As I continue to think about the design of a happy marriage, I have to start with singleness. Whether you believe in a literal Adam or a figurative Adam, or no Adam at all, the Bible wants to teach that mankind has a purpose. In the biblical story, when Adam is placed in the garden he has a job to do. He is to work the garden and keep it. the scale of the job is unclear, is he to tend a keep the whole Earth or just one section. John H. Walton would have us believe that the headwaters of four great rivers is in Eden, but that the Garden of Eden is not Eden itself. It is a garden like the gardens of palaces in Europe, or the Botanical Gardens in Chicago. The four rivers irrigate this garden and Adam tends it. Alone.
For poor Adam this proves too much to do alone. God knows that it is not good and allows Adam to parade all the animals and assess their ability to help him perform the task that is required of him. Although oxen are great at pulling carts they are weak when it comes to hedge trimming and making a decent cup-of-tea. Although a parrot can fly a message from one end of Eden to the other, they can not redirect water with a new irrigation ditch. All animals fall short in some way to help mankind with the tasks of working and keeping The Garden of Eden. That is when woman is formed.
The original language doesn’t have a shining white rib as the origin of Eve. It has the man possibly ripped in half or possibly a huge, fleshy fistful of man is made into a woman. She is his equal and together they will be able to perform the task. Man has a purpose and woman has a purpose. It is identical and they will only complete it if they pull together.
In this individualised and narcissistic age, we have a lot to learn here. Our focus is not to be on our spouse and whether we picked the right one from the shelf. We aren’t to assess whether they give us maximum pleasure or keep our shirts ironed. The assessment is whether together we can do the task to which God has called us. If we are to reach our potential, God often gives us more work than we can achieve alone. The marriage works ideally when we have a clear vision and both see our roles in achieving it.
Do you know what you and your spouse are called to do? Do you have a God-focused strategy to complete the work? Are you working as a team?
If you are single, how does this idea of a calling inform who you might marry? What happens if one day you feel you are called to plant a church in Africa and the next day God seems to keep you caring for family in Boston?
15 The Lord God took the man and put him in the garden of Eden to work it and keep it.
God, I thank you for the partnership of marriage. Help us to see the strength in the sexes. help us to see how together we can build and tend to what you have called us to. May your kingdom come.
- What did God do with the man (Adam)?
- What was Adam’s job?
- Do you think the job of mankind was different than when Adam was alone?
- To what has God called you?
- How might a partnership with a member of the opposite sex assist you in completing God’s work?