When sin came into the lives of the first man and woman, roles and relationships were made harder. Childbearing was harder but the role with respect to her husband stayed the same - i.e. 'your desire will be for your husband, and he will rule over you' (Genesis 3:16).
Adam's ability to be the provider would be harder because of the thorns and thistles. What was the point of this curse? So that the discomfort of this life would turn us to God. We cannot settle here. We cannot settle in the presence of sin so the curse sends us running to God and God, in turn, can remove sin and its effects in the new heaven and new earth because of mankind's reconciliation to him. We are but dust and our bodies return to the ground but that is not the end of the story. A man born of woman will crush the serpent's head and there will be restoration.
The struggle between Satan and mankind ('and you will strike his heel') and the struggle between man and woman and the man and his work will all produce character and point us to God. We need a triangle with God at the apex. Life is not just two-dimensional. Adam's task in clearing out the rubbish so he can provide for his family illustrates the dynamics at the heart of our relationships. God has set the roles in place but we have to work through the effects of sin - and in doing so, we clear out the rubbish and we are made whole.
Thoughts on men and women
'The Lord God said, 'It is not good for the man to be alone. I will make a helper suitable for him' (Genesis 2:18).
What do you think the word 'helper' means here? Was she just a useful 'right hand woman'?
Fifteen of the twenty-one occurrences of 'ʿezer' (help) in the Old Testament refer to God and the others (except for Genesis 2:18, 20) indicate the inadequacy of human help. So the helper normally designated by this word is one with superior power, not a subordinate in any sense. 'Our help is in the name of the Lord, who made heaven and earth' (e.g., Psalm 124:8; cf. 115:9–11; 121:1–2; Deuteronomy 33:7, 26, 29). But in this story God does not intend to be the human’s helper; he needs another kind, one 'fit' for him or, better, 'corresponding to' him, of his own kind. For it is not good to be alone.
Is it that the Lord wants to convey, in the closest possible way, his ability to be our helper - but through a woman - and in a way that corresponds exactly to who the man is? This is true for all women - not just those who are married.
What was God saying when he pronounced a curse as a result of sin entering the world? I believe he was saying that things which came naturally - e.g. childbirth and harvesting the produce of the ground - would become more difficult. Those difficulties would, in turn, put a potential strain on relationships. Would women desire their husbands in the same way knowing that childbirth could be difficult? Would a husband be tempted to put his work before his relationship with his wife now that he would have to work harder to produce the same results?
The Lord said that the structure of the relationship would stay the same - i.e. 'Your desire will be for your husband, and he will rule over you' (Genesis 3:16). As we live and walk within the structures of life that God has given us (married or single) then the difficulties that life inevitably throws up become the means of causing us to draw closer to the Lord and increase our trust in him.
As the saying goes, 'All sunshine and no rain makes a desert.' The challenges of life cause us to grow into 'the whole measure of the fullness of Christ' (Ephesians 4:13).
'For this reason a man will leave his father and mother and be united to his wife...' (Genesis 2:24). This business of leaving is deep - for both the man and woman. We have to make the choice to do so but it can take time for it to happen at the deepest level.
We can only really connect effectively and healthily with another person when their introvert connects with ours. If it doesn't connect, that lack of connection has an effect on our introvert, sending any number of negative signals, including 'not good enough' 'not worth bothering with' etc. Our parents might love us dearly but if they haven't accepted, and connected with, their own introverts they will have difficulty in creating a safe environment in which we can discover and connect with ours.
So, we might physically leave father and mother but the effect of a lack of connection remains within us. If we journey on with the Lord we will be taken into our introvert so that the Lord can take up residence in every part of who we are. In the process of exploring our introvert we discover those negative messages that reside within and that draw us back to our parents in an attempt to find out if we are truly valued and accepted. It is at that point that we will really begin to experience what it means to 'leave.'
Within the marriage we can experience the complete acceptance of the Lord and of our spouse that will replace the need to emotionally return to our parents. It will enable us to stand firm in the marriage and to reach back from that marriage to parents who themselves have yet to connect with their own introverts and each other.
When push comes to shove
On more than one occasion I have sought to encourage a wife with something like, 'If push came to shove with your husband and he had to choose between his job and you - he would definitely choose you.' The wife knows that to be true. The problem is that he doesn't live like that. Although those values are buried deep in his heart, that is not how he lives.
That is tragic because she is living with a good man who does really care but he doesn't show it. Sometimes it takes a major upheaval or trauma in their lives to bring out what is in the depths of his heart -but the sad truth remains that he chooses not live out his qualities in everyday life.
If you knew you you had one week to live, what would your friend, husband, wife or child, see in you that would be different from the way you live every day? Why not live like that anyway? That is the real you.
In the passage about husbands and wives (Ephesians 5:25-33), there are some real insights into Jesus' love for us all. For example, 'after all, no-one ever hated his own body but he feeds and cares for it, just as Christ does the church - for we are members of his body.'
Paul is telling us that Jesus treats us as part of himself. Just as he is encouraging a man to care for his wife in a way that is consistent with her being part of him, he is reminding us that Jesus sees us as joined to him in the same way. We are the perfectly loved wife of Jesus - one with him because part of him. You cannot get any more loved, secure and cared for than that.