30 November 2015
And the Lord God said, It is not good that the human should be alone; I will make a help meet for him (Genesis 2:18, KJV).Back in the day, the rabbis often translated this verse this way: "I will make a helpmate opposite him." A friend tells me the sense of the Hebrew is something like a thumb opposite the forefinger. We are given to one another as partners, opposites, opposing forces, contrarian spirits. And in this way, we come to love one another and make love together and create patterns and homes and futures complex and beautiful. The energy of Genesis isn't around the duality of male and female: it's not about sex and marriage.
It's about relationship and renewal, this ancient text; it's about collaboration and community. And all of this involves friction and tension, opposite thumbs and forgiving forefingers. All of this is pleasurable enough sometimes, and frustrating at others. We get it right, we get it wrong. And this is what it means to be created in the image of God.
|Mom and her 9 grandchildren|
This week I am my mother's nurse, pulling off disposable diapers and sitting her on the toilet. This week I am cooking for her, though she eats very little, and covering her with blankets because her thin frame is so cold, so easily, and so weak against the first winds of winter. At night I sleep beside a monitor, listening closely for the sound of her breathing, her sleeping, her dreaming perhaps. And in the morning, I wait for the rustling of sheets and her sleepy voice calling my name. She's sad and embarrassed, but deeply, profoundly grateful at the same time.
When I stumble early to her bedside, round about six-thirty, she's relieved to see me. Glad.
She's always been a bundle of contradictions, my mother. I really can't tell whether she wishes to live or die now; but her will is undeniably weak. All I can do, this week, is human and basic and momentary: a clean diaper, a warm wash cloth, a decent bowl of soup, a kiss on the forehead at the end of the day. And love. Lots of love.
And this is what it means, this too is what it means to be created in the image of God. "It is not good that the human should be alone." So God gives us helpmates, mothers, sons and neighbors. Contrarian spirits. Thumbs and forefingers.
Across our fifty-three years, we have been helpmates and we have been opposing forces. I have railed against her addictions, and she has turned away. She's also communicated, in the best and deepest ways she knows, her undying affection and love. And I've treasured that love, saved it away, counted on it. I've undoubtedly failed her in many ways: failed to intervene effectively, and failed to speak compassionately in seasons of crisis. And she's failed me too: this awful, warped pattern of addiction and deception and distancing, over years and years, over decades. We've hurt one another.
|"Pattered Woman Blue" by Belina Wright|