The Helpmeet Shortage: Why telling Christian singles God’s love is enough, isn’t enough.
Art by Agata Endo Nowicka
Part 3 of 4
In 2005 National Geographic introduced us to three extraordinary societies known as “Blue Zones,” where members live well and live long - often to the age of 100!1 2
To the shock of many, a U.S. city made the very short list: Loma Linda, California, home to a large community of Seventh-day Adventist Christians. They shared the honor with Okinawa, Japan, and Sardinia, Italy.
Loma Linda’s health achievements are especially impressive in light of the hurried, fast food culture of the U.S. at large. Several aspects of this group’s lifestyle stand out including regular time outdoors, wholesome vegan/vegetarian fare, and community-wide Sabbath celebration.
Equally remarkable, and unlike its Blue Zone counterparts, this faith community is multi-ethnic, with residents hailing from around the country and around the world. This unique characteristic is not lost on researchers who have realized that health is not solely genetically determined. Seventh-day Adventists embrace health and wellness as part of God’s desire for all people to experience a vibrant existence. 3 4
Loma Linda provides a lesson in the power of lifestyle choices to make living well and living long possible for everyone.
Drawing inspiration from this city, what if the faith communities of our generation become relational blue zones? What if we experience loving well and loving long to such a degree we become a phenomenon?
Relational Blue Zones: Loving Well, Loving Long
Our world has a hard time conceiving of and believing in thriving, lifelong marriages. The social climate is heavy with cynicism regarding love and marriage as we’ve become a generation of sexual omnivores and commitment-phobes.
In the thick of modern society’s lost wonder of love and sexuality, people of faith have an opportunity to offer a narrative of love that is distinctively different, profoundly fulfilling, and refreshingly hope-filled.
In Genesis chapter 2, we find this description of Adam and Eve, “And they were both naked, the man and his wife, and were not ashamed.” 5
“Naked and unashamed” has been described as the state in which human beings, in the context of the committed relationship of marriage, blossom as they are “fully known and fully loved.” 6
In view of this, when Christian singles, under the warped ideology of the “gift of singleness,” bend away from love and marriage in the face of anti-marriage cultural winds, we become disqualified from challenging our society to aspire to what we ourselves are not experiencing!
If singles in the church remain indiscernibly different from our secular counterparts, the world has no reason to find the Bible’s portrait of love, healthy sexual expression, and human flourishing compelling. We all know that the best sermons are modeled, not preached.
When husbands and wives head home after work and love their families well, that is the Gospel in action at a depth to which a mission trip halfway across the globe doesn’t compare.
To bring God’s counter-cultural picture of love to life requires we first ditch the misshapen theological rhetoric about the “gift of singleness” as we know it.
Now, if you’ve made the choice marriage is not for you and you are living a celibate life marked by emotional and sexual integrity as exemplified by New Testament prophet John the Baptist and the apostle Paul, then carry on.
If you’ve received an express and personal call by God to serve Him in a singular way similar to Old Testament prophet Jeremiah, thank you for your ministry and I salute you!
The rest of you, read on.
I believe we can reverse this helpmeet shortage when we in the local church realize we have a Biblical mandate to be relational blue zones. 7 8
And I’m convinced the way forward hinges on a radical mindset shift about “independence.”
I experience a clash of emotions when I hear the word “independent.” On one hand, it denotes strength and courage to address injustice and overthrow oppression as in the case of revolutionary wars.
On the other hand, when independence (not to be confused with personal liberty and freedom) is ascribed to individuals, I’m not convinced it’s the compliment we think it to be.
Increasingly, self-centered ambition is lauded as independence. There are several examples in Scripture of men and women who exhibit this spirit. They have big egos, trample on others on their way to the top because they “don’t need nobody,” and rarely share the credit for accomplishments – whether with God or members of their community.
From pompous rulers (think Babylonian King Nebuchadnezzar or Israelite King Saul) to distinguished angelic beings (namely Lucifer), “independence” brings them crashing down. Their inability to understand that they are a part of a story bigger than their own unfits them for the commendation of God and society. 9 10 11
I wonder if in our pursuit of equality, we women have eclipsed our God-given need for others – including and perhaps particularly, men.
You’re probably cringing right now, but hear me out.
Given the history of abuse women have suffered at the hands of men, the resentment toward males is inarguably warranted. The reckoning taking place in Hollywood, in government, in the workplace, and in the church to hold men accountable for their abuse of power has been long overdue.
Here’s what I’d like us to consider: If an attitude of domineering “independence” underpins our emotional reflex to view men as nothing more than useless idiots, nuisances, and sex-crazed pigs, we’ve swung the pendulum too far to the other extreme.
As we attend to each other’s wounds of abuse, share our stories of hurt, and push for a safer world, let’s be careful to embody God’s heart for justice and restoration.
There’s another pattern I’ve picked up in the Word. In stark contrast to the narcissistic independence of Biblical times, and ours today, stand men and women who are applauded for being capable.
The Proverbs 31 woman is one of these quintessential figures in Scripture.
This Old Testament character is a wife, a mother, and an entrepreneur. She uses business prowess to build enterprises, looks after her household, extends a hand to the less fortunate, and cares for herself. She is celebrated by her husband, admired by her children, respected by her employees, and “blessed” or commended by God.
Why should we follow in her capable footsteps?
Because God has set us up for something quite grand.
Taking Over the World
In the Genesis Creation account, God makes humankind, male and female, in His image. Then God places the human pair in the Garden of Eden, blesses them, and says to them, “Be fruitful and multiply; fill the earth and subdue it.” 12
Did you catch that?
God situates them in a garden, places a blessing upon them, and tells them the entire earth is theirs to take charge of and fill.
God releases Adam and Eve to a life of adventure!
He has imbued our human parents and by extension us, to dream and to do.
Ladies, our intellect, creativity, ingenuity, strength, and drive are not at odds with love and marriage. Ministry visions, academic pursuits, entrepreneurial dreams, corporate aspirations, nonprofit missions, and public office ambitions can be quests shared with an Adam.
God designed us to co-reign with Adam in taking over the world.
God has wired us to create, to expand, to build, to grow and to love and be loved.
Co-reigning is a call to be highly capable. And also inter-dependent. Adam and Eve were created to be complimentary counterparts, not each other’s competition!
God created us to be better together.
As a matter of fact, our Creator models this ideal for us. While He doesn’t need us in order to exist, He is adamant that His existence is infinitely more fulfilled by ours. 13 14 15
Jesus’ death on the cross is God saying to us, “I’d rather die than live without you.”
And you thought Hollywood invented that line!
Here’s what’s incredible: Jesus is not weak for His vulnerability and for loving us to such lengths. If anything, His sacrifice melts our hearts and moves us to love Him right back.
In one of the closing scenes in the book of Revelation, the entire world gets remade into a relational blue zone and humans co-reign with God. 16 17 18
But until then, ladies, we “image God” when we are emotionally secure enough to invite life to be about an “us” and less about “me.”
Next week, we’ll delve into our fourth and final installment of this series. Thanks for reading and for sharing with your friends!
#BetterTogether | #TheHelpmeetShortage
3 3 John 2 (NKJV) Beloved, I pray that you may prosper in all things and be in health, just as your soul prospers.
4 The Adventists Documentary
5 Genesis 2:25 (NKJV) And they were both naked, the man and his wife, and were not ashamed.
7 Titus 2: 2-8 (MSG) Guide older men into lives of temperance, dignity, and wisdom, into healthy faith, love, and endurance. Guide older women into lives of reverence so they end up as neither gossips nor drunks, but models of goodness. By looking at them, the younger women will know how to love their husbands and children, be virtuous and pure, keep a good house, be good wives. We don’t want anyone looking down on God’s Message because of their behavior. Also, guide the young men to live disciplined lives. But mostly, show them all this by doing it yourself, incorruptible in your teaching, your words solid and sane. Then anyone who is dead set against us, when he finds nothing weird or misguided, might eventually come around.
8 Romans 2:22a, 24a (NKJV) You who say, “Do not commit adultery,” do you commit adultery?... For “the name of God is blasphemed among the Gentiles because of you”
9 Daniel 4:28-37 - Babylonian King Nebuchadnezzar’s fall and restoration
10 1 Samuel 13:5-14 - Israelite King Saul’s fall
11 Isaiah 14:1-15 - Lucifer’s fall
12 Genesis 1:27, 28a (NKJV) So God created man in His own image; in the image of God He created him; male and female He created them. Then God blessed them, and God said to them, “Be fruitful and multiply; fill the earth and subdue it; have dominion over the fish of the sea, over the birds of the air, and over every living thing that moves on the earth.”
13 Psalm 50:12 (NKJV) If I were hungry, I would not tell you; For the world is Mine, and all its fullness.
14 John 3:16-17 (NKJV) For God so loved the world that He gave His only begotten Son, that whoever believes in Him should not perish but have everlasting life. For God did not send His Son into the world to condemn the world, but that the world through Him might be saved. (Emphasis added)
15 John 14:1-3 (NKJV) Let not your heart be troubled; you believe in God, believe also in Me. In My Father’s house are many mansions; if it were not so, I would have told you. I go to prepare a place for you. And if I go and prepare a place for you, I will come again and receive you to Myself; that where I am, there you may be also. (Emphasis added)
16 Revelation 21:1-8; 22-27
17 2 Timothy 2:12a (NKJV) If we endure, we shall also reign with Him.
18 Revelation 20:4 (NKJV) And I saw thrones, and they sat on them, and judgment was committed to them. Then I saw the souls of those who had been beheaded for their witness to Jesus and for the word of God, who had not worshiped the beast or his image, and had not received his mark on their foreheads or on their hands. And they lived and reigned with Christ for a thousand years.