Depending your persuasion, you may be about to direct me to Genesis 2:18, where is says that Eve was created to be Adam’s helper…and thus the purpose of women is to ‘help’ men. Again I say “Yes! Exactly!”…but maybe not quite in the way you might think. You see, the actual Hebrew word there for helper is “ezer”, which is a word that is never used in such ways as a subordinate, or one inferior. In fact, quite the opposite…in other places it is used to refer to God being our help, a help greater than ourselves, as in Psalm 54:4, “Surely the Lord is my help (ezer); the Lord is the one who sustains”. However, rather than implying Eve as a help greater than Adam, the “ezer” in Genesis is paired with the descriptive word, “kenegdo”, which means “face to face” or “corresponding”. This gives the implication that Eve was Adam’s exactly equal partner; this understanding is was prompted Adam to declare Eve to be “bone of my bone and flesh of my flesh”…they were a matched set! And, it was together that God commissioned the Man and the Woman to take dominion over the earth. In reading the Genesis account you will see that it says “God blessed them and said to them, “Be fruitful and increase in number; fill the earth and subdue it.” He didn’t give the charge to Adam, and then add Eve as the ‘hired help’ to assist Adam in accomplishing his tasks. The purpose was a shared one.
I’ll leave you with this example from my own life…and one that will open the door (and possibly a can of worms, for some) quite nicely to the posts yet to come discussing leadership in the Church.
My husband, Todd, and I have been married for 20 years this coming November. Looking back over the years, I can see quite clearly my husband’s leadership in my life. It has brought me to the point in my life, where I currently am, and never would have imagined to be. The point that I am referring to, specifically, is that of currently serving as the lead pastor at our church, the church that we planted together (along with an amazing team of people, lest it seems like it was all he and I!!). Together we felt God’s call to ministry, from the beginning of our marriage. Together we learned, and grew spiritually, largely at his leading and initiation. Together we served as youth leaders, on a worship team, and later in a marriage ministry. During this time, we both felt sure that God was directing Todd to get some training, in our thinking that would lead to him serving in a pastoral role. Then came a snag. It turned out that it was also together that we felt a call to church leadership, specifically in the role of elder/pastor. And it was there we had to pause…because our theological background had taught us this wasn’t in accordance with scripture (more on this in subsequent posts). We were unwilling to move into something that seemed to ‘fit’ if we didn’t feel it was scripturally sound, no matter how ‘right’ it might feel. So, we committed to wrestling out this issue together as well, studying, praying, seeking counsel. Increasingly, as we felt God bringing clarity to many things, Todd would pour into me, encouraging me to use my giftings, to step out of my comfort zone, to respond to the things God was prompting in me. It was a whole new territory…and one that I had, largely, not seen patterned before in couples we knew. But we both knew clearly God’s calling growing and increasing, and it was repeatedly confirmed by others around us, so…together we planted a church. Initially we both served as elders, but Todd in the role of senior elder (which is the same as lead pastor, but in our network we use the terminology senior elder). Over time, (stories to come in future post) it just became apparent and practical for us to switch, and for I to fill the role of senior elder. In reality, we continue to totally share the ministry, but because my giftings are more that of a ‘big picture’ visionary, and Todd is a ‘details’ guy, the switch works for us. But, ironic as it may be, the reason I serve in this leadership role is because my husband faithfully fulfilled…and continues to do so…his role of leadership in my life. Kingdom Leadership…the kind that always desires the best for the one being led, always wanting them to fulfill their destiny, and be fully released to be all they were created to be.
(I do want to note, that obviously I do realize not every marriage will look like ours, in the shared-ness of what we do. Certainly, some husbands will make sacrifices for their wife to feel fulfilled by doing her ‘dream job’ of staying home with their children. I don’t want to pigeon-hole anyone to any specific scenario. Some wives are MOST fulfilled being ‘behind the scenes’, or answering God’s call on her in what might be considered ‘traditional’ ways…and I too include myself, as a stay/work-at-home mom. There is no one-size-fits-all scenario for everyone. I am trying to illustrate the principle that both husband and wife seek to prefer the other, but the husband demonstrates leadership by stepping up to the call of leadership by recognizing, cultivating and releasing his wife to be and do all God calls her to…no matter whether it is preaching a sermon, creating beautiful art or tending precious little ones (or maybe all of these and more!)…but knowing that whatever it is, she is fulfilled and thus, he serves well as a leader, and is honored by her.)
Ah, it’s such a beautiful dance, really, this thing called marriage…don’t you think?