Bringing order back to the traditional family
PART 1 of 3
In recent decades we have witnessed radical changes in the way the roles of men and women are viewed. Those roles, and their purposes, may be one of humanity’s greatest enigmas. They were once understood and embraced for their inherent benefits, but today confusion reigns.
In this short series we will examine the foundational pillars of family, marriage, why things got twisted and, given the breadth of the subject, limit ourselves to identifying what basic steps can be taken to restore what was first intended.
Men and women were intended to be complementary -- perfect partners for special purposes, not opponents.
Given human beings are not perfect, imperfection always results, and marriages have been no exception; they do take work in order to make them work. The challenges can be the spice of life, or its undoing. The ideal family is something worth aspiring to, as it fulfills the most important purposes for life itself, leads to better health, longer life and many enjoyments.
Nothing in this series is meant to exonerate or grant license to excesses of behavior on either side. Power, gentleness, kindness and authority can reside in one man. Women can be strong, talented, yet feminine and gracious. Both should respect each other, be each other’s cheerleaders, and work in harmony, if they choose to.
There will be a lot in this series about choices.
This is not intended as a religious article, though references are inevitable. We must launch from basic understandings found in the account of the Garden of Eden. It is there only that the how and where of the foundations for traditional marriage and family were first established, and it is the only way to also reach the right conclusions.
As an aside, there is no “apple” identified in the Eden account! No one knows what that fruit was. It does not matter what it was. It symbolized a very important CHOICE, one of the first made by the first couple. In fact there were two choices involved in the account of the “fall”. The woman made one, then the man, and that is where our story begins. The continuation of the same pattern of choices accounts for much of the chaos we witness today.
Knowing the cause of a problem is the first clue to reversing it.
Analogy of the Two-Headed Snake
Before we proceed, it is interesting, pertinent and humorous to bring up two-headed snakes. For those who’ve never heard of those, yes, they do exist. I saw one at the San Diego Zoo a long time ago, bearing a simple sign explaining they are rare and usually do not survive long! In the wild they are rapidly doomed. They can never agree which way to go, when or what to eat, and sometimes attempt to consume each other. Sometimes each head has its own brain, and sometimes they share one. Either way, it’s not a good combination for survival, but it is a formula for constant strife and stress!
"Divide and conquer” is a formula for failure. Without clear leadership all the wrong things happen! [Eastern Kingsnake. See National Geographic footnote for more details.]
There’s a specific reason that man was created first, and then his very, very valuable mate, the woman. A surprising insight into the woman’s role as “helper” will be covered in Part II of this series.
Man was instructed early to separate from his parents so as to set up his own household. (Gen. 2:24) This would not have pertained to the first man, Adam, for obvious reasons. In order to ensure the man would fully develop as a leader/caretaker, he was to carry that responsibility on his own without leaning on his parents. No such instruction is given to the woman. Women usually want their own domains to manage, and they have their husbands for support. The major part of leadership training is to have someone to lead. There is no point in erecting pillars without a purpose, and a bridge will not exist without its supports.
The woman was created second as the man’s helper. She was not created to be inferior, not to be his supervisor, not to be in conflict. She was to be his closest friend and companion, to become as “one flesh”, a relationship like no other. There was an order being established for the benefit of all. Equal in many ways but different in others, the interdependency was designed to refine the best qualities of both men and women and to provide the highest level of care for future children. It’s a priceless exercise in partnership and teamwork, and the ultimate in character-refining. Not a bad thing.
The man was told it would not be good for him to be alone; he was incomplete. The woman by herself would also be incomplete, as we shall see. Their purposes are masterfully intertwined. The union is a formula for personal growth like no other.
Children were not created first and then parents to take care of them, just as eggs were not created and then chickens to hatch them. This is an important point for establishing priorities. [This site’s article, “The Four Seasons of Parenting” examines that closely.] The relationship of the man and the woman, husband and wife, must solidly come first.
Before proceeding, let’s go back to the original account and pierce through the fog.
It Was Never About the Apple, only
the LABEL -- and its Price Tag!
We are told a test was set up. This was after an unstated length of time following much instruction.
The test was set up in the form of food. That seems to be one of the hardest things for people to resist, maybe because it seems benign and the need for it so easy to justify. It is also tempting to bypass warnings and not read “the label”! But this was more than food; it involved a life or death decision. This decision had a very high price tag attached to it.
We know the woman was lured into eating a fruit, the only one labeled “off limits” out of hundreds or thousands of other choices available. The tempter completely twisted the “label”, lying about the consequences of consuming it. The Creator had warned that eating it would lead to the death cycle entering Creation (Gen. 2:17), and the tempter completely undid that by saying: “You will NOT surely die.” (Genesis 3:4).
Now Eve had a choice, and she made a decision to believe the lie, perhaps the first one she’d ever heard.
Eve’s first choice, if she even wavered, could have been to use her power of free will to follow the Divine instructions she’d received. That would have stopped the problem right there. With any doubt she might have consulted with her husband about what to do. He was expected to be more resistant to persuasion than his wife. In haste perhaps, not wanting to appear indecisive, Eve made her own decision, and she made the wrong one.
In the New Testament we are told Eve was “deceived” (I Timothy 2:14), but her husband was not, so Adam’s decision was a conscious one.
Something differed in the way both of them could be influenced.
Some decisions are made for instant gratification and others based on weighing long-range consequences. Immediate desire, needs and emotions, fuel the first type. They are typical of the manifold decisions women must make day by day and often minute by minute in fulfilling their typically multi-tasked jobs -- all the details they are well gifted at managing. The second types of decisions require more restraint, careful thought, patience, self-discipline and a tough focus. They cannot be swayed by emotions or the appeal of the senses. We see these processes being tested in the first couple.
Do we have a single-headed unit or a two-headed snake? Who is going to make the key decision here?
The Beginnings of Conflict
Eve failed first. Whatever she had been told and taught was quickly superceded by the smooth talk of the deceiver and the visual appeal of the fruit. Appearances had an impact on her. So did auditory influences. (Gen. 3:4-6) These are strong qualities she possessed to be the wonderful woman she was created to be, loving, caring and responsive. She and her husband could in fact reach balanced viewpoints by counseling each other. Both had been warned that this particular wrong choice would alter the course of human existence. Now her eyes and ears cancelled out the warnings. She is also lured with the promise that somehow consuming that fruit would make her “wise”. Whatever that meant to her at the time, it was an appeal to power.
It’s interesting that an appeal to power would be an enticement, because the power Eve already possessed, that to control herself and humanity’s destiny, was stronger than any she was being offered.
When Eve offers the same fruit to her husband, he fails, too. Why?
Why did Adam abdicate his leadership? He was the one better endowed with the ability to resist temptation, to take the long-range view and to overrule the bad advice. He was well instructed about his role as leader in the relationship. Adam is not as easily lured; his brain is wired to better resist. He can set aside what he sees and hears. But he has a weakness.
The strongest conjecture, a logical one, is that given the warnings received, and with Eve the only woman created at the time, Adam may have feared losing her, or looking weak to her. Would she follow his lead? Or not? What would be the consequences? Perhaps he was overcome by his own feelings for Eve, or not wanting to conflict with her. His mind may have whirred for a moment with conjectures.
Adam made the decision to subjugate his higher instructions to something more subtle, but to him it was not the “sight of the eyes” or the smooth talk of the tempter. It is a persistent foible of men, affecting even many of the greatest spiritual leaders of the Bible, including Abraham, to listen to their wives at the wrong time. There has to be a reason the tempter approached the woman first and not the man, where he would likely have been soundly rebuked! Adam certainly was not created weak or unintelligent, or with a poor memory. But what he feared overcame him. He was afraid of something...
Right away, in abdicating, the first man failed to hold to his God-given focus. If it had entered his mind that the all-powerful God who created all things, including the first woman, could certainly create another, we again would have had a different outcome.
Thousands of years later Abraham, the “Father of the Faithful”, was tested on giving up his promised son Isaac. What precisely helped him hold strong was believing God could resurrect the young man. (Hebrews 11:17-19) That was faith superceding his paternal feelings. Perhaps Abraham remembered the reason for Adam’s failure. Very likely he had learned his own lesson years earlier when he caved to the very bad idea from his wife Sarah to procreate with her maid Hagar. Sarah ran out of patience waiting when God’s promised son for them was delayed. Abraham’s mistake led to a lot of grief.
Choices and Consequences, from Bliss to Strife
Marriage was created to be a wonderful gift. It required the right balance of relationship between husband and wife, leadership and compliance, cooperation with wisdom.
The Creator of all, after fully laying out and instructing about choices and consequences, left those choices and consequences up to the first man and woman. Self-governance is the only kind of governance that really lasts, and sometimes it only matures through making mistakes. Dictatorship is not the goal. Peace is the goal.
With Eden lost, the first couple had a problem, one that could not be undone. So the story begins. The two-headed snake has now appeared in the family. The order is upset. The earth under the dominion of fallen man is also affected.
Life is going to be difficult.
Wrong choices often have unintended and far-reaching consequences. There is no way the first couple had not been warned, but as all parents know, the learning method of “hard knocks” seems to appeal to most human beings. Therefore we cannot blame Adam and Eve because everyone since has continued repeating the mistakes.
When confronted with their error, the two adults now act like children and pretend not to know what happened. They aren’t fooling anyone. When asked about what they had done, and why they were hiding, Eve blames the tempter, and Adam blames her. This is off to a bad start. Neither takes the blame to themselves. There is no record of apologies, only defensiveness. Attitudes take the place of innocence.
When additional consequences are explained, one specific phrase in the text only comes clear from the original Hebrew. That is at Genesis 3:15 where Eve is told, “Your desire shall be for your husband and he shall rule over you.” (Emphasis added).
This does not mean she is going to adore her husband and he is going to beat her down!
The word “desire” in that passage is the same word used at Genesis 4:7, when words are spoken to Cain before he killed his brother Able: “...sin lies at the door. And its desire is for you, but you should rule over it.” (Italicized emphasis added).
The translation is confusing to the casual reader. Sin obviously did not “desire” Cain, but to overtake him. If he did not quell his anger and envy, he was going to move on to violence, precisely as happened. In other words, sin to Eve would be her desire to rule over her husband, even to exploit him, and if she did not resist, her husband would now have to rule over her not in peace but in conflict! This is a formula engendered by Eve’s first error, and Adam’s bad decision.
Before and after.
From that time forward life now will depend on harsh conditions. Outside of the pristine garden, the man must work “by the sweat of his brow” to provide for his family. Conditions have changed. Deplorably. It is beyond the scope of this article to explain the long-range purposes for these consequences, but they are solid ones.
We can imagine Eve no longer trusting Adam’s leadership, grumbling at the hardships, even though the pressure he had caved to came from her! Instead of blaming the tempter she would end up blaming him! Suffering along with the bad consequences, she might well become contentious on other decisions, plus question and challenge excessively. Meanwhile Adam would be increasingly frustrated, doubtless feeling diminished and defeated by his failure, as a man would be, knowing what his fault was, but forced to endure consequences with the same wife who never stops reminding him!
Can the couple ever have peace?
The answer is yes, but now it will take work.
“What if” Eve had used her intelligence to stop the tempter instead of letting herself be misled?
“What if” Adam had stood his ground and refused to follow his wife’s error?
“What if” we started doing things differently now?
In Part 2 we will look at the consequences of the upset order.
In Part 3 we analyze simple and specific steps that can be taken to reverse relationship damages. The two-headed snake must be eliminated. We cannot restore the Garden of Eden. We can only change ourselves.
Copyright 2019 Nancy Diraison/Diraison Publishing. All Rights Reserved. Sharing is permitted only with full and appropriate credits included.
National Geographic link on two-headed snakes: https://www.nationalgeographic.com/animals/2002/03/news-two-headed-snakes-confusing/
Photo Credits all Dreamstime photos:
Adam and Eve (2 apples) 9722795 @ Pimrue
23771336 @ Iselee Eastern Kingsnake
71699027 @ Nicholashan Wisteria garden
Rings on word marriage 44899095 @ Amarosy
139819033 @ Vitally Nazarenko (set table for 2)
109832271 @ Johnfriberg (untended garden table)
Apple/label photo ID 20015803 © Konstantin Kirillov | Dreamstime.com
Man/woman/fog ID 68312896 © Nemar74 | Dreamstime.com