In his book Growing Strong in the Seasons of Life, Charles Swindoll writes about the courtship and marriage of Charles and Anne Lindbergh. Although he was a world renowned aviator, Charles Lindbergh was not content to have his wife stand in his shadow. He encouraged Anne to develop her own gifts and abilities. As a result Anne Morrow Lindbergh became one of America’s most popular authors.
According to Charles Swindoll, “Here was a husband’s love that was strong enough to reassure, yet unthreatened enough to release. Tight enough to embrace, yet loose enough to enjoy. Magnetic enough to hold, yet magnanimous enough to allow for flight. Here was a husband’s love with an absence of jealousy, as others applauded her accomplishments and admired her competence.”1
It’s refreshing to hear accounts of successful and satisfying marriages. It’s encouraging to hear that some couples give energy and effort to continually build their relationship. It’s great to hear about good and growing relationships between husbands and wives, especially given the popular claim that “marriage is the only war where you sleep with the enemy”!
What makes a marriage successful and satisfying? What makes for a good and growing relationship? While the union of Charles and Anne Lindbergh had something special about it — something that enabled them to thrive in marriage for nearly half a century — there was one couple who had a growing marriage for even longer. You might say that their’s was a marriage “made in heaven.” While no one knows their exact wedding anniversary, in the early chapters of Genesis we learn that this marriage lasted some 900 years.
Thankfully, through their story, God has given us insight into what makes for a successful and satisfying marriage. In the creation account of Genesis 2 we get a glimpse of life in the first family. In our Scripture we discover three truths about the marriage of Adam and Eve: First, they were created for each other. Second, they were different from each other. And third, they were given to each other.
In the year 1158, the medieval poet and professor Peter Lombard observed that, “Eve was not taken from the feet of Adam to be his slave, nor from his head to be his lord, but from his side to be his partner.”2 Lombard grasped an important fact that’s eluded many Christians from his day down through our own: in the creation account there is no evidence of superior/inferior or dominant/submissive relations between the first husband and wife. Instead there’s evidence of equality and egalitarian relations. Adam and Eve shared a growing friendship. They had a strong partnership. They enjoyed companionship. They complemented one another in every way possible, because they were created for each other.
It’s noteworthy that our text begins in the manner it does. To this point in the Genesis account, God has looked upon the universe in all of its perfection and pristine glory — and God has declared it very good. Yet, here, the Lord’s benediction becomes a malediction: God saw that it was not good for a man to be alone. Thus, we read of the Lord’s intent: “I will make him a helper fit for him” (Genesis 2:18).
Then our text takes an unusual turn. In the Genesis 2:19-20, we have an apparent non sequitur. At first glance these verses seem unrelated to the Genesis 2:18. We’ve just read that God intends to make a helper for man, next we read that God set Adam to the task of studying the animals. While these verses may initially seem incongruent, consider the divine wisdom at work. Here was the first “premarital counseling session.” God had some important insights for Adam before Adam could marry Eve, and these insights went beyond “the birds and the bees.”
Certainly one thing God wanted to show Adam was that his wife was entirely unique — created like himself, unlike the animals. Unfortunately many men have never learned this truth. They treat their wives as if they were capable of handling only life’s three “D’s”: dishes, dustpans, and diapers. Through this premarital counseling session, Adam learned that his greatest need was a partner, not a beast of burden. Adam learned that a woman is not to be treated as a servant whose function begins with and ends with household work. Instead the woman was to be a companion of the man.
In Psychology Today, Robert and Jeanette Lauer report on their extensive research into what contributes most to long-term marital satisfaction. They observe that couples who have the most enduring and happy marriages know and like each other as best friends, they enjoy conversation and they engage in a variety of activities together.3
In this premarital counseling session, the Lord enabled Adam to envision his wife as a partner, as a best friend and life companion. At the same time, the Lord inspired Adam to treat his wife in a loving and caring way. We need only understand God’s purpose in creating woman to understand her divinely-intended relationship to man. She is described by God, her Maker, as a “helper fit for man.” The preposition for is very important here. It literally means “corresponding to, equal and adequate to.” She is a partner corresponding to the man. She is a fitting partner who is his equal in every respect.4
Theologian Paul Jewett notes that the particular Hebrew word for help, used in Genesis 2:18-20 to describe a “fitting helper” for man, is never used in the Old Testament to designate a subordinate or a servant. In fact, Jewett observes that it’s sometimes used of God Himself, for often the Psalmist speaks of God as our “help” in time of need.5
Here we discover that Adam and Eve were created for each other. They were created equally to bear God’s image. They were created equally to share life together. They were created equally for companionship, for partnership and for friendship. Yet, while they were created for each other, Adam and Eve were created uniquely different from each other.
Elizabeth Achtemeier has written of the beauty and mystery of this divine creation: “The man was shaped from the dust of the ground, intimately, in the hands of God the Potter. Then the woman was formed from the rib of the man, secretly, by God the Father of the Bride.”6 The difference between man and woman, then, is due to God’s creative plan and purpose. We read in Genesis 2:21-22 that God caused a deep sleep to fall upon Adam, then the Lord performed divine surgery. From a single rib — the solid and substantial bone which encloses the heart — God created Eve.
Perhaps in describing the woman’s creation in this way the Lord underscores the fact that woman is not the creation of man. When she is created, the man is in an unknowing sleep. In fact Adam contributes no more to her creation than to his own; for this reason Eve is not somehow indebted to Adam. Although she is bone of his bone and flesh of his flesh, her being is hers, even as his being is his. This is because Adam and Eve were created uniquely different from each other.
It seems probable that the first husband and wife enjoyed many shared interests. At the same time, they must have encouraged each other to develop their individual interests, talents and abilities. We simply need to remember that before the Fall, in their perfection, Adam and Eve lived out the kind of love which Paul writes about in 1 Corinthians 13. This love is patient and kind, it rejoices in the other’s well-being. This love is not possessive, not resentful, not jealous, not demanding of its own way. When a husband and wife share this Christ-like love they encourage and celebrate each other’s individual interests, talents, abilities and success.
According to family therapist Robert Beavers, a healthy marital relationship encourages individual growth. By contrast, Beavers points out that depressed wives and distant husbands often share a similar degree of pain!7 When couples fail to develop individual interests, they can become so enmeshed and so emotionally dependent upon one another that they suffocate the fresh growing potential of their marriage. This enmeshment, of course, is in opposition to God’s plan and purpose for husbands and wives. Although God created Adam and Eve for each other, God created them different from each other. Such uniqueness, such differing gifts and interests are to be a wellspring of joy and spontaneity in marriage.
This joy and spontaneity was especially evident on that primeval day when the Creator God gave Adam and Eve to each other. We read Adam’s joyful song in Genesis 2:23, where in effect he says: “At last, here is my life companion, bone of my bones and flesh of my flesh!”
Imagine Adam and Eve, in their perfection, encountering each other for the first time. In his commentary on Genesis, Martin Luther expressed his belief that Adam must have excelled the animals in strength — with power greater than the lion’s, eyesight sharper than the eagle’s, with incredible knowledge and wisdom and handsomeness. Then Luther thought Eve would have been as strong, fast, clear-sighted, and brilliant as the man; and in addition to that she must have had a beauty and grace that excelled him.8
Adam and Eve knew a joyful ecstasy when God gave them to each other. “Therefore a man leaves his father and mother and cleaves to his wife, and they become one flesh” (Genesis 2:24). Here we find one of the Bible’s most powerful teachings given to husbands and wives. What does the Scripture say? Here we discover what makes for a successful and satisfying marriage.
Adam and Eve learned that the husband/wife relationship must be a couple’s first and foremost priority. It must be without parental prying! It must be without interference from in-laws! God’s plan and purpose for marriage is that husbands and wives leave their parents in order to cleave to one another. In the original text the words for “leave” and “cleave” are very strong ones. The word for “leave” literally means “to abandon, to forsake”; and the word for “cleave” literally means “to adhere firmly, to be strongly attached.” If a husband and wife want to have a good and growing marriage, they will put a boundary around themselves and they will not allow anyone or anything to separate or divide them against themselves.
Naturally husbands and wives should love their parents and in-laws. Naturally husbands and wives should love and nurture their children. But God’s purpose and plan for husbands and wives is that their marriage be first and foremost. For only when their marriage relationship is boundaried from outside influence and interference can a husband and wife truly grow and mature in marriage together. Only when a couple “leaves and cleaves” will they be able to develop a healthy and adult relationship to their parents and in-laws.
Then, beyond leaving and cleaving, we read that a husband and wife are to be “weaving.” They are to become one flesh. This involves the intimate joy of knowing and being known, of loving and being loved. The sexual union of husband and wife is God’s gracious gift for consummating the marriage bond — intended for procreation and intended for pleasure. Indeed Solomon’s poetry affirms the beauty of sexual expression within the one-flesh marriage relationship involving spiritual, emotional and physical dimensions.
Leaving, cleaving and “weaving” — these are the steps a husband and wife must take if they are to have a successful and satisfying marriage. Certainly the first couple followed this threefold guidance from the Lord.
Adam and Eve recognized that God had created them for each other — for companionship, partnership and friendship. Adam and Eve realized that God had made them different from each other — with unique gifts, talents and abilities. And Adam and Eve rejoiced when God had given them to each other — to share a lifetime of love together.
Today let us give thanks unto the Lord for His goodness to us. How great is God’s love that He would care intimately about our marriages and families. How great His desire that our hearts and homes have a place for His Son, the Lord Jesus Christ. How great His provision in sending His Son to be our Helper and Counselor — and above all to be our Savior. Only the Lord Jesus Christ can make your marriage and family all that God originally intended it to be.
Are there broken relationships? Christ can help you bring resolution. Is there potential for growth? It is Christ who will help you bring renewal. Open your heart and home to His peace and presence. Let Him take His rightful place within your life and family!
1. Swindoll, Charles. Growing Strong in the Seasons of Life. (Portland, OR: Multnomah Press, 1983), pp. 66-67.
2. Jewett, Paul. Man as Male and female. (Grand Rapids: Eerdmans, 1975), p. 120.
3. Lauer, Jeanette and Lauer, Robert. “Marriages Made to Last,” Psychology Today, 19(6), p. 24.
4. Freedman, R. David. “Woman: A Power Equal to Man.” Biblical Archeology Review, 9(1), p. 57.
5. Jewett, pp. 124-125.
6. Achtemeier, Elizabeth. The Committed Marriage. (Philadelphia: Westminster Press, 1976), p. 70.
7. Beavers, W. Robert. Successful Marriage. (New York: Norton & Co., 1985), p. 175.
8. Boice, James. Genesis. (Grand Rapids: Zondervan, 1982), p. 109.

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