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18 Then the LORD God said, “It’s not good that the human is alone. I will make him a helper that is perfect for him.” 19 So the LORD God formed from the fertile land all the wild animals and all the birds in the sky and brought them to the human to see what he would name them. The human gave each living being its name. 20 The human named all the livestock, all the birds in the sky, and all the wild animals. But a helper perfect for him was nowhere to be found.
21 So the LORD God put the human into a deep and heavy sleep, and took one of his ribs and closed up the flesh over it. 22 With the rib taken from the human, the LORD God fashioned a woman and brought her to the human being. 23 The human said,
“This one finally is bone from my bones
and flesh from my flesh.
She will be called a woman [Or wife (Heb ishshah)]
because from a man [Or husband (Heb ish)] she was taken.”
24 This is the reason that a man leaves his father and mother and embraces his wife, and they become one flesh. 25 The two of them were naked, the man and his wife, but they weren’t embarrassed.
In many details, the creation story in Genesis 2 differs from the story in Genesis 1. But under the surface differences, we find a strong thread of continuity. Both say a good God made the world, and made it in love as a good place for God’s human creatures to live and thrive. When we carefully read Genesis 2’s colorful story of God creating a woman, we find the same message of mutuality as in Genesis 1, though presented with different details.
Lord, you’ve given all of us (not just me and people like me) your image from creation on. Keep teaching me how to value our differences in the setting of our common humanity. Amen.
I grew up in the Evangelical truth, so traditional gender roles were a big part of what I was taught in church. Men are like this, women are like this, and women and men need each other to cover for their differences, so marriage is the ultimate goal. This led a lot of men in my church to never learn to cook or do laundry. But I digress.
I will say that I’m not the biggest believer in traditional gender roles anymore. A lot of this stems from my own life experience in a marriage where traditional gender roles are totally jacked. I’m the emotional one while my wife is all logic and efficiency. When my wife is root root rooting for the home team, I’m in the kitchen making snacks for everyone. (I don’t like sports.) I do the cooking and she manages the money. This was all very liberating for me, growing up a little terrified of marriage because I never fit the mold.
Now of course traditional gender roles are true for some people and work for a lot of people. If a woman wants to be a stay-at-home mom, that’s awesome; if she wants to be an executive of a medium sized business, that’s also awesome. I saw a lot of people cling to traditional roles like that because they thought it was the only way marriage would work. Opening up gender expectations made our marriage work a lot better. Man and woman are words that carry a lot of expectations in today’s society, and being able to define yourself as an individual rather than a bag of someone else’s expectations can make marriages much stronger.
Anyway, that’s not my point. My point is that God’s model for marriage still works even when both people don’t fit the mold. The idea that everyone out there needs a helper is still a pretty true statement. But buried in that, and I don’t think this gets talked about enough, is a call for everyone to be a helper. For single people, we talk all the time about how many fish there are in the sea, but spend frighteningly little time about being the right bait. For married people, there’s the misconception of this verse that the woman is the helper and the man is the… Rib donor? Guy who names all the pets? I’m a little unclear on that. How I read this is that the woman is the man’s helper, and the man is the woman’s helper.
With that understanding, a look for that special someone changes from, “Let me find my helper,” to “Let me find someone that I can uniquely help.” With that, you can start asking all kinds of good questions, like how do I take my skills and passions and channel them into something to help my partner? It also shows us that even when you need help, it involves giving something—usually information on your stressors and emotions so that your partner can effectively help you.
Finding a helper and being a helper are both vital parts of a relationship. You may find you’re naturally better at one of those than the other. You may also find your relationship pressures you to do one of those over the other. For a relationship to really work, both parties need to be helpers. Adopting this mindset can solve a lot of marital strife.
*Hamilton, Adam. Love to Stay: Six Keys to a Successful Marriage (Kindle Locations 200-201). Abingdon Press. Kindle Edition.
** Quoted by Gordon G. Wenham in the comment on Genesis 2:18-24 in The New Bible Commentary, 21st Century Edition. Downers Grove, IL: Intervarsity Press, 1994, p. 62.