It is difficult to imagine what it would have been like to live in the biblical era. Yet students Elise Arsenault, Carly Ververs, and Chloe Savich were able to place themselves in the shoes of biblical characters and artistically envision the emotion of their stories. Let the words of these student authors lead you to imagine for yourself the journey that these Bible characters would have trekked.
On my Shoulders
The Story of Eve (Genesis 3:6-24)
By: Elise Arsenault
How could I have known?
The garden was full of wonders; every day I saw something new. Adam was there before I was, walking with God and naming the creatures as they shook the dust from their awakening. When it was my turn to wake up, I met God and my husband. Adam walked with me and taught me the names of the creatures, one by one.
But I didn’t have a name.
The garden was full of wonders, so when the serpent spoke I wasn’t afraid. And when I answered him, I wasn’t afraid. But the fruit grew heavy in my hand as it left my teeth, and Adam’s too. Its juice ran down our arms, our necks, our chests, our ribs — and as we watched it on our bare skin, we felt something we’d never pointed to or named. We felt afraid, and it crawled onto us and into us.
I felt smothered by something and stripped of another. Our bodies had been as blameless as birds’ wings, as strong as mountains, as fluid as the sea. We were at home in them, and in each other’s. Here and now, I feel no safety in my body or in my husband’s gaze.
Fig leaves are big and smooth, but their stems poke at my skin. I start snapping them, one by one, until I hear God passing by. It isn’t His footsteps I hear — the grass is too long for that. I can hear His singing.
We don’t join in. Instead, we hold our breath and press our coverings against us, running. My feet have never turned this way — away — but that’s where we run, into denser trees as if God won’t follow.
“Where are you?” He says when His song is done. Adam tells Him we’re hiding because we’re naked.
“Who told you?” He asks, His voice breaking in two. “Did you eat what I told you not to?”
God has never been the one asking the questions. I see Adam’s chest start to swell and collapse, his breaths staggering.
“She gave it to me!” My husband points to me as if he doesn’t know me.
“The serpent!” I cry in a voice that doesn’t sound like mine. I cover my face with my hands. “The serpent deceived me, so I ate it.” Tears run down my arms, my neck, my chest, my ribs — washing the stains away.
The serpent answers to his name, and the three of us face God. One by one, our Maker names our wrongs and the prices for them; the serpent’s head will be crushed by my seed; my births and desires will cause me anguish; Adam will work by the sweat of his brow; and the earth itself will cry out in thorns.
The serpent leaves, crawling on its belly, and Adam puts his hands on my shoulders. His touch is still warm, and his eyes still search and know me.
“Eve,” he says. “Mother of all the living.”
Now I have a name to wear — and soon I have garments too. God fastens warm skins around Adam and me, then rests His hands on our shoulders.
“You have to leave now,” He says, and I know it’s for our good; everything He’s ever said has turned into Good. We walk ahead of Him, following a new path burnt into the grass and leading through a narrow gate. Once on the other side, we turn around to face God, but instead see a man like the sun. We can’t look him in the face; we’re overcome with a different kind of fear.
When the gates close, cherubim guard it with swords on fire. Adam wraps his arms around me, sobbing in my hair, and I do the same in his chest. Then I pull away and meet his eyes.
“God is guarding the garden,” I tell him. “Not destroying it.”
“He’s not destroying us, either,” Adam says.
We see the light still shining past the top of the gate. We hear Elohim still singing between the trees. He has readied us for a journey, and one day we’ll be back home.
How could I have known?
Words from the Well
The Story of Hagar (Genesis 16:1-16)
By: Carly Ververs
I remember the morning I knew I was pregnant — how my master had smiled with wet eyes, and I had looked upon his wife, my mistress, with contempt in her barrenness. And I remember the whip that made me flee — the sharp, cutting pain across my hands and arms, and my mistress’ dark eyes as she watched me. I remember biting my tongue so I wouldn’t cry out and the metallic taste of blood and that my mistress did not even flinch. And I remember how cold the water was from the well, how thirsty I had been, how raw my throat had felt. And I remember how deep the angel’s voice was, but I can’t remember what he looked like — when I try to think back to that moment, all I see is blinding brightness and white hands reaching out.
“Hagar, servant of Sarai,” he said to me, “where have you come from and where are you going?”
I remember the fear — closing my eyes tight against the brightness, the knot in my stomach, the strangled breath caught between my lungs and mouth. My hands shook as I covered my stomach — it was just starting to swell then — and my voice shook as I answered him honestly: “I am fleeing from my mistress Sarai.”
“Return to your mistress and submit to her,” he said, and I shook my head, my lips now trembling along with my hands.
“I’ve been disobedient. She’ll kill me — and my child,” I thought to myself, but the angel continued speaking: “I will surely multiply your offspring so that they cannot be numbered for multitude. Behold, you are pregnant and shall bear a son. You shall call his name Ishmael, because the Lord has listened to your affliction. He shall be a wild donkey of a man, his hand against everyone and everyone’s hand against him, and he shall dwell over against all his kinsmen.”
As he spoke, the knot in my stomach unraveled, and my breath evened out. Ishmael – it means God hears. And sitting at that well, my eyes still closed against the angel’s brightness but skin now warmed because of it, I knew that God both hears and sees — saw the contemptuous way I had looked at my mistress, saw me as I fled in disobedience, saw me as I sat beside that well and wept. Although I had sinned against my mistress, God still heard me and saw me and came for me. To the angel, I said, “You are the God of seeing — the God who sees me. Truly here I have seen Him who looks after me.”
Then the brightness was gone, and when I opened my eyes, so was the angel. My skin was still warm though, from his brightness.
I thought about continuing on my way to Shur, but after this encounter — because of this encounter — I knew I couldn’t. I went back to my mistress and submitted to her, as the angel had commanded me. In time, I bore my master a son, and now whenever I look at him, my Ishmael, my wild donkey of a son, I remember all of these things — from the whip, to the water, to the words and warmth of the angel of the Lord. God sees and God hears, and at that well, at Beer-lahai-roi, as I called it — the well of the Living One who sees me — I saw Him who looks after me.
Touching Jesus’ Cloak (Luke 8:40-56)
By: Chloe Savich
In blood soaked sand I stand
My lip quivers, I’ve been waiting
For something to happen for twelve years
A little too short to pray for death,
And too long to hold onto hope that I handed out
Like denarii to different doctors who promised healing
Different people who gave me treatments but
I still walked away bleeding
They told me I was too much, that I could not be fixed
And now I’ve got nothing left but a shadow that falls down
On the ground as the sun shines mercilessly upon me
And my filthy rags
I hear the Son of David is coming, people whisper and shout
All around me, there is a fluster as what looks like a parade
Makes its way down the road
Is this the Messiah? Will he see me?
I stand there in place, not wanting to move, not wanting to
Be caught vying for his attention, He would never notice me.
The crowd comes and passes, begrudgingly, I follow, a magnetic pull inside of me
Because this Man does not look or sound like anyone I’ve known
He tells stories like riddles, responds with gentleness as
People seek Him out, where did He get His patience?
I stay in the back, wondering if maybe I shouldn’t talk to Him,
Shouldn’t jump right out in front of Him, and ask Him
The way that all the other people do.
I have no voice to cry out with; the ground swallows up
My shouting through tears, twelve years.
Twelve years of being married to loneliness,
Twelve years of sitting in silence,
Twelve years of wondering where my folks went
After I became their public embarrassment.
Twelve years have eaten away my inheritance
Twelve years have consumed me like acid, and
I’d rather be an ash heap now.
No, I will not jump in front of Him.
I will take hold of His cloak, like the desperate, starving woman I am.
I have nothing to offer this Jesus, I can only take from Him
What I believe can be mine, if I get close
Enough to touch Him, to touch Him is to be healed by Him
But I hope He will not notice.
I have heard people crying in the synagogue,
Even from outside, my heart feasted on the wonders and miracles
They are not too good to go unheard by my unclean ears
Swiftly, my legs move faster, my body weak, beads of sweat blossom on my head like flowers
And I can already feel it, I can already feel that my life is about to change.
The crowd around Him dismisses me, but because I am unclean
They are too afraid to touch me, to throw me away.
And in the beauty of being condemned, I make my way to the Man
Whom I believe can save me, even after all the others did not.
I grasp His cloak, gentleness and grace go before me, but inside I am ravenous, I have been waiting twelve years for this moment
Hits me like thunder and lightning coursing through my veins,
I can feel every cell in me align with truth, I don’t know how I know it, but what I hoped for is true, this is the Messiah, and with one touch twelve years have come undone.
The bleeding stops.
When I touch His cloak, I am frozen in place, so aware that the traces of who He is have gotten under my skin, into my veins.
He stops, now, looking around, seeking the one who touched His cloak to whom His powers went out.
How could I prepare for this? Only the desire to be healed had driven me closer to Him,
I did not consider the consequence of my actions.
My mind goes blank when I realize that He, the Prince of Peace, is looking at me.
The crowd has drawn back in silence, there is a circle of people around us but they’re all looking at Him, as if I still cannot be seen. But now, I don’t even care.
Just when my breath hitches in my throat, heart in stomach, hands shaking from the hot electricity of His holiness, my knees fail me
Buckling to the ground, unable to keep the sobs from escaping my dry mouth.
I cry out to Jesus, and maybe even the crowd, heaving as I tell the story of how this Man in the streets stopped my bleeding with one touch
When doctors couldn’t even figure out how, I kneeled there, too ashamed to look at His face, knowing I was a dog among men, waiting for Him to say that I was banished, never to be seen again.
And then, from His lips like a kiss, “Daughter”
Slowly, I look up to see His gaze upon me.
And then, light.
And then, life.
And then, I feel something new inside, something I have waited years for.
It is not the hemorrhage that has brought me to the Messiah’s feet,
Not the ceased bleeding that now causes me to weep,
But the new name with which He addresses me,
For the first time in twelve years I am seen.
And to be seen by Him is to be loved by love itself.