Originating Sin + Rewriting It: Eve in Conversation with Pema, by Ronna Detrick

May 23, 2012

Original sin, the rewrite

I am compelled by stories. All stories – real, imagined, practical, fantastical, written, filmed, sung, lived. There is one particular genre that intrigues me most of all: ancient, before-the-dawn-of-time narratives of women. These tales weave and wind their way into every other story I know, hear, and tell. And for me, they have become my companions, muses, guides, and friends.

You may know some of these women. In fact, I’m certain you do. You may also have tried to forget them, dismiss them, and separate yourself from them. Because too often, their names summon up other stories that you’ve worked hard to escape: stories of your own.

When I read Pema’s last post, I felt that tension. She told her story – of curiosity, of desire, of shame, of silence, of separation, of hunger. And in it, she also told of the stories she had worked to escape: those of religion and even of God.

What if I were able to tell them in ways that intrigued and invited? Graced and gifted? Were relevant and real? And what if, in hearing them, you could better understand your own?

This is my quest. This is my passion. This is my love. And this is what I’ve done with Pema’s last post as inspiration and hope.

What follows is the story of Eve…as told through the story of Pema. You’ve heard and read them both before. Read them anew. Hear them anew. And watch both stories transform when they are embraced by each other’s.

Eve’s response to Pema in her recent post, “God, Sex and My Divorce from Religion”:

Disclaimer: Run now or hold your peace

No parent wants to read about their child’s first sexual encounter under their own roof. And so for that reason, I caution my dad and anyone else who feels fatherly or motherly toward me, or anyone squeamish about teenage love to click away right now…

In the beginning: shame. Your story starts there…but not on its own, not because of you; rather because of others’ perception, right? I know. I understand. Still, so many years later, you still feel the heft of your years-ago choices. You still anticipate and assume the pain others will know. The weight of your world still rests on these choices…

The fate of the world rested on mine. Or so it’s been told.


For all who have stayed. Welcome. To the night I got naked. With a girl. In my brother’s bedroom. It’s a passion play that, like all good dramas, begins its slow turn much earlier.

She and I were best friends. On this night, we turned lovers, in a willful gesture that I learned was desire. It took over me as if I was watching myself on a movie screen. And yet, I lived each moment in the heat that spread in my heart, my gut, my skin, exploding my head. Each choice. And then the next. I was 16.

Everything in me longs to scoop you up in a great big hug and never let you go. Everything in me longs to replay these tapes…the ones that started looping just after…the ones that moved you from desire to shame.

Can you imagine if desire were good? If every emotion, experience, and even explosion was hardly something from which you were restrained; but instead were welcomed? If curiosity had been affirmed? If no fear of shame had been present? If choice had not felt clandestine, secretive, hidden?

This was not imagination for me. It was real. Perfection. Desire. A taste. And all of it was good. Oh, I know, this is not how my story’s been told. Maybe there’s another way to tell yours, as well. Maybe it’s time we preached another.

My dad was a preacher. My mom slept nearby on the living room couch. My brother was no longer. At least, not his physical form. He had died suddenly, nine months before, at 17.

Did you wonder how sermons could be preached and mothers could sleep and life could go on when your brother was gone?

I used to. My son died, suddenly. It was not an accident. And not one aspect of my life was ever the same. But it seemed like life continued around me as though nothing had happened. I never understood how that could be. Many thought my innocence ended when I left the Garden (and you, that night at 16). That was nothing compared to his death.

The end of innocence

His room was intact. I would go in there from time to time, to make his absence real. And to pierce the mute, open doorway standing at the end of the hall, that no one walked through anymore, but which shone blue from the paint on his walls.

It had a bigger bed than mine, covered by the blue and red afghan our grandma crocheted. I would sit on it and stare out the window. Run my hand over coarse yarn and stare out the door. Stare into his closet. Velcro my eyes to the song lyrics he had written on the pad still on his desk. The cartoons he had drawn. His life still in the lines.

But this night, the scratchy afghan slipped to the floor. My best friend and I, we’d been to the beach. Heat from our sunburns made the room feel like day. Street lamp light sifted the darkness telling us it was night. All of it transcended time.

A story is told even before mine where God called the darkness good.

And somehow, that story…like yours…has been lost as time has passed. Now, particular things, spaces, and scenes become indelible symbols we cannot escape. A bed. An afghan. That one night. A tree. A snake. That one bite.

Resurrection mix tape

Dawn came. Then morning sun. Then sleep.

No matter what. These three always return. Over and over again. Dawn. Sun. Sleep. And maybe a fourth: resurrection.

It was Easter Sunday. My dad woke us ten minutes into slumber, to get ready for church.

Mmmm. That morning, after I took the bite, God called to me (just like your dad) and said, “Where are you?”

Pastel floral farm skirt and my favorite greenish cropped top. What I wore that day is sealed on my memory, as is the way the sun slanted through the windows and her next to me in the pew in black pedal pushers. Somebody preached. About Jesus dying for our sins. And coming back to life. While I flashed on fresh sins I could still feel. And felt alive in them.

After I took the bite my eyes were opened – in a flash. And everything was more alive. I got dressed that day. But no matter what I covered myself with, nothing could hide all that I knew, all that I felt, all that had happened, all that was about to happen.

The people here hurt for me and my family’s loss deeply. They wrapped me in love as much as I would let them. And I knew with fearful certainty that if they knew the sins I knew, they would reject me without argument. That was the day a new piece of my spirit struggled free, while my relationship with religion ground to its end.

Many have thought the same of me; that my taking that apple marked the end of perfection with God. Many have been wrong. That one bit of delicious fruit is what changed everything, what opened up brand new worlds, and what enabled a new and intimate relationship with God. Found, not lost.


As it happened, it was my job to drive Grandma to church. That wasn’t going to change. So I went, every Sunday, for the next three years until I left for college, smiling to see the folks that raised me in this community, and dying inside to think we wouldn’t be having this conversation if they knew what I knew about me.

It has been the job of the church to tell my story a certain way. And I have died inside so many times, not because of what really happened, but because of what others’ decided happened. They talked as if they knew what I knew. They did not.

If you’ve ever been a closeted gay teen stoic at church, you know that hyper-self-awareness can widen into silence and separation. Turn into rejection and resentment. Years into the shut-down, I became allergic to all things holy. The day, a decade later, that I sat in traffic behind a Christian fish symbol bumper sticker, and raged at the intolerant audacity of a blindly religious vocal majority, I heard the silence in my car stab back at me. My outrage, the silent echo suggested, might be a bigger fish to fry than the one on the bumper.

No, not a closeted gay teen stoic at church. Just a banished shameful woman who cast the future of all humanity out of Eden and into hell. The religious vocal majority silenced me and separated me from my story. They rejected me and resented my choices. They fed me to the sharks…and blamed a snake.

A modern chance

There was no where to go in the traffic. No one to hear but myself. I’d learned enough to know that inordinate venom is usually the tip off to a personal problem buried so deep you can’t see it. It was there, gridlocked behind the Christian fish car, that I missed spirituality.

I’m not so sure that venom is always bad. But then, my relationship with snakes is different than most.

If I were a preacher, I’d be fourth in a generational line of them, starting with my great-grandfather on my dad’s side. Church, before there was a building for it, used to be held in the very house that I lived in. My dad as a boy would set out folding chairs in his living room for the congregants, which, if you’ve ever crammed into a living room and shared stories and reverence, you know is a silly name to call each other when it feels rather like family.

I missed…a feeling. That family. The reverence. The sensation of awe and peace and wonder that my dad called “the spirit.” I missed people caring and loving and coming together just to be together in a sacred hour. As much as I had grown to detest all things related to a religious tenet that would kill me if it had a modern chance, I even missed praying.

Most have been told that when I left Eden, God left me, that “spirit” departed. They have painted me as cast from God’s presence (and threatened all sinners hence with the same). Nothing could be further from the truth. In fact, it was my leaving of Eden that created the context for God’s intimacy, protection, and care in ways previously unknown. It was my leaving of Eden that caused God to pursue me. I might have missed that had I stayed.


And so there in my car, I cracked open and allowed myself to feel, allowed myself to wonder, and to wander through thoughts of God as God related to ME and not a religion.

This IS my story. I allowed myself to feel. I allowed myself to wonder. I allowed myself to wander. And God related to me – always, endlessly, still.

That was the beginning of what has become an increasingly spiritual journey. I remembered the reverence with which I absorbed nature on the walks to school and in the national parks we traveled with my grandparents. I remembered the joy and gratitude of stewardship that my grandma modeled. And I remembered that I had as much fascination for a fundamentalist’s diehard faith as I had vitriol for what it espoused.

I think they call this collection of attributes “humanist,” and maybe that’s what I was becoming. But what I knew in the moment was that access to spirit was no longer trapped in the church box. It was no longer separate from me and my heathen ways. Access to spirit is mine if I want it, even if religion has its party without me.

I was fully human. And I was fully loved by God. Eden did not broker such. East of Eden did not prevent such. I was never, nor have YOU ever been separate from that same God. That’s worth a party, don’t you think?

I’ll bring the apples.

The good news

It is all I can do to stop typing. Pema’s story is so rich in beauty and desire, isn’t it? So is Eve’s. But do you see? The way we tell them (our own telling and others’) is what moves them to shame. Here the good, good news: if we can so easily make this shift, we can just as easily make another.

Stories of shame can be stories of redemption. Stories of separation can be stories of intimacy. And stories silenced can be stories told – celebrated – honored – lived. Pema’s. Eve’s. Yours. Mine.

This is my passion. This is my love. This is sacred stuff.

Inspired by Eve + Pema in the pulpit May 27

Toward that end I created Inspired by Eve. It’s a guide and companion to self-trust, deep knowing, and a delicious life of desire. 36 pages. An audio version of me telling my version of Eve’s story. Provocative writing/journaling/reflective prompts. And an invitation to understand your story in brand new ways. I’d love for you to have it. Click here to learn more. Come on: reach for the apple and take a bite. That hunger is good.

Sunday Services you want to WAKE UP for!
with Ronna Detrick, Spiritual Director and creator of Inspired by Eve.
and guest, Pema Teeter, Story Charmer
May 27, 2012
10:00 am (PST)

Together we will talk about new ways of understanding and incorporating faith, beliefs, spirituality, and gorgeous, significant story.

We need congregation. We need sacred space.
 And we need conversation that is unscripted, unedited, and unboundaried.
 We need each other.

Dial: 530.881.1300 Code: 590920#

(Skype callers: Add ‘freeconferencing.5308811300′ to your contacts.
Once you’ve dialed in, locate the key pad and enter the access code. )

Smart, engaging conversation about topics that matter. Soak up community wisdom. Even worship. It’s divine.

Join us.


Ronna Detrick provides Spiritual Direction to both individuals and businesses and creates Sacred Congregation for you! She gets at deep truths and talks about a God and faith you’re hungry for. She has recently released Inspired by Eve ~ a companion and guide to self-trust, deep knowing, and a delicious life of desire. Go on, take a bite: learn more.

{ 3 comments… read them below or add one }

Pearl Mattenson May 24, 2012 at 11:15 am

Pema, Ronna…I am breathless. To be woven together in words ..in conversation… to be witnessed in this way.

To me this speaks to the great tension/dialectic I feel in my inner life:
My life is deeply personal, it is about my own choices and my own consequences AND my life unfolds in the context of my relationships to my family, my people and God. I matter and my choices have an impact in our world…

Thank you…


Pema Teeter May 24, 2012 at 3:35 pm

Pearl. Yes. Yes. Yes. A constant traveling between the deeply personal and the impact on our world. Tension between choices, I remember in times like these, is what keeps things interesting, provokes conversation and change, innovates. It makes us evolve, painful as the traverse may be at times. I wish I could remember this more frequently, that tension between these important poles in our lives compel our purpose. Thanks for reminding me here.



Ronna May 24, 2012 at 4:02 pm

Love your words (and your presence), Pearl. And…it’s this “tension” between our own deepest heart and the way in which it’s seen and experienced in the world that creates our most profound love and deepest ache. The gift in both (at least for me) is that we have one another; that we’re not alone.
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