Monday, April 26, 2010

The woman

God speaks three hard words after he confronts Adam and Eve with their sin. The hard word he speaks to the serpent, as we have said, points ahead to the eventual victory Jesus will win over Satan at the cross.

These words are a "curse" only in the loosest sense of the word. They are more consequence than curse. To the snake, God says, "You've deceived my beloved; therefore I will put a plan in place to defeat you." To the man and the woman, God says, "Here is the consequence of your sin -- this is what life will look like now that disobedience has infected your lives." His word to each of them is uniquely suited to their gender.

The woman is wired to focus on relationships. No matter what tasks she is doing, the woman is relationally-rooted. Even the tasks she chooses, more often than not, are important because she has a relationship with the people on the other end of the tasks. Whether she's doing laundry or making phone calls or going to work, she's thinking about the relationships involved. It's part of how she's created in God's image. So where does the woman experience the consequences of disobedience? Most painfully, in her relationships.

First God says she will experience pain in childbirth, and then it seems like the same idea is repeated. We call this common Hebrew way of saying things "parallelism" where an idea is stated, then restated slightly differently. We see this very commonly in the Psalms. "The earth is the Lord's, and everything in it / the world, and all who live in it" (see Psalm 24). If the two ideas are identical, this structure is a way of lifting up the idea and showing its importance. But often, the second statement is slightly different, and the parallel structure is a way to say two different but closely related things. That's what is going on here with the woman. The NIV doesn't do a good job distinguishing these two statements. Here's how the English Standard Version (ESV) puts God's word to the woman:

"I will surely multiply your pain in childbearing;
in pain you shall bring forth children.
Your desire shall be for your husband,
and he shall rule over you."

Do you notice that in the second line, God refers to bringing forth children -- not just childbirth, but the process of parenting. Oh, wait a minute ... if that's what God is saying, it makes sense, doesn't it? Can you imagine how much less painful it would be to raise children in a world without sin? No rebellion, though a child would still struggle for independence. No selfishness. Instead we'd all be able to care for each other's needs - and our own - without fear. But in a sinful world, we struggle with all kinds of wants and desires and fears based on the fact that we know we're going to get hurt, and hurt badly.

Then God turns from children -- the second most intimate human relationship in the woman's life -- to the most intimate, to her relationship with her husband. Because sin is loose in the world, God says, the woman will have an inordinate desire for her husband. It's not that a woman wanting her husband is bad -- heavens, no! But because of sin, and the fear that goes hand in hand with sin, the woman focuses a lot of her hopes, fears, worries, and needs on that one man in her life. She desires him not for his sake, but for her own. She wants him to meet her needs in a way that insulates her from risk and fear and uncertainty. This desire grows beyond appropriate, godly partnership until she is willing to engineer the relationship to make sure it goes right. Though it's not what she wants, in the face of her fear she may decide to manipulate and control him to protect herself and bring about what she knows is the right outcome. Her desire is for her husband to lead her in the way she wants to go.

This introduces into the marriage relationship a dynamic that has not been present before: the husband rules over the wife. Partly because in her fear she looks to him for protection, partly because in response to manipulation he strikes back with power and "because I said so" dominance. The man rules in lots of ways -- maybe through physical strength and violence; maybe through passivity and passive-aggressive controlling behaviors, or maybe by abdicating his rightful place and staying at a distance emotionally and / or spiritually until his wife begs him to get involved. Maybe he holds the financial purse-strings and controls the family that way. But this element of male dominance was not present prior to Adam and Eve disobeying God. It is not written into the created order; it is the result of sin. And the woman is caught between her sin-tainted desire for her husband and his sinful controlling response.

God created this woman to be relational. She is designed to be connected to everyone around her, and it is in this area -- the very best part of her -- that she experiences the result of sin.

Next time we'll look at God's word to the man.

1 comment:

  1. Almost makes me want to say, "Tee he he". But I think I better wait until AFTER your next post....