Saturday, September 01, 2007

A Basis for Opposites Attract?

My primary textbook for a course on Old Testament History is Handbook on the Pentateuch by Victor Hamilton. I really didn't know what to expect when I clicked this book into my amazon.com shopping cart a few weeks ago. It sounded a little, well, dry. But as I work my way through Hamilton's survey of Genesis, I'm loathe to put it down. Can I just say... this textbook rocks.

While the author gives us plenty of insight into his exegetical conclusions, he covers a waterfront of divergent thinking. I'm in the thick of Hamilton's analysis of Creation and the Fall. I'm not fishing in the deepest waters here, but for some reason I find myself wondering whether or not Genesis helps us with the matter of why it is that opposites attract.

My Monday morning small group just finished reading Getting Along with Almost Anybody by Florence & Marita Littauer. In the marriage section, we are taught to have a kinder regard for personality differences. Todd and I took a personality profile that revealed we have similarities and dissimilarities. Most people, I would gather, do have a bit of a mix. But if I reflect upon what first attracted me to Todd, it was probably the things that were deficient in my own person. Once I breathed a giant sigh of relief over the knowledge that he was a committed Christian, it was what was different from me that I found most endearing about my husband-to-be. I've found this to be the case with lots of other couples. Opposites do attract.

Is there something in the account of Creation or the Fall that helps us understand this? And does whether or not you think it might relate to 1) Creation, or 2) the Fall influence how you view your differences and how you engage on a daily basis with those who are, in some ways, opposite?

Embracing our Differences: Helping One Another?

Genesis 1:18 tells us this: "The LORD God said, "It is not good for the man to be alone. I will make a helper suitable for him." The word "helper" (Hebrew: ezer) is the subject of much debate. Some believe it denotes god-like assistance even steerage on the part of Eve. Others believe it means the first woman was a serf (or, perhaps, the vision behind Southwestern's Fall sewing class...). Most probably imagine the truth lies somewhere between.

I think it's fair to say that an understanding of the word "ezer" in this context is largely colored by our biases and will always be debatable. But the text does conclusively tell us this: God thought Adam needed Eve. The question is, why? To possess or exhibit or offer up something that he already had in full? I'm thinking probably not. Eve, it would seem, was bringing something(s) different to the party.

I think back to my days in the workforce when there were projects and I needed an "ezer." Sometimes "help" came in the form of someone with whom I could divide and conquer. People with similar skill sets "cloning" ourselves taking a piece of the project to go work independently. But more often than not, "help" came in the form of people who could do what I couldn't do. "I'll work on the script, you work on the budget." That sort of thing. So, despite the fact that Eve was flesh of Adam's flesh, can we make the case that there was critical, life-enriching diversity of skills and talents wired into the first couple that established the phenomenon we recognize today as the attraction of opposites?

And if we entertain this theory, does it change the way we view what's different about our spouses? Are we more inclined to celebrate the diversity that would otherwise frustrate us?

Disdaining Our Differences: Hurting One Another?

Is there something within the Genesis account of The Fall that presents itself as a lingering stain on relationships today? ".... You will want to control your husband, but he will dominate you." (Genesis 3:16) Is there spiritual warfare affecting familial relationships, in general, related to the enmity (3:15) imposed by God between the serpent (Satan) and Eve?

So, opposities attract. Why might this be? To round us out? Or, to challenge us? And is there something in the account of Creation and the Fall that hints at why this is so?

p.s. On the Southwestern Seminary cooking/sewing class flap... I'll grant you... it's a peculiar offering. I don't know enough about the motivations behind this to really take a position... is it mandatory... or part of some grand "design"... or is it just an odd little non-core offering... I don't know. But I will say this... with respect to wives/moms... there is a tension between home life and academics or ministry that must be held in some sort of balance (recognizing that "balance" is probably a goal and not an end state). If I'm sewing my heart out and ignoring God's ministry calling (assuming my ministry is something other than sewing), I'm going to experience a lot of internal unrest as the Holy Spirit affirms my priorities are out of whack. On the flip side, if I'm blazing a trail out there in the world for Christ but absent from the lives of my husband and kids, I'm similarly out of whack. This is a huge issue for women today. Huge! And if a sewing class at Southwestern puts a spotlight on the problem... well... perhaps it's ultimately healthy controversy...

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