The creation stories in Genesis are so incredibly rich in their insight and wisdom. There is a reason that our Lord consistently referred his critics back “to the beginning” when He would make a point about the world or human nature. It would be foolish to try and unpack all of the depths of those 2 first chapters, but I would like to focus on what it tells us about society.
Whenever God created anything in the first chapter of Genesis, He said that it was good. But when God looks at Adam, for the first time in the Bible He says that something is not good.
God says that it is not good for the man to be alone. But how could Adam be alone? He was living with God in “paradise,” which is literally translated as “the pleasure park.” What could Adam be lacking? We were made by God for God and our deepest longing is for the presence of God in our life. Adam had all that.
But man was incomplete. Humanity was incomplete. God made the beasts, but none were suitable partners. And that is still true for us today. Pets and animal companions can fill our lives with affection and care, but they will never fulfill us in the way that we truly need.
So God made woman. There is actually a play on words in the Hebrew text. The word “woman” in Hebrew is “ishshah.” Adam says that he calls her this because she was taken from “her husband,” which in Hebrew is “ishah.” The point is that the two are cut from the same cloth.
Man was alone because there was no one like him. God is above him. The beasts are below him. But woman is one who is like him. She is his equal in dignity. Of course she is not like him in all ways (I shall skip pointing out the obvious differences). And that brings to us the principle of complementarity.
Human beings are puzzle pieces. Our lives are full of empty spaces. We are always seeking something that we cannot find within ourselves. God made us this way so that we could always be drawn outside of ourselves and drawn to others. We are called to self donation, which is the heart of love.
This not only applies to the relationship between the sexes. This lesson also reminds us that humanity is community. We are communal by nature. If you want to turn someone insane, the firs thing that you would do is cut them off from all human contact. That is not to say that we must constantly be in contact with someone else, although this would explain the constant need to check Facebook and Twitter. We do need moments of quiet solitude. But that is the exception, not the norm.
Have you seen the movie Castaway? Tom Hanks’ character, Chuck Nolan, is stranded on a desert island for years. He has food, shelter, water, and fire. He survives for a good long while. But he needs something else: companionship. He finds a Wilson volleyball washed up on shore. Through certain circumstances, he draws a face on it and begins to speak to “Wilson.” As the years go on, Wilson becomes his best friend with whom he has heated conversations. This is, of course, insane. But it is an understandable insanity. We need other people.
We need each other. As Fr. Larry Richards once said, “There are no lone rangers in Christianity.”
Whenever Christ called any of the disciples, He did not have an exclusive relationship with him or her. He always placed them in the community, or what He called His Church.
When they asked Jesus what the greatest commandment was, He did not give them only one. He did say that you must love God with all your heart, soul, and strength. But there is another commandment no less great: you must love your neighbor as yourself. John says, “If anyone says, ‘I love God,’ but hates his brother, he is a liar; for whoever does not love a brother whom he has seen cannot love God whom he has not seen.” (1 John 4:20)
And love draws us out of our solitude. We are trapped in our own mind and in our own thoughts. But we long for connection to others.
Pope Benedict said that love is the only real hope we have of breaking free of the prison of the self and entering the freedom of real community. And we yearn for that connectedness because we are hard-wired that way.
We long to know and be known, not just by God, but others. We seek it in any way we can. Maybe that’s why we are so fame-obsessed and desire to get thousands of Twitter followers. We are trying to fill that original need. We need other people.
This is true even for the hermits. Thomas Merton wrote that even those who intentionally cut themselves off from the world, do so for the world. As a teacher, I cannot be a buddy to my students if I want to teach them effectively. There must a distance and perspective so that I can give my insights as an adult.
In a similar way, the hermit separates himself from the everyday noise of the world so that he can think clearly and hear the voice of God better. By doing so, he can more effectively pray for his brothers and sisters. And he can also see things differently than us and give us his perspective and insight. Even the hermit is called into the human community.
And heaven will be the ultimate fulfillment of that longing. The pastor I had growing up explained it like this: imagine a wagon wheel, with the spokes, the wheel and the axis. As the spokes go further out, they get further apart. That direction lies hell, with its complete and utter solitude. But as the spokes go further in, the get closer together. That is heaven. It will be a place where we are not only united to God, but we will have a deeper intimacy and friendship than we have ever experienced on this earth. We will never be alone.
God made us to not only love Him, but love each other. To love others is not to take away from loving Him. Instead, it expands our love.
When I give that little more to charity, I am loving God better. When I spend a little extra time with that student who needs it, I love God better. When I’m tired and want to go to sleep, but I get up early to help out a friend, I love God better. It is as Jean Valjean says at the end of Les Miserables: “To love another person is to see the face of God.”
Copyright © 2013, W.L. Grayson