(Another sample from The Curses and the Covenants available here.)
(The full study available for sale here.)
The Woman and the New Kingdom: Cooperation
(Based on Genesis 3:16b. + 2 Samuel 11-12 + Matthew 22:41-46)
“Yet, you will long for your husband, and he will rule you” (Gen. 3:16b.).
“[…] David named him Solomon. The LORD loved the child” (2 Sam. 12:24b.).
In my culture where reality-denying is a very popular activity, talking about sex differences, the reasons behind sex differences, and the sacredness of sex is a very unpopular activity. But here goes, anyway.
Years ago, I stumbled onto the concepts of a woman’s “garden of beauty” and a man’s “fortress of strength” (as I’ve called them to myself since then). I started noticing men reacting to any perceived insult to their strength or manhood the way women react to any perceived insult to their beauty. The swiftness and strength of these reactions told me that the insult felt like a full-blown attack on something very sensitive and central. I began to envision these tender cores as closely-guarded fortresses or gardens.
I began to see strength as the embodiment of masculinity and beauty as the embodiment of femininity. These are the traits that draw men to women and vice versa, so we can understand why any lack in these areas feels like tragedy. (Fortunately, there is more to these embodiments than just physical strength and physical beauty. And the inner traits are available to all.)
Just looking at the biological reason for sex (reproduction), we can see the design behind our sex differences. A woman carries a baby in her body for nine months, then feeds it from her body for a time, making her the natural choice for primary caregiver to the very young. But the constant care needed to keep them alive makes child-rearing a necessary joint task in most societies. The man, with his greater size and strength, is ideally suited to the role of protector/provider for his family. And these complementary roles are facilitated in a fascinating way: through chemistry.
Women’s hormonal cocktail (plus other equipment) makes them able to conceive and bear children. Testosterone turns men into pursuers and doers.
There are also sexual-behaviour differences (as a quick study of “chick flicks” vs. “guy movies” will reveal). Men are driven to produce offspring with healthy, fertile women (hence the visual emphasis) but at low biological cost. Women have much more at stake. Reproduction is a big commitment for them. Seeing child-making is a team effort, so should child-rearing be. So women must ensure that reproduction is also a big commitment for a man. Women’s hard-wiring seems to make them more careful and seek commitment in a sexual relationship. Women tend to be choosier; men more eager. In a society where sexual relationships are life-partnerships, it balances out. Men’s hard-wiring makes them more flexible, resilient, and persistent in finding a mate. They often have to try harder. But in a society practising traditional marriage, most men and women successfully pair off.
There are sound biological reasons for the commitment of marriage. But we thought we could upset this balance and separate sex from reproduction (unless and until we choose) and get away with anything. Result? Disaster!
We are not merely animals, and sex is not strictly a biological act. There is a spiritual side to it. This most intimate of physical acts that often results in the creation of entirely new human beings is meant to bond us for life. We guard our gardens and our fortresses valiantly because we’re supposed to. They’re tender for a reason. The intimacy of physical nakedness is meant to accompany the intimacy of soul-nakedness. And that nakedness requires a high degree of safety. We are only meant to open those gates to our very cores within the protection of commitment and covenant.
In 2 Samuel 11-12, we read of David getting this whole side of life very, very wrong. And disaster followed. But not only disaster.
Hundreds of years later, a Son of David would hint in Matthew 22:41-46 that He was indeed the promised Son of David. But not only his son. Also his Lord. David’s branch but also David’s root. And His genealogy would list Solomon, David and Bathsheba’s son, as one of His ancestors (Matt. 1:6).
In this story of God using our disasters as His opportunities, I see today’s title: cooperation. We are coworkers with God (1 Cor. 3:9). Sometimes willingly; sometimes unwittingly. He requires our input in His creation of new life, for instance. Only He creates life, but He does it through our choices.
This design of cooperation that we see biologically in marriage is the cure for the curse of subjection of Genesis 3. Men and women are to be partners. A man’s strength makes him more likely to play the primary active role: hunter-gatherer-builder-maker. Respect opens the gate to his fortress as love opens the gate to her garden (Eph 5:33). He craves a woman’s admiration of his strength as a woman craves his adoration of her beauty.
It’s not God’s ideal for the wife to be subject to the husband. It is His ideal for the wife to submit to her husband—to come alongside in a vital support role. The difference is empowering. Subjection is the act of the one doing the subjecting. Submission is the act of the one doing the submitting. Submission is a choice, so submission is really freedom. This is exactly true of God. He will not make us subjects in His kingdom. We can only submit to Him.