When my grandparents celebrated their Golden Anniversary, my sister and I wanted to get them a special gift; something both of them would enjoy. We searched for weeks and nothing seemed right. Their lives have been so separate. Grandma in the kitchen. Grandpa in the garage. All they have seems divvied up, Grandpa with the car, Grandma with the washing machine. We couldn’t think of anything they would both use and enjoy. So, we wound up getting Grandma leather Bible and Grandpa a buck knife.
Whenever I think of my grandparents, I think of them separately. Sometimes I wonder how they’ve stayed together. Of course, they believe this part of what has kept them together–this separateness. Each has a role to play, a job to do, and between the two of them, things get done. If you asked them, they’d tell you this is how it ought to be. Over the years, you come to accept this, for better and for worse. Grandma doing her thing. Grandpa doing his.
A funny thing happened at their anniversary party, though. For the first time, I noticed them doing things together. They sat down on the couch to open gifts and, like a newly married couple, they would open part of the package, look at themselves and giggle. It was strange, but wonderful to see the two of them enjoying each other’s company. In the same room. Doing the same thing. I can’t help but wonder if this had been there all along, and I just hadn’t noticed it.
In Genesis 2, we find Adam in the midst of a beautiful garden, the Garden of Eden. God has created all that Adam needs to survive and yet, creation is incomplete. God sees that human beings need more than just good food and beautiful scenery; they also need companionship. God sets about creating a partner for Adam.
In Genesis 2:18, God says he will make a “helper,” as a partner for Adam. The Hebrew word “ezer” here has no hint of lower standing. In fact, other than in this Genesis story, where the word refers to Eve, in all other places in Scripture, the word is used in reference to God. Exodus 18:4 reads, “The God of my father was my help, and delivered me from the sword of Pharaoh”. Throughout the Psalms, God in referred to as a “helper” or as “help”, (Psalm 124) “Our help is in the name of the Lord,” (Psalm 70) with “Thou art my help and my deliver, O Lord. The “helper” God is looking for in Genesis is not a servant, but one created in the image of God to serve as a partner with Adam to help care for creation.
After several attempts miss the mark, God forms a new creature out of the flesh and bones of Adam. This creature is not formed of similar substance, but the same. As God brings life to this new creature and presents her to Adam, Adam sees that a partner has been found. He doesn’t just name her, but shares his name with her. A partner is found.
Adam and Eve form a sacred partnership from which comes the basis for our lives together. This forms the basis for what we know as marriage. It also forms the basis for who we are as men and women. We are faced today with changing roles for men and women. Some are even beginning to wonder if marriage is such a good idea, claiming that it creates more problems than it solves. The clear division of labor that my grandparents have lived out for over 50 years is becoming, more the exception than the rule for men and women within and outside of marriage. Does this mean we are losing faith, or losing touch with how God has created us to be?
I don’t think so. The sacred partnership Adam and Eve share does carry with it a division of tasks or responsibilities. What is basic, fundamental in a marriage relationship, is that the two commit to partnership. Only when this bond is formed, this sacred partnership, can there be a successful division of roles. Without this shared sense of partnership, the marriage loses its sacredness.