Reflections

A Magazine of Theological and Ethical Inquiry from Yale Divinity School

A Cellular History of Pain

Author: 
Jan Jorgensen

“For just as through the disobedience of the one the many were made sinners,
so also through the obedience of the one the many will be made righteous.”
Romans 5:19

i.
Say, for instance, contemplating sin, St. Augustine was on to something …

Say that Judah’s brotherly betrayal altered his genetic code; that his sons inherited, absorbed the backhand blow …

Say Tamar, having little choice, was cheated repeatedly before her unorthodox undertaking … Judah was quick to condemn her until he saw the tokens of his guilt.

(Perhaps his thoughts echoed the scribes’ unrecorded question: How does one deal with a cunning woman?)

How long must a woman bear a man’s sin within her body? I ask, knowing it can be decades.

ii.

“Now the serpent was more cunning than any creature” more subtle, perhaps, save one: “She beguiled me …”

Resentfully, then, they named womanly pain a curse.

But in our bodies we share the eternal’s primal contractions: we are one with the love that birthed creation.

iii.
Say we have chosen caricature over portraiture; we might still recall Judah’s heroic moments

but the woman flung to the street, the woman at the well, the woman who anointed Jesus, are known simply by the violence of one word,

sinner. it is an obscure descriptive. there are countless ways to transgress, yet note the assumptions made when speaking of women …

Are they called sinners because it is tiflut to teach women Torah and interpreters, reading “tiflut” see licentious, ignore frivolous?

Sinner violates each woman’s vulnerabilities of trust and love, while centuries of deeds have followed closely upon one thought …

Do you see with careful editing how easy it is to misconstrue?

iV.

It is nearly effortless to transmit a legacy of wounding and shame. each destructive word is infused with a cellular history of pain, each loveless phrase covers your brain with a tattoo of suffering …

V.

Bury your wounded mind in your heart;
be one with the love that birthed Creation.

Issue Title: 
Women's Journeys: Progress and Peril
Issue Year: 
2011