When the Bible describes how the world was created, it uses the word good a lot. It says, "God created light" and "saw that the light was good." Then God created land and sea and saw that they were good. The plants and trees? Good. The sun, the moon, the stars? Good. The fish, sea creatures, and birds? Good. And the land animals? Good. And you are good. Every single thing God created was called good, so this phrase jumps out of the story: "And the Lord God said it is not good." Not good. What is it in all of creation that is not good? "And the Lord God said, 'It is not good for the man to be alone.'"
A friend told me about a dark time in his life, when he was dealing and heavily using drugs. At one point he actually boarded up the windows of the place where he was living, and he stayed inside there on his own, in his own darkened world, for days at a time. Something in us says that's not good.
Or think about the mom whose son is a little different than the other kids in his class. He doesn't get invited to their homes or their birthday parties, so he spends day after day in his room, watching TV or playing by himself. The mom's heart is breaking because she knows the truth of this passage. It's not good for the boy to be alone.
Or come with me in your mind to the nursing home where I visited a friend of our family. I found her there in a wrinkled housecoat. Her hair was wild and undone. The TV was blaring. Her husband Irv is now dead, and although she has other family, they really don't come to visit. There's something within us that says that is not good. There is something deep within us that rises up and says, "It is not good for anyone God created to be alone."
God created women and men for companionship with one another.
So God comes up with an interesting solution. He says: You know it's not good for Adam to be alone, so I will make a companion who will help him. The King James Bible puts it this way: "I will make an helpmeet for him." Because of that old-fashioned wording, some people have begun to call the woman or the wife a "helpmeet" or "helpmate." It makes it sound as if the woman was designed by God to be Adam's butler. However, this word for helper is used throughout the Bible almost exclusively of God. It's used in verses such as, "The Lord is my helper." And when it's used of people, it's used of political allies or military reinforcement. So when God is setting out to create a companion or a helper, he's out to create an ally, a counterpart, someone with whom Adam will jointly serve and preserve this beautiful world that God has created.
Before creating Eve, God brings to Adam various candidates for the job. He brings different animals, and Adam names them. But the Bible says there was still no companion suitable for him. So God changes his strategy, and he creates something out of Adam's side. He creates woman, and he brings her to Adam to see what he thinks. And Adam says: At last, this is the right one. This is what I need.
And Adam says—making a play on words in Hebrew—"She will be called woman, because she was taken out of a man." Then the narrator explains that this is why a man would leave his father and mother and be joined to his wife, and the two would become one. What a claim! Since man and woman started out as one, there is within us all this deep, inner drive to be reunited as one. Only a created drive that deep and powerful could ever explain why someone would leave behind his or her family, join with a spouse, and create a new family. See, since you started as one, there's a return to oneness. And notice in this oneness that Adam and Eve experienced that there's no hiding or shame. "Although Adam and his wife were both naked," the Scripture says, "neither of them felt any shame."
In other words, it is God's original design that as men or women, we would find companionship and help in a member of the opposite sex. Obviously, this is seen most clearly in a good marriage. But whether we're married or not, men and women need each other. We have this deep, inner drive for companionship, for somebody who will help, for somebody who will be an ally, for somebody who will be a support to us, for somebody who will be like us and suitable for us. What's more, God created us that way.
We have a tendency to distort God's vision of opposite-sex relationships.
All that sounds sweet. You can almost hear the strings playing in the background. But the brutal fact is, we do not like God's solution. Or we don't know what to do with it. Instead, we find all kinds of destructive ways to relate to this opposite sex, and we end up frustrated, we end up angry, and we end up isolated again. So no matter where you relate to the opposite sexwhether you're dating or you're married or you have contact with someone at work, in your extended family, or here at churchsee if you recognize some of these ways that people tend to respond to the opposite sex.
One way people can respond to someone of the opposite sex is to be in relationship but still isolated. If you watch enough movies, you might get the idea that if you could find that one right person, you would no longer be isolated. But that's not actually the case. The frightening truth is, it is entirely possible to be married and be horribly isolated inside that marriage. You don't really have anything in common anymore. There's not a lot of tenderness anymore. You don't look forward to being together. And what makes that isolation so cold is that you're not supposed to feel that way. The person is right there in the room with you. They are right across the table from you, and still you're alone. When God says, "It is not good for the man to be alone," he's referring to a loneliness that can occur even within a marriage.
There are a lot of ways to isolate yourself even when you're in a relationship. For example, you could suddenly find yourself in a job that involves more traveling. I know one guy who said to me, "You know what? Outwardly I complain that I've got another trip, but inwardly I'm kind of relieved to get out of the house." Or, you can do what I do: go in your cave. I hunker down, leave behind whatever's happening in the rest of the house, read a book, and disconnect. I enjoy it because otherwise I have to come out and deal with whatever's happening.
A second way we might relate to the opposite sex is that we might expect them to be like us, even though God created them to be different. Amy Sutherland wrote a great article for The New York Times called "What Shamu Taught Me About a Happy Marriage." She writes:
I wantedneededto nudge Scott a little closer to perfect, to make him into a mate who might annoy me a little less, who wouldn't keep me waiting at restaurants; a mate who would be easier to love. So like many wives before me, I ignored a library of advice-books and set about improving himby nagging of coursewhich only made his behavior worse. He drives faster instead of slower, shaves less frequently not more, and leaves his reeking bike garb on the bedroom floor longer than ever.
And all the while, guys wonder why women can't be more like them. Listen to these "Rules Guys Wish Girls Played By" from the Chicago Tribune:
(1) Sometimes we're not thinking about you. Live with it.
(2) Subtle hints don't work. Strong hints don't work. Really obvious hints don't work. Just say it.
(3) No, we don't know what day it is. We never will. Mark anniversaries on a calendar you know we check.
(4) Come to us with a problem only if you want help solving it. That's what we do. Sympathy is what your girlfriends are for.
Here's my favorite:
(5) If we ask what's wrong and you say nothing, we will act like nothing's wrong. We know you're lying, but it's just not worth the hassle.
In responding to the opposite sex, we can isolate ourselves, and we can ask the person of the opposite sex to be like us.
Another way we can mess things up is by sexualizing or fantasizing about the relationship at the wrong time and in the wrong way. Picture this scene at work. There's a group gathered around a conference room table, and a man and woman stand opposite each other. They're both supposed to be focusing on the boring PowerPoint presentation up in front of the room, but the guy is slowly tracing every curve of the woman's body. Meanwhile, on the other side of the table, the woman may be doing what Nancy Ortberg once described. Nancy said, "I have a dear friend who's in a marriage that's hard, just plain old hard. And rather than face the pain of the hard [sic], she escapes for hours in the day into a fantasy world that is starring another man in her church who doesn't know how she feels about him, so she feels like it's safe. But it is an amazing amount of time she daydreams and thinks about this person."
Another way we isolate ourselves from members of the opposite sex is by determining our behavior by a point system. That's when you're happy to give to that other person as long as they're giving back. Only sometimes you have a feeling they're not really giving back to you as much as you're giving to them, so you start keeping track. You start keeping score of what's going on. But anytime you keep track like that, the score will always turn out hugely in your favor. You will always believe you are giving way more to them than they are giving back to you. So what you do is try to help them out by ceasing to give because that allows them time to catch up. But when they see you've stopped giving, then they stop giving. When we do these things, we isolate ourselves.
Finally, when we've been deeply hurt by a member of the opposite sex, we can allow anger and bitterness to take control of our lives. I pulled up at a traffic light one time, and I read the bumper sticker on the car in front of me. It read, "I wasn't born amen like you made me that way." I wanted to get out of the car and go up to her window and say, "Can we talk? Because obviously your dad, your uncle or your brother, or a boyfriend, or an ex-spouse really hurt you. So I'm sure your anger is understandable. But do you realize that now you're lashing out at every person who happens to pull up behind you?"
The bitterness and anger can take over. Sometimes anger feels good at first. It gives us a sense of control. But it will never satisfy the deepest needs of our hearts because God created men and women to be in unity with each other and to need each other. And when we stay stuck in this grid of rights and oppression, power and independence and anger, we find ourselves more and more alone.
Sometimes it's just so hard to remember that God's original plan was that men and women would be helpers for each otherwe would be allies and partners in something positive.
Christianity won't guarantee you're going to be married. Christianity won't guarantee that if you are married it's going to be a good marriage. But what Christianity does give you is Jesus.ÃÂ Jesus comes to you in your isolation and he says: I will never leave you or forsake you. If you'll give me that bitterness, I can give you peace. I can give you the power to forgive that person who so deeply hurt you. Their wounding you does not have to take over your life. You can be free. You know what? I can forgive you for the ways you've taken advantage of other people.
God does not want you to be isolated and abandoned. He wants you to find companionship. He wants you to find help through different relationships. And the first step back toward God's intention for relationships is the step of forgiveness. When you begin to forgive, you will find the moment of companionship.
Yesterday, I was biking on the sidewalk, and my wheel got stuck in a rut. I went down face first onto the sidewalk. It's a good thing I had my bike helmet, or I might be in the hospital right now. My sunglasses were broken, and I was dazed. The bike wouldn't move because the chain had come off. I had blood running down my leg and my face. I was a mess. So I pulled out the cell phone, and I called my wife. I asked her to come get me, and once I'd told her where I was, she came and picked me up. She threw the bike into the back of the car, took me home, and very tenderly cleaned out my scrapes, got all the dirt and concrete out of my wounds, and bandaged me up. She called the doctor to make sure I didn't need medical attention. Then she took me to the massage therapist, who worked out the stiffness in my back. She just took care of me. There was such tenderness and kindness and companionship in all she did for me. The amazing thing is, Karen's plan for yesterday was not that she would play nurse all day. We had set Saturday aside to be a date day. It was supposed to be a romantic day. I was supposed to take her for lunch after my bike ride. She could have pulled so easily into herself and her disappointment and just stayed stuck in resentment for the rest of that day. But instead, she made the conscious choice to move out of disappointment and to move toward me and help me. And because she made that choice, I experienced a moment of grace, a moment like what God must have had in mind when he said: It's not good for a person to be so lonely. I'll make that person a companion who will help.
Kevin Miller is pastor of Church of the Savior in Wheaton, Illinois,