Then the Lord God said, “It is not good that the man should be alone; I will make him a helper as his partner.” (Genesis 2:18)
Ask most people what God did when God saw that Adam was alone and they will talk about Eve. But first God started with animals. God gave Adam a wide variety of animals and charged Adam with the task of naming them. When it was over, Adam was still not satisfied. Adam did not need something to be in charge of – Adam needed someone who could be a partner and a peer.
So God took another tact and used a rib from Adam to make a woman. Having a partner and a peer would prove to be the action that would change everything.
We often think that this text is about the formation of genders – male and female. And of course, the story includes that. But there is something deeper that may provide us a clue about what God was up to when God made humankind and what God hopes for us as a result.
When God said, “It is not good…” this is the earliest reference in scripture to something not being good. Up to this point, everything is referred to as “good.” And the key thing that is the initial “not good” is aloneness. God sees that just as God contains a relationship with God’s self (the Trinity), so humankind is essentially relational. Without relationships with others, each person is in a “not good” place.
Adam’s needs open him up to receiving “help” from someone else. It is needs that point us outside of ourselves and open us up to receive from each other. We often think of needs as a signs of weakness. This is particularly true in American culture, where “pull yourself up by the bootstraps” is practically a mantra for being a real American.
But needs are apparently not signs of weakness. They are woven, by God, into the fabric of creation and it is God’s intention and hope that we will all have both gifts and needs and then share our gifts to assist each of us in our needs. The result is a mutual way of living, where we are drawn out of ourselves by our needs and receive from others as they share their gifts with us. Likewise, we offer ourselves to others in their needs with our gifts. The result is a community where we are drawn to each other and together reflect the goodness of God.