So it comes as no surprise that, as I was boldly proclaiming my desire to fully live out a life filled with Christ's love, a sweet little surprise was waiting for me in the pages of Ethel Herr's "Chosen Women of the Bible". And it's only Chapter One, y'all.
A Suitable Helper
As you may have guessed, the first chapter/lesson in Herr's book is about Eve. A couple of years ago, I started Kay Arthur's "Show Me Your Ways" study, and I've considered myself a little bit of a creation story pro ever since. Funny how a handful of fresh insights can make us feel like subject matter experts. I sailed through the first three questions about Eve, and that's when the trouble started. See for yourself.
"NOTE: The word 'helpmeet' in the King James Version may be translated 'suitable helper.' Check other translations for further ideas."Gladly! I thought. Man, have I ever wanted to find a new way of saying that. (This may be a good time to warn you that there are what could be interpreted as possible feminist undertones ahead. If you stay with me, you'll see it all ends well. I think.) Never one to ignore a challenge, I did what I always do when I want to figure something out: I googled it. What did I see, other than a link to The Help Meet Dilemma. Jackpot! Among some of the more precious thoughts in this woman's study are the following definitions of the original word for helpmeet, a Hebrew word "ezer", from Genesis 2:18.
"The Hebrew term 'ezer' is actually based on an ancient word 'azar.' The Strongs Hebrew dictionary translates it as 'to surround, i.e. protect or aid:--help, succour.'
I personally had to look up the word succour. It means to be the one who gives assistance in a time of great difficulty."
How's that for a purpose? I absolutely love the idea of surrounding someone who needs protection, of helping someone in great difficulty. Granted, I am not a wife, but I am a mother, and I know just how strong those instincts can become after having a child. I find a ferocious sense of freedom in the thought that I was created to surround, protect and aid my brothers and sisters in the body of Christ. What a wonderful calling.
All the Single Ladies
You know, I've read the creation story thousands of times; I have contemplated the curse again and again, but I have always stopped just a little bit short in my sorting out of it all. After all, if a girl doesn't have a husband, then she doesn't have to worry about desiring one who rules over her, right? Right! Besides that, husbands aren't supposed to lord their authority over their wives anyway, right? Right! When Herr asked if God intended for man's role of leadership in the marriage to "become a dictatorship", I couldn't have felt more validated. Finally! I thought, as my firmly penned "NO" declared jubilant victory for oppressed women everywhere.
I could not have predicted what happened next, but it's safe to say that it was the spiritual equivalent of a body slam.
How do you think God intends a woman to relate to men other than her husband in matters of leadership and authority?I literally stopped breathing. Maybe I thought if I was really, really still, I wouldn't have to answer that question, that the Holy Spirit would let me inch right on past it. After all, I'm an Adam-less Eve. And this question doesn't specifically refer to women who aren't married. Even if it did, though, I'm supposed to be exempt from submission. Right???
No such luck, sisters.
When I started breathing again, I closed my eyes, and I tried to quiet my screaming heart, and I prayed. Show me Your truth. I promise to see it. In an earlier question, Herr had referenced Ephesians 5:22-23, so I returned to that passage. Wives, do this. Husbands, do that. Real specific marriage stuff, or so it seems. But if you back up a verse to the passage right before, you'll see what verse 21 has to say: "Submit to one another out of reverence for Christ." In God-breathed, useful for teaching, double-edged black and white. I knew those were the words for me. Christ, who calls me beloved. Christ, to whom I belong. Christ, who calls me His bride. Out of reverence for the One who loved and gave Himself up for the Church, I am called to submit to my brothers and sisters in the body. After all, no one ever hated his own body, but he feeds and cares for it, just as Christ does the church. (v. 29)
I can do that.
It's not easy, and that's probably why I've enjoyed a self-given exception to the rule for so long. Even now, as I think about submitting to others, to loving them above myself no matter how contentious they (or I) may be, I'm tempted to find a way to spend as much time as possible in seclusion. How very quickly the well would run dry. If my purpose is to be a helper, then I need to be out there helping.
What an excellent reminder that our role as women is universally applicable. It dates to our creation, and while we often see it as having been created within the context of the marriage relationship, it is first and foremost a role given us by our Creator. We were created by Him, for this purpose. Nothing--absolutely nothing--is more beautiful than the fulfillment of His purpose.