At first, amid the unmistakable crunch of steel and aluminum, I thought I was the victim. A pang of outrage, a twinge of self-pity. But it quickly dawned on me that I was the one who caused the accident.
I was responsible for the damage to a stranger’s car. I had caused the stress the man in the other car endured. It was a relatively minor accident, but I still felt the weight of the loss I’d caused both of us. And there was something more than embarrassment and anxiety. There was shame. I felt a specific form of indignity for being a woman who had hit a man’s car.
In Saudi Arabia, women have only just been granted the right to vote. But they still aren’t allowed to drive vehicles. Even countries that consider such limitations archaic often hold steadfast to the stereotype of women as bad drivers. It can be a self-fulfilling belief: Studies show that these kinds of negative stereotypes actually affect women’s confidence while driving.
I want to prove myself as helpful and responsible, not flighty and negligent. I want to be the person who keeps an accident from happening, not the one who causes it. But I had caused it. Was I really a bad driver? Was I merely fearful of being labeled one because of my gender? Either way, the crash filled me with shame.
Like many women before me, I felt both legitimate and illegitimate shame. Like the first woman in the Garden of Eden, I felt the shame of genuine failure. But I also felt the impact of a lingering shame projected onto Eve by Adam, who blamed her for his eating the fruit. Ever since the events of the Fall, women have felt both sides of shame.
At Christmastime, we tend to focus on God’s deliverance of the righteous from illegitimate shame. The Virgin Mary experiences what seems to everyone else to be a shameful pregnancy, and even Joseph, who “did not want to expose her to public disgrace . . . had in mind to divorce her quietly.” But she is justified by an angel of the Lord, who puts the story right, and by all later generations who call her blessed.
But there is another biblical Christmas story that reminds us that the Christ child came to take away not only our illegitimate shame, but all of it. Ironically, it is a verse that many women prefer to avoid from fear that it just adds more shame: “But women will be saved through childbearing—if they continue in faith, love, and holiness with propriety” (1 Tim. 2:15).
This statement has challenged even those with a robust faith in the God of the Bible. But it’s a Christmas story indeed. It’s not the story of Mary and Joseph. Nor the story of Mary and Elizabeth. It’s the Christmas story of Mary and Eve.
From Glory to Shame
The first woman was created in the image of God, a helper suitable for the man, to work together with him to fulfill God’s creation mandate. There was no architecture or art, no fine foods or engineering marvels. This lack was part of their mandate. God tasked Adam and Eve with moving into his creation to steward it and rule over it, to create in his image from the foundation he left them. It was a clear and noble calling. Eve’s story starts with glory.
But it seems to end in humiliation. Eve allowed Satan to tempt her away from trust in God’s plan and purposes. She disobeyed God’s only command and played an instrumental part in the fall of man and warping of creation as a result. Adam then blamed Eve, seeking to distract from the fact of his presence with her when it happened.