
With all of that in mind, I was deeply dismayed when I came to a startling realization: Eve was never single. Eve was the prototype for all women who followed her, yet her life was defined by only two key phases: marriage and motherhood. She was created into marriage, therefore by-passing singleness, so the only way we ever really talk about Eve is in relation to Adam. In fact, her first sin was in being independent from Adam.
So if Eve is the definitive woman, and her entire life is articulated in light of her relationship to Adam, how are we single gals to relate? Does this mean we are only fully women once we get married and start having babies? Surely that can’t be true since God does not ordain that all women get married. That being said, what does Eve’s life have to say about singleness? How are we to understand Eve’s life in a way that embodies ALL women, no matter their stage in life?
The answer to this question can be found by shifting the way in which we look at Eve’s life. Instead of dividing her life into the two stages of marriage and motherhood, we must divide her life between the stages of obedience and disobedience, faithfulness and unfaithfulness, Paradise and Fallenness. There was the period of time in which she lived in perfect bliss with Adam, and the time in which she lived in sin outside the Garden. It is these two stages, rather than marriage and motherhood, that are the most important stages in Eve’s life, and the two stages that we women need to note.
Why is such a shift in perspective necesssary? Because communion with God will always and forever be more important than marriage and motherhood. Marriage and motherhood are gifts, as well as a means for serving God, but they do not make us who we are. God alone determines that. Our identity as women comes first and foremost from our relationship with God, not a husband or any other man, and that is the bridge with which all women can connect with Eve.
With that in mind, Eve is the definitive woman in that her life illustrates two types of womanhood: a woman in pursuit of God, or a woman in disobedience to God. In the Garden of Eden, Eve’s happiness was primarily connected to her relationship with God. After the Fall, her unhappiness was a direct result of her alienation from God. In a sense, Adam’s presence was merely circumstantial. Yes, the way in which she related to Adam was a way of honoring God, but ultimately it was all about God, Adam or not.
This, then, is what women are to learn from Eve: No matter where you are in life, single, or married, your primary concern is God. Ultimately, nothing else defines you as a woman except your discipleship. You are the fullest embodiment of a woman when you are submitting yourself to God in all that you do. You will also be most content when you are obedient to Him. We see what this kind of womanhood looks like in the Garden, and we see what fallen womanhood looks like after the Garden. And in addition to that, we are reminded that there is a danger in defining yourself any other way. If you think Christ-centered womanhood only comes with marriage and motherhood, then you commit the same sin as Eve: finding your identity in something other than God.
Thus Eve’s life is a reminder to us all, regardless of where we are in life. It is comforting for us singles, reassuring us that we are just as much women as anyone else, but it is also a form of accountability for wives and mothers, for whom it is easy to get swept up in the commitments of those roles. Neither singleness, marriage or motherhood make us women. God alone can make us into the women He created us to be, so it is a waste to seek for our identities in anything else.