The Helpmeet Shortage: Why telling Christian singles God’s love is enough, isn’t enough.
Art by Agata Endo Nowicka
Part 1 of 4
Picture this: I’m in my kitchen prepping to make an apple pie. On my laptop I’ve pulled up a vegan recipe with really good reviews. Surprise, surprise, the recipe calls for apples! But I’m out, so imagine with me that I use oranges instead. After all, they are both fruit.
You wouldn’t be the least bit shocked that the pie turns out an epic failure.
My error is both simple and obvious. To make apple pie, I need apples.
Oranges, delicious, nutritious, satisfying as they may be, and although they too are fruit, make poor substitutes for the recipe at hand.
To make apple pie, I need apples.
Now let’s talk about love, shall we?
Popular Christian philosophy teaches singles what I call relational substitution. We have come to believe that it is spiritual to substitute the love of a man for the love of God.
The error communities of faith make in teaching relational substitution is both simple and obvious. Like you need apples for apple pie, we need a man for marriage.
An emotionally-healthy, Bible-based theology of love requires we understand the fundamental difference between types of relationships. It is my desire to see our churches flourish in the area of relationships and in this 4-part blog series we’ll explore how together we can do just that.
Let’s begin by traveling back in time and looking at how Scripture introduces us to the different types of relationships God created.
In the Beginning...
In the midst of perfection, after five days of God’s repeated assessment of His creative work as “good,” we read these words in the book of Genesis, “And the Lord God said, ‘It is not good that man should be alone; I will make him a helper comparable to him.’” 1
But... How can Adam be alone if God is there? Why isn’t God enough for Adam? And why isn’t God’s love enough?
To my singles reading this, haven’t we heard versions of these platitudes in well-meaning encouragement to live a so-called contented single life?
Back to the story. As readers, we’re naturally expecting the very next words in the narrative to present a solution to the problem God called “not good.”
“Out of the ground the Lord God formed every beast of the field and every bird of the air.” 2
God blesses Adam with... pets?
Here the Biblical writer adds intensity to the situation by heightening Adam’s aloneness in juxtaposition to the company of God Himself and now animals all around.
The Garden of Eden is filled with creatures great and small, and God “brought them to Adam to see what he would call them. And whatever Adam called each living creature, that was its name. So Adam gave names to all the cattle, to the birds of the air, and to every beast of the field.” 3
If we were to stop reading here, we would think God resolved the “not good” of Adam’s aloneness by busying Adam with the work (or "ministry”) of naming the animals.
However, there’s more to the story!
“But for Adam there was not found a helper comparable to him.” 4
The writer informs us the “not good” thing in God’s “good” world remains!
Adam is alone, a “not good” state of being despite living in perfection, in God’s presence, in the company of animals, and busy with work.
Until God created Eve. 5
And at that God pronounced His creative work of the day as “very good.” 6
Just Follow the Pattern...
The Creation account reveals crucial relationship lessons from our origins on which to build an emotionally-healthy spirituality:
We serve a God who is infinitely emotionally secure. Adam was in perfect relationship with his Creator and had access to God’s fully unveiled presence. 7 Yet it was God who said Adam was both “alone” and it was “not good.” And He didn’t stop there!
God created Eve with whom He would now have to share Adam. And He was totally ok with that! In fact, He was glorified in their union. God was not kicked off His throne when Eve came into existence. He didn’t suddenly lose His spot as Elohim of the cosmos. God enjoys eternal job security. God is not replaced when someone special comes into our lives! His title as Lord forever remains unchanged.
The relationship between man and his Creator is different than that of a man and a woman. These relationships are not interchangeable and neither can be substituted.
Think apples. Think oranges.
Jesus does not want to be your boyfriend, ladies!
You may have to say this out loud to really let it sink in: Jesus does not want to be my boyfriend. He is my Creator. He is my Savior. He is my Friend. And He is glorified when I find my Adam.
The historical narrative of Genesis 2:18-20 is not a lesson in humanity’s simple need of company. God designed us for company and for romantic companionship.
Adam had God’s company. Then Adam enjoyed the company of animals in nature. Then Adam was blessed by the lifelong romantic and intimate companionship of Eve. “Therefore a man shall leave his father and mother and be joined to his wife, and they shall become one flesh. And they were both naked, the man and his wife, and were not ashamed.” 8
And that, my friends, is a holistic picture of human flourishing. This is God’s vision for humankind - not just in Biblical times, and not just in the earth made new, but for the here and now.
God didn’t create Adam alone in error. He was making a point captured beautifully by the Biblical writer: Men and women are better together.
As such, our need for romantic companionship is not a sign of weakness. It’s not the red flag of lack of faith. It is not to be shamed. Rather this need should be handled with great tenderness. Adam experienced the “not good” of being “alone” for less than a day. The mishandled concept of the “gift of singleness” has tens of thousands of Christian singles living the “not good” of being “alone” for years, decades, even a lifetime.
So how did we as a faith community get here? In Part 2 of this series, we’ll talk about this gift of singleness - what it is, what it isn’t, and how it contributes to the Helpmeet Shortage in our churches.
And of course, I would love it if you would share with your friends!
#BetterTogether | #TheHelpmeetShortage
1 Genesis 2:18 “And the Lord God said, ‘It is not good that man should be alone; I will make him a helper comparable to him.’”
2 Genesis 2:19 “Out of the ground the Lord God formed every beast of the field and every bird of the air.”
3 Genesis 2:19, 20a “...the Lord God...brought them to Adam to see what he would call them. And whatever Adam called each living creature, that was its name. So Adam gave names to all the cattle, to the birds of the air, and to every beast of the field.”
4 Genesis 2:20b “But for Adam there was not found a helper comparable to him.”
5 Genesis 2:21-23 "And the Lord God caused a deep sleep to fall on Adam, and he slept; and He took one of his ribs, and closed up the flesh in its place. 22 Then the rib which the Lord God had taken from man He made into a woman, and He brought her to the man.And Adam said: 'This is now bone of my bones And flesh of my flesh; She shall be called Woman, Because she was taken out of Man.'”
6 Genesis 1:31 "Then God saw everything that He had made, and indeed it was very good. So the evening and the morning were the sixth day."
7 Genesis 1-3
8 Genesis 2:24-25 "Therefore a man shall leave his father and mother and be joined to his wife, and they shall become one flesh. And they were both naked, the man and his wife, and were not ashamed."