Thursday, March 4, 2010


It is not good for the man to be alone, God said. So what's the solution? God brings around a truckload of animals and the man names them and they have fun hanging around and playing frisbee in the garden. But the man still doesn't have what he needs.

Why does God do this? Doesn't he know what the man needs?

Wait a minute. Remember -- this is not about what happened back then, it's about what happens now. It's about you. It's about me. So this part of the story is incredibly helpful to me. When I go looking for the solution to my loneliness in some other place -- on my treestand during deer season, or out in a boat, or in a novel or writing a blog or ... (where do YOU go looking for solutions apart from God? Fill in the blank) ... we find that as good as these things are, they don't satisfy. When I was in college and had tons of discretionary time, I hardly ever went hunting. Why? These days I would kill for a tenth of the free time I had then. Back then I had a ton of excuses for not getting out in the woods every Saturday throughout the fall, but reality is that I already had enough solitude during college, and I didn't need any more.

When I have a few days at home to myself, when my wife and daughters are gone, at first I revel in grinding my way through a few escapist novels or movies with lots of suspense and explosives (two things Julie is allergic to onscreen) -- but then I start wandering the house aimlessly and all the books and movies waiting for me look like loneliness and boredom waiting to happen. I've been around the block enough to realize that I don't need more of those things.

One huge danger for us is that sometimes we buy into other activities to fill our loneliness, or we let our appropriate appetites grow beyond their appropriate boundaries. So a man develops an escapist habit of reading or fishing or golfing or woodworking or just plain working. These are good activities within boundaries, but they are unhealthy when they are allowed to grow too dominant in our lives. Then there are activities that are unhealthy from the start, and they will take a lonely person and make an addict out of him. So he turns to pornography that for a few minutes makes him feel alive, or alcohol in quantities enough to dull his pain. He gets addicted to the adrenaline rush of online poker because he keeps thinking he's about to score big, or he just whiles away the hours with the fictional courage of video games.

It's not good for the man to be alone.

So God creates a ... well, let's see. This is a tough word to translate. So let's stick with the Hebrew for a minute, because in English we get messed up in a hurry. God creates an "ezer" for the man. Not exactly just "for the man" either, but to be with the man. Like peanutbutter was created for jelly, or rubber rafts and whitewater rapids were made for each other.

What is an "ezer"? Most English translations say something like "helper". That works, sort of, as long as we don't think "assistant." I've often wished for an assistant; someone who could come along behind me and do all the detail work, so I could just focus on high and lofty and non-messy things. More honestly, I've wanted an assistant so I wouldn't have to clean up after myself. God is not saying he will make an assistant for the man. In fact, if you take a look through the rest of the Bible, "ezer" does mean "helper." But the only other way it's used in the Bible is to refer to God as the helper, as in "God is a very present help in time of trouble" (See Psalm 46). So unless you're tripping through life thinking God is there to clean up after you -- if that's the case we need to talk, seriously -- you have to realize that an "ezer" in Genesis 2 is not a way for a man to get a little clerical help.

So when God says he wants to make a help perfect for the man -- the King James says "a help meet for him" which is not coining a new term, "helpmeet" which means assistant -- instead it means a help fitting for him. In the liturgy we used in church when I was a child there was a line that said, "It is truly meet, right, and salutary that we should at all times and in all places offer praise to you, O Lord ..." "Meet" means fitting, perfect. In the world of cool toys we'd say it's "custom." So God decides to make for the man one who will be a custom-made help, one who will be perfectly made for him to take away the ungoodness of his loneliness. All the other good things in creation -- fish and birds and zebras and koala bears, even golden retrievers -- fall short of what the man needs. But this "ezer" will be the perfect partner, the perfect help, the perfect one who bears the nature of God for him in a way that pierces through his illusions and his isolation to reconnect him to God, to himself, and to her.

Do we have any concept of the gift men and women are supposed to be to each other? This is where it becomes so important to read God's word not for entertainment but so that we might understand who we are, why we exist, and how we must live.

1 comment:

  1. I'm probably a bit more conservative than your typical reader, so I'm (possibly) taking a risk; but hey, isn't that what a blog is for? Besides, I'm basing my thoughts on the work of Del from the "Truth Project". In the realm of marriage, which is the realm that Genesis is speaking of when using the term Ezer, I'm not convinced that Equal is the best lesson here. Hear me out. I'm thinking this in the same why that God and Jesus are not equal. Similar but not congruent. Perhaps more correctly stated as equal in status before God, but certainly given different roles and traits making them complementary. Yes? No?