Excerpt from Chapter 5 of Marriage on Mission: From isolation to integration
The Lord God said, “It is not good for the man to be alone. I will make a helper suitable for him.”… So the Lord God caused the man to fall into a deep sleep; and while he was sleeping, he took one of the man’s ribs and then closed up the place with flesh. Then the Lord God made a woman from the rib he had taken out of the man, and he brought her to the man.
The man said, “This is now bone of my bones and flesh of my flesh; she shall be called ‘woman,’ for she was taken out of man.”
That is why a man leaves his father and mother and is united to his wife, and they become one flesh.
Adam and his wife were both naked, and they felt no shame.
~ Genesis 2:18 – 25
The Genesis account of the first man, the first woman, and the first marriage is fascinating. Through these twenty-five verses of chapter two, we gain several essential insights into God’s original motivation and design for marriage.
So, before we jump into what it looks like to have a marriage on mission, let’s first align our basic understanding of marriage back to the factory settings. (When all else fails, read the manual!)
1. Adam learned that love must be given freely before God brought Eve to him
In the middle of the garden were the tree of life and the tree of the knowledge of good and evil. ~ Genesis 2:9
Before God introduces the first woman to the first man he teaches Adam something very important about the nature of love. How does he do this? By placing the tree of the knowledge of good and evil smack dab in the middle of his back yard and then telling him not to eat from it.
Now, why would God do that? I thought Eden was supposed to be perfect? What possible reason did God have for placing temptation within arm’s reach of Adam and Eve? No tree, no temptation! No temptation, no sin!
Yes, God could have created Eden without the tree of the knowledge of good and evil. God could have made it impossible for Adam and Eve to sin. For that matter, God could have created robots that continually shouted, “Praise God! Hallelujah!” twenty-four hours a day while bowing down and giving both their tithes and their offerings!
But that’s not what God wanted. Perfect obedience was not his highest goal. God wanted something more; he wanted chosen obedience. God wanted Adam and Eve to love him freely, not because they had to, but because they wanted to.
There is a word in the English language for forced love. That word is rape.
God gave humanity the freedom to choose Him, or to choose something or someone else to love. That’s why there had to be that tree. God values love given freely so much, that he was willing to risk it all. (I know some of my Calvinistic friends may be squirming right now, don’t worry, the Arminians will squirm later! I will do my best to make everyone squirm at some point!)
Adam and Eve chose to love and walk with God. In the same way, they chose to love and walk with one another. Then, the day came when they chose otherwise, and their relationship with God died. Soon, the relationships among people began dying as well. It would take the death of the Second Adam to bring resurrection and new life into those dead relationships; thus the price tag God paid to protect freedom.
2. Adam first experienced loneliness before God gave him companionship
Then the LORD God said, “It is not good for the man to be alone. I will make a helper suitable for him.” ~ Genesis 2:18
If God knew that is wasn’t good for man to be alone, why didn’t he create Adam and Eve at the same time? Why did God wait? Why was Adam asked to name all of the animals (no doubt, walking before him in pairs, male and female) by himself?
Was this some kind of cruel joke? Is God playing sick mind games?
No, to the contrary, God loved Adam. God worked and sacrificed for Adam’s greatest good. By making Adam wait for provision in the person of Eve, God was actively loving Adam. God is love.
In wisdom God allowed Adam to experience what life was like without the companionship of an equal. He understood God’s greatness and his position as a created being. He understood his relationship and role among the animals and plants (to cultivate the garden and exercise his God-given authority). But there was no one standing by his side. No one uniquely designed for relationship with him, for oneness.
Not until God caused Adam to fall into a deep sleep, removed one of his ribs, and created Eve. I love Matthew Henry’s famous quote on this:
Isn’t that beautiful? How would my life and our marriage be different if everyday I looked at Sandi as my equal who God has given me to protect and love?
I think God allowed Adam to go it alone for a time so that he could better appreciate the exquisitely crafted treasure he had in Eve. She was God’s gift to Adam, and she was not to be taken for granted.
3. Adam needed a “suitable helper”; he was not self-sufficient
In the same passage God says, “I will make a helper suitable for him.” So, we surmise that Adam needed help, but with what?
Was he falling behind on his daily quota of animal naming? Were the tomatoes getting over-ripe or the squash drying out? Just what was it Adam needed Eve to help him with?
Three things stand out:
- Since Adam was created in God’s image, and since God lives in perfect communion through the relationships among the Trinity, Adam needed Eve to experience community. The zebras and weasels just weren’t going to cut it! Adam needed someone who was like him, but also created in God’s image.
- Adam needed Eve to express and reflect the image of God. Genesis 1:27 says, “So God created mankind in his own image, in the image of God he created them; male and female he created them.” God’s image (and therefore, his glory) cannot be fully reflected in male or female, but only in male and female. You don’t have to be married to reflect God’s image, but none of us do it well alone.
- Adam needed Eve to have children and co-parent a family. God commanded them to “Be fruitful and increase in number.” The group Air Supply may have scored a huge hit with their 1983 song “Making Love Out of Nothing At All”, but most of us have discovered how incredibly helpful a loving spouse can be.