Genesis 2:18 reads, “It is not good for man to be alone, so I will make a helper suitable for him.”
Helper. My stomach lurches. I’ve identified with this my whole life. I’ve worn this word like a name tag. I have betrayed myself in trying to perfectly emulate this. Right now it looks disgusting on the page. The first word used to name the first woman in existence is then used to diminish her daughters for all eternity (excuse my dramatic flair).
Helper. I feel a sudden urgency to redeem the personal context I have for this word. The divine in me wants to teach me.
I think back to my childhood, as I quietly observed women follow their cues.
Women were school teachers, Sunday school teachers, and youth group leaders. They were trusted and expected to teach and guide you in and outside of church walls until you became an adult and then their legitimacy expired, apparently. At this point, a man would take over spiritual direction until you died.
Women would pray for their children before bed but never around a dinner table when a man is present.
Women were supposed to help men not fall in to lust or sexual sin by dressing modestly. If you were married you would then help them avoid this by fulfilling their physical need for sex. But no one will really talk to you about sex, so from a young age you learn from porn and popular culture. Ironically, this only reinforces the submissive helper role. As long as you ensure that they’re satisfied, you can be satisfied too. From a young age girls learn: your desire is not for your partner, it is to be desired by your partner.
God is man and therefore man is more God than woman is. This isn’t explicitly said, just acknowledged.
The one place men and woman were completely equal is sin. It didn’t matter if you’d been abused or cheated on because God sees you as equally depraved and in need of saving. God values your marriage more than your individual health, soul, and freedom.
Women helped men fulfil their potentials and callings rather than inserting their own.
I look up the Hebrew translation for helper: ezer. Then I look up every scripture that contains this translation. Apart from being used as a verb, three times it is used to refer to troops or warriors rushing to bring aid. Eight times it is used to name or describe God. And God uses it once as a self-description. There is nothing less-than about ezer. This is a strong name. This is a name that says God is the God of woman. This is a name of wings, not weight.
In the Genesis story God first creates animals to be Adam’s helpers, but it wasn’t quite right. So then Eve is made from Adam, indicating that she was already a part of him in some way. This is furthered by the way Adam sees himself in Eve. “Oh look! Flesh of my flesh and bone of my bone,” he says. They are corresponding equals. Intended to be one flesh. United. But throughout history this unity gets lost and distorted between cultures and contexts, interpretations and intentions. Ezers become halves instead of wholes. We begin to abandon our bodies and our minds because this is where we experience shame and loneliness. I’m done participating in a culture of halves looking for other halves. If you are named suitable helper, finding someone to suitably help is supposed to complete the equation. But it doesn’t.
Glennon Doyle Melton highlights this in the #1 NY Times Besteller Love Warrior (a title so cheesy I almost decided not to read it). A year after discovering her spouse’s addiciton/affair she wrote,
“He messed everything up and then he stayed and fought through his pain and my pain and the kids’ pain and he let none of it scare him away…he became his own hero and I became mine. And now here we are, together. Not two halves that make a whole, but two wholes that make a partnership…I know that you can love and betray the same person. Is it possible that I walked down the aisle to exactly the right person? Toward my healing partner? Toward myself? I’d been angry and ashamed because our relationship was so far from perfect. But perfect just means: works exactly the way it is designed to work. If marriage is an institution designed to nurture the growth of two people—then, in our own broken way, our marriage is perfect.”
Maybe this is a tiny bit of the picture (tiny because this quote excludes the pages and pages of painful, messy, hard stuff that happened first) of what humans should strive for. I realize that I’m approaching all this through the lens of my evangelical background, but I believe the principles can universally apply. Gay, straight, spiritual, non-spiritual, married, un-married, whatever— we all unhealthily internalise messages that tell us who we are or who we should be. Those impact us and enter into the partnerships we create with people through out life. But you cannot have a whole partnership if you are not a whole individual. You cannot heal a broken relationship if you are not first healed. And part of learning how to do all of that involves unlearning what isn’t life-giving. Creating a new hypothesis. Rewiring your way of thinking. Reunion with your whole self and your Creator requires long, hard patience.
Relentlessly showing up and seeking for yourself and for your people even when it’s hard. Recognising that you are already perfectly loved by God and stronger than you think. Continually speaking of love and restoration when hopelessness is heavy. Displaying what it means to deal honestly and bravely with this messy, imperfect life. Knowing and caring for yourself well so that you can know and care for others well. Partnering with people who will join you. Believing in the power of influence and impact over title and authority. This is what I think it means to be ezer.