My husband and I got the opportunity to go away for an overnight marriage retreat with our church family. The pastor of our church, who is also my father, put everything together and eighteen couples participated. It was from a Thursday afternoon to Friday afternoon. It consisted of worship and fellowship. And also of studying God’s Word and how we are to live as husbands and wives. It was refreshing and enjoyable and so glad we were able to make it. Oliver is just eight weeks old and we weren’t planning on being able to attend but we made it work. It was his first night sleeping away from home and he did very well! We were the youngest couple there and the only ones who brought a babe (or any child) along. I was nervous about that but I think everyone was very encouraging and excited about the babe. Even when I had to nurse him in the back of the class and everyone could hear his loud, dramatic gulps. And not to mention the huge business he achieved with thunder and a grunt that caused some faces pointed our way! Smiling faces though … so it was all okay.
It’s crazy how many times you can read a certain passage of the Bible and still have a totally new, refreshing understanding of it when a group of fellow believers study it together. We read through the beginning chapters of Genesis as a class and Pastor spoke about it as we went along. But my mother also added some very interesting things to the discussion that I hope I can do justice on as I try to explain it here.
One thing that’s blown my mind that my father and I had talked about years ago is this: the first thing ever given to man was work. And the first thing in the world ever given to woman was a relationship. Really ponder that … Man given work. Woman given relationships. And that’s how people tend to identify themselves.
When I hear two men talking together for the first time, I tend to hear where each of them works and what they do for a living. When I meet a woman for the first time, we tend to share things like that we are married and to whom and how many children we have. Our relationships. Just kind of the way we define ourselves.
Now this is just my observation. Not like it’s a rule but it’s interesting, no? I used to get asked by some strangers in town, “How do I know you?” And instead of saying, “I work at the grocery store“, I would give the answer, “My dad is the pastor of the Lutheran church.” Have you ever caught yourself doing the same thing? Ever? Now I know for a fact, if my husband was asked that same question, he’d say something like, “I work at Johnson Electric. Maybe you’ve seen me on the job?”
So then after the Fall, this happened:
To the woman he said,
“I will make your pains in childbearing very severe;
with painful labor you will give birth to children.
Your desire will be for your husband,
and he will rule over you.”
To Adam he said,
“Because you listened to your wife and ate fruit from the tree about which I commanded you, ‘You must not eat from it,’
“Cursed is the ground because of you;
through painful toil you will eat food from it
all the days of your life.
It will produce thorns and thistles for you,
and you will eat the plants of the field.
By the sweat of your brow
you will eat your food
until you return to the ground,
since from it you were taken;
for dust you are
and to dust you will return.”
I was always confused about that last sentence. Your desire will be for your husband AND he will rule over you. The ‘and’ was confusing. How does that go together?
Well, my dad/pastor said that the more literal translation of this would be “your husband’s position.” Now that made sense. Your desire will be for your husband’s position and he will rule over you.
So the very first things we were blessed with (relationships and work) became cursed because of our sin. I always thought childbearing meant just the physical act of birth but childbearing is the whole shebang. Raising the children, teaching the children, caring for the children, etc. That would all be painful now. And we would desire the husband’s position and want to be the leader of the family but the husband will still be the head of the household. Our relationships are now cursed.
And what God said to Adam … phew. Did we mess up or what. Work wasn’t a complete blessing anymore because now there would be painful toil with it. Yes, there would be times now when he would want to keep pushing the snooze button! He would be sweating until he would return to the ground. And back to what was said to Eve, about her wanting his position, meant that his work as a husband would also not be painless now. Because his beloved would constantly want to rule over him now, not just be his helper. Our work is now cursed.
The wonderful thing about the retreat was that these things were brought to light and I got to think about everything deeper than I had before. The next time I hear this passage in a group setting, I’m sure I’ll learn even more.
But for now, this is what I got out of these conclusions:
Two of the most essential things in our human lives, the first important things we were given to do, are now cursed and will never be what they were given us to be. But there is forgiveness! By His wounds, we are healed. We will continue to try and try and try to be the people God put us in this world for and continue to do the work He has given us. And we will continue to fail and fail and fail. Yes, as Christians, we still never get it perfectly right. But … get this:
God will continue to forgive and forgive and forgive! And we will live and live and live! Without sin, without sin, without sin! Foreverrrrrrrr!
Oh yes. The new heavens and new earth will be amazing. Far beyond our imagination even though I like trying to imagine it.
We are here on this earth now and whenever we shine light on a problem and understand when/how a problem started, I think that’s how we come face-to-face with it and deal with it just a tad bit better. When I heard the very words God said after the Fall and finally made a little better connection to what He was talking about, I can see more specifically the areas in which I am doomed to fail. But these also happen to be the areas in which I was given purpose and reason to live here on Earth. Even though now raising my children will be painful and I will never have the position to lead our family even when I’m so confident that I know best (and yes, this is a daily occurrence), I am still put here on Earth to do what God blessed me with the day we were made. I’m here to go through life and do all the good works that God already has prepared for me. I don’t even need to chose them! He’s already done that.
Aren’t you glad salvation doesn’t depend on us?!
For it is by grace you have been saved,through faith—and this is not from yourselves, it is the gift of God— not by works, so that no one can boast. For we are God’s handiwork, created in Christ Jesus to do good works, which God prepared in advance for us to do.