My wife and I drive in to work together. She forgot that I can sleep in and woke me up at 4:30 a.m. as per usual. It was advantageous because we are meant to be preparing for a marriage retreat at Conference Point, William’s Bay, Wisconsin on October 9-11. I read Genesis 1 and Genesis 2 with her and she began to fall asleep. That wasn’t the best thing, because she was the one driving. So we discussed what I had been reading. I had read from multiple versions, but they had all been paraphrases. The hard hitters like the ESV or the NASB might have sent Kelli to sleep even more quickly. However, the Amplified Version, was really helpful. I don’t read it much because it usually seems overly repetitious. I can even find it annoying. However, this morning it really helped.
In our discussion, Kelli and I thought about a lot of things. What really struck us though was how well we were working together. That is the reason that God brought us together. It was to work toward a common goal. In the original story Man (Adam) is working alone to complete the tasks that God has assigned to Man (Mankind). Adam is the caretaker of Creation. He is a gardener, zoo-keeper and arable farmer all rolled into one. He does not go out to work in the morning, he does not even get dressed up for work. He doesn’t get dressed at all. He works at home because Eden is his home. In this home/work environment it is not good for Adam to be alone. He needs an ally/helper to complete the work that God has assigned with him.
Woman is taken from the side of man. She is part of him. Together they make a whole. They will complete God’s task of ruling the world and filling it as a pair. The description of the alliance is a description of two people who have equal standing and intertwined lives. They do life together and form the basic unit of a healthy community. This challenges some of our ideas of marriage that we have developed today.
Firstly, it challenges the separate spheres ideology that developed through industrialization. Before industrialization people worked the land around their homes, they engaged in cottage industries, or they sometimes served the master of the home in which they lived. As factories and offices became more prevalent, the man left the domestic sphere and entered the ‘workforce’. The role of breadwinner was assigned to the man and the role of ‘homemaker’ was assigned to the woman. In Genesis, the agrarian ideals question whether these assignments of roles are ideal. Some in Christian circles have even sanctioned the industrial roles as Christian. A woman is meant to stay at home, wear a skirt, and make babies, we are told. A man is meant to wear trousers, go to work, provide for his family, and make decisions. The reality of Genesis definitely celebrates difference. Adam and Eve are different from each other. However, the roles assigned to them do not resemble the roles that were assigned in the 19th century. They do life together and complete the work that God assigned both of them.
Secondly, the Genesis account challenges our views on vulnerability. To be vulnerable, we think, empowers the oppressor. Male power has been sanctioned by the positive presentation of the image of the helpless, vulnerable, submissive woman. The remedy often presented is for the woman to guard her heart or take power back that has been ripped from her. Images of violence now prevail in some feminist discussion through aggressive words assigned to male power like ‘violate’, ‘dominate’, or ‘abuse’. In many cases around the world, these words might be appropriate, but the solution is not to fight violent power with violent power. The solution to violence is not to combat physical domination with emotional domination, or vice versa. The solution is to end the game. The solution is to find a way to both be naked and without shame. To be naked is to be defenseless. Flight is an option, but fighting will just lead to deep wounds. Negotiation and debate can lead to more peace, but those who wound others in an attempt to win in a conflict, only have one guaranteed outcome: They will damage themselves and alienate themselves from their spouse and from God.
There is much more here in Genesis 1. However, as Kelli and I discussed how to approach the Marriage Retreat we found that we were working for a common goal, given to us by God. In working for him we connected with each other. In the limited sphere of a Mini Clubman we were allies fighting for the same cause.
26 Then God said, “Let Us (Father, Son, Holy Spirit) make man in Our image, according to Our likeness [not physical, but a spiritual personality and moral likeness]; and let them have complete authority over the fish of the sea, the birds of the air, the cattle, and over the entire earth, and over everything that creeps and crawls on the earth.” 27 So God created man in His own image, in the image and likeness of God He created him; male and female He created them. 28 And God blessed them [granting them certain authority] and said to them, “Be fruitful, multiply, and fill the earth, and subjugate it [putting it under your power]; and rule over (dominate) the fish of the sea, the birds of the air, and every living thing that moves upon the earth.” 29 So God said, “Behold, I have given you every plant yielding seed that is on the surface of the entire earth, and every tree which has fruit yielding seed; it shall be food for you;30 and to all the animals on the earth and to every bird of the air and to everything that moves on the ground—to everything in which there is the breath of life—I have given every green plant for food”; and it was so [because He commanded it]. 31 God saw everything that He had made, and behold, it was very good and He validated it completely. And there was evening and there was morning, a sixth day.
God, may we cease seeking power, control and safety. May we seek to serve your purposes together. May we find a partner with whom to work most closely. May we not create independent ways of meeting our goals, but may we do life together in ways that are interdependent and healthy.
- What work does God give mankind in Genesis 1?
- How is mankind described?
- What roles do men and women have in fulfilling their calling?
- How have we changed our roles compared to those we were given?
- How do men and women work best as a close-knit team in today’s economic realities?