Tumbling in the Sand
“Then the LORD God said, “It is not good that the man should be alone; I will make him a helper as his partner.” – Genesis 2: 18
First, a (partial) re-translation of this text. It says: “And the LORD God said, ‘It is not good that the adam should be alone; I will make it/him a helper as it’s/his partner.'”
Sometimes we think of Adam as the name of the first man, but adam is more a bit of a pun. The adam was created out of the adamah—the Hebrew word for earth. You could think of it (in English terms) like the human was created out of the humus—similar concept. Anyway, we could essentially translate adam as Earth-creature.
The reason that I wanted to make a point of this is because further on in the text, when God creates the woman and introduces her, the adam gives himself a new noun: Ish (pronounced Eeesh) and gives the woman the noun Ishah (pronounced Eeeshah). These words are the Hebrew words for man (Ish) and woman (Ishah).
So, the point, exactly? Without female there is not really male. The gender of the adam was not really defined outside of the relationship of the two. This has all sorts of interesting implications. First of all, it sort of says that gender is a product of community and isn’t as rigidly defined as we might think—it’s in relationship that we figure out what our gender differences are—and what that means for who we are. With no one else (which, of course, we can’t even imagine because we exist because of others), the terms “male” or “female” have no meaning—even in our self understanding.
In addition to this passage perhaps opening the conversation about the fluidity of gender identity (which is certainly biologically the case!), I think this tells us two important, interconnected things about community, or at least an ideal community that God made us for. First of all, community accentuates difference and secondly, differences make community.
Community accentuates differences because within a group of people being honest with one another, each person’s individual gifts, skills, weaknesses, and strengths become apparent. And we learn pretty quickly that we are all different! And, we learn that those differences are not bad—but good. These differences are great gifts to the community, because people within the community benefit from the individual and different strengths of others. It’s kind of like Paul talks about in 1 Corinthians, where he speaks about the body of Christ having many members with different gifts and weaknesses: every member is needed—every gift and skill is needed; and every member is supported by others—every weakness is honoured and protected. Considering gender, men and women are different, and those differences can compliment one another (that is, if each individual’s gifts, skills, weaknesses, and strengths are honestly shared and not assumed through stereotype). Of course, this only happens when people are in community with one another.
Saying that, maybe it’s obvious then, why differences make community. If we all were exactly the same, what would it benefit us to be together? And maybe there would be benefit—if God had made for the earth creature one just like it gender-wise, I’m sure that there could be great companionship, love, trust, blessing, etc.—but the community couldn’t grow beyond the two. Our differences make our communities stronger and more viable—able to grow and adapt and change. And now that our community is far larger than two, much more difference can exist, so that we can benefit from each other and become stronger and more whole together, so that indeed, it is good that we are no longer alone.
Featured Image: Adam and Eve by Ramin Tork. See this work here: http://www.iranian.com/main/blog/ramintork/adam-and-eve as well as a link to his blog: http://doodlejuice.com/