by Elizabeth de Barros
“The problem is not that the ideals of Christianity
have been tried and found wanting,
but they have been found difficult and left untried.”
-G. K. Chesterton
It’s no secret that things have dipped.
And I don’t mean world economy, reality TV or the NYC crime rate. I’m talking about the distance between God’s intention and the varying degrees of dissatisfaction experienced within marriage. Many are unwilling to live suspended in mid-air amidst the unrest for very long, so faith goes begging and hope dies. Divorce becomes the solution because the remedy has long been forgotten.
It’s a real problem. The first institution ordained by God suffers violence for lack of knowledge. Not the intellectual sort, but knowledge of the deep abiding Presence of the Holy in the oft-diminished covenant of matrimony. So many live a cut above slumming while God has provided a five-star hotel. Sure, the Ritz-Carlton wows, but someone has to pay the tab.
When it comes to building a strong marriage, it’s clear Hollywood has nothing to teach us. Christian self-help books are almost as bad as the advice littering the racks at the grocery store. And far too much attention is paid to Oprah’s book list and so-called must-read chick lit. If Elizabeth Gilbert’s Eat, Love, Pray was the literary holy grail only a few years back, then Geneen Roth’s current bestseller, Women, Food and God promises to lead readers further astray. Her message? If women only had a proper relationship with food, all would be well by following her secrets. Granted, a healthy diet is beneficial to a point. But to spiritualize the sensual is to go bust. Few voices inspire. Less speak truth.
Where to look?
If history is any reliable teacher, how far back should we go? Do we sweep around the hearth once more staging reenactments of the Colonial Era? Jane Austen’s Regency period? But wearing long dresses never tempered anyone and no amount of playing pretend will cure reality. If only we could just get away, she sighs, while he wonders, What more could she possibly want?
It’s often what doesn’t get said that sours the wine.
It’s a long way to go, but not too late to crawl back to the book of Genesis, to Eden—where the perfect eco-system hung as backdrop while the curtain rose on redemptive history’s drama.
Every shade of green, the Garden was filled with seed and birdsong—an audio-sensory mix of funny-looking creatures, fruit trees and broad rivers before a spectrum of sky-blue sun by day and under a lily-white moon by night. An arboretum of the highest order, where the first man and woman met with God beneath the ozone at the hour of dewpoint, shame-free and unafraid, feeling nothing between them but a cool breeze. Not sure if there were nettles, but I’m certain there weren’t any pesticides.
But all that glory and goodness didn’t last long. Any perfection left over is now detectable only in traces. No need to do a Google search to unearth the effects of the Fall. We’ve been living among its aftershocks ever since. Yes, sin is with us, but so is God — what the first couple found out the hard way.
Once the blame-shifting ended, God spoke His mind. All received their sentence. But tucked between the serpent’s dismissal and God’s address lay the promise of hope. Christ’s foreshadowing is sown among the seedbed of all sound doctrine in the book of Genesis, including a primer on marriage in chapters 2 and 3 at no cost but one’s pride.
When God pulled a rib from Adam, He created a wound to form for him a companion, the woman appointed to be his greatest asset. But who was she? She had no name tag, he had no reference point — except that she was strong and intelligent, equal to him in both dignity and destiny. And now, like himself, capable and culpable of sin. Depravity; their commonality.
Tragedy is never fun, but to have a high view of God is to have a high view of sin, understanding that its effects must bow down to God. Had it not been for their transgression, they would’ve never felt the shame of their nakedness or the fear that caused them to hide. Called to come out from behind the trees, there they stood before God Almighty — duly humbled. That they survived the thunder and lightning is amazing. His compassion — more amazing still. What their botanical wardrobe lacked in durability, He made up for in skins, a hint that blood must be shed if ever there were to be forgiveness.
God keeps His every promise, but consequences are meant to be borne. Adam would watch Eve suffer in pain to bear his children. She would interpret the sweat that would drip from his brow. Haunting reminders of the curse and the need for redemption.
Sometimes it takes a storm to blow the scales from our eyes. Humble realizations change us from the inside out. Finally, at the end of chapter 3, Adam does something unusual. He names his wife, “Eve.”
Remarkable that only after he understands something of Lordship does he find his place of leadership and sees his wife anew, as if for the first time. From there he exercises his rightful authority, prophesies over her a name, and acknowledges her for who she truly is: Eve, mother of all the living.
God’s ways are beyond us. Adam was to tend a garden and learned to cultivate a wife. She was his vine created to bear much fruit, a helper, designed to travail and bring forth children not only of flesh and blood, but spiritual ones as well. Within the marriage bond they discovered two things: God means what He says and spiritual bankruptcy was not the end of them, but the beginning.
They are Everyman and Everywoman. What’s old is new and from them lessons can be learned if we’re willing to be taught. Their disobedience is our disobedience. Their God is our God. Their message can be live streamed into the heart that desires to walk in the inexhaustible themes of Lordship, leadership, and what it means to eat from the tree of life.
That is why a wife ought to have a symbol of authority on her head,
because of the angels.
Nevertheless, in the Lord woman is not independent of man nor man of woman;
for as woman was made from man, so man is now born of woman.
And all things are from God.
1 Corinthians 11:10-12