Lately I’ve been reflecting on a largely unremarkable, yet poignant scene a photographer* friend of mine witnessed as she snapped photos of a rather illustrious couple. As she offered directions in a brief moment during the shoot, the husband became momentarily confused as to what to do. At that same instant my friend noticed the slight pressure of the wife’s hand on her husband’s back, guiding him into the next steps fluidly. In that moment of grace, the man lost no dignity in not knowing what to do, thanks to his wife. She was silently, and wonderfully, his teammate and ally. One might even say that in this situation, she respectfully led her husband.
Due to a project at work, I’ve been thinking a lot about this whole idea about Eve’s creation as Adam’s “helper.” It’s a delicate subject, this one. Sometimes I’ve received some rather blistering thoughts from constituents on this topic—often because “helper” is seen as a demotion of women as inferior, or as propagating abuse. But these implications are against all we stand for: the intrinsic value of women and their critical, life-giving role, without which Adam’s situation was declared “not good.”
Sometimes the desire not to step on toes can cause us as Christians to dial back the breathtaking design idea fashioned into each woman as God crafted her. You may have heard before that this term of “helper”, the Hebrew word ezer, elsewhere in the Bible refers both to the Holy Spirit of God Himself, and to military allies. The concept is not for the faint of heart. Rather, it is endowed with innate strength. Acting as wingman is never a demotion. Neither is the Holy Spirit less than the Father or Son. His leading of us, of me, is always gentle yet also with pure truth. His guidance of me is always with my needs in mind.
Eve was “fashioned” for Adam—in that way, I suppose their union and likewise any married couple is not unlike a 3-D puzzle. I see it in my own marriage, and my husband would be one of the first to tell you: I excel at design while he tops me any day of the week in finances. Yet even these two descriptors are not thoroughly helpful because Dennis does have a good sense of design and though spreadsheets give me a headache I am not completely inept with numbers. There are ways every wife distinctly and uniquely complements her own husband. And of course, he’ll offer his fortes to complement her areas of lesser strength as well.
In some ways, through “helping”, we’ll actually be gently, graciously leading. Abigail and Esther are both shimmering examples of women who wisely, shrewdly, and respectfully “led”, saving untold lives through their astute courage and foresight. Any coach worth his salt will tell you that’s what a team is all about: not domination, superiority, or self-service, but on moving fluently with what each player brings to the team, toward your common goal. Each member maximizing his or her gifts in their position makes for a winning game. …Or photo shoot. And it’s one of the nuances often found in the team of two called marriage.
*Photo Credit: Nancy Nolan Photography