Relationships and Expectations

I was thinking about the story of creation from the first and second chapters of Genesis last night. God created Adam. Then he left him alone. He gave Adam a world which was full, creative, growing, and said, “All this is yours.” Then, I think, God waited. Adam looked at the world he had been given and saw, as God had before him, that it was good. But Adam noticed something. Every part of creation had a companion part, except him. And Adam was lonely. Adam told God he was lonely. I think God knew that Adam would be lonely, but that he waited until Adam acknowledged a need before he provided a remedy.

God created a woman to be a help meet to Adam. Many people have commented on what this means, exactly, but I think that maybe we can see part of what God created in the nature of women in this description. Women are very concerned with relationships, with attachments, with friends and friendships, with nurturing and caring for others. I think this may be what God meant when he created Eve to be a help meet to Adam. Adam did not have any connection to the rest of the world, except in a hierarchical sense of being over or under it, until Eve came into his life. Together they established the first human relationship in history.

I think that the ability to establish and maintain relationships may be a gift from God integrated into the very nature of women. If that is true, then your concern for your friends and your family has been given to you specially, by God, in a way that can be very beneficial to those around you– every good and perfect gift comes from God.

There is also, I believe, a lesson to be learned in the story of Hannah and Samuel. Hannah lived in an age when women married young and their worth was measured by the outside world in the number of children that they bore for their husbands. Hannah was married, but she had no children. The outside world scorned her. Her husband’s second wife treated her poorly. But her husband, a man raised with the expectation that a good wife bears many children, loved her and tried to protect her from ridicule and shame. She was a woman greatly blessed to have a husband who could and would ignore the dictates of society and see her as an individual.

This was not enough for Hannah, however. She wanted a child. She wanted a child badly enough to risk the scorn of the priest who, because she prayed long and hard, thought that she was drunk. (I guess that tells us that most of the women of her day did not spend much time in public places praying.) Here again, although this time voluntarily, she acted outside the expectations of her society. I do not think that she acted outside the expectations of God, though. He heard her prayers and he responded with a promise to give her a child.

Sometimes what is right and true is not what the world around us nor even the religious leaders of our day think and believe. Sometimes we humans are abused by other humans for things we cannot help. Sometimes we are scorned for an appearance of evil or even just their perception of evil. There are two things which I see in the story of Hannah as sustaining; one which is sure. Sometimes God gives us in our lives people who will stand by us, put aside prejudices and learned responses, and love us despite what the world says or thinks. And always God will be there: loving us, listening to us, and responding to us with mercy and compassion.

orig. written 10/3/94