It all started with Eve, the mother of us all. The story of the first humans, Eve and Adam, opens the Bible with a tangle of loneliness, companionship, desire, and love. It tells how woman, made in the Creator's image, gives up a life of ease in an idyllic setting, along with the promise of immortality, and instead chooses to pursue wisdom and intimacy with her man. Locked within the story of the first couple is a matrix for all the male-female partnerships that follow.
The invisible mover behind the scenes is an all-knowing, loving God who sets all the elements in place: a man, a woman, the lush garden, the talking serpent, the fruit-bearing trees. In the story the Creator teaches us about the exercise of free will, the need to be responsible for the consequences of our actions, and the bumpy road to growing up.
The setting is idyllic. We envision Adam enjoying the company of playful animals. Wonder fills his soul as he watches birds soaring across the sky. He runs with the beasts, climbs tall trees, and skips flat stones on the river's surface. The Garden of Eden is an ideal playground, a place of innocence where life is beautiful and safe, lacking all challenges.
In this lovely setting, however, "no fitting helper for Adam was found." Adam has no other creature that walks upright and is able to contemplate both heaven and earth. No other living being cries or laughs like him. And no other creature talks. Adam has no one with whom to communicate feelings or exchange ideas.
Surveying all he has created, God observes with compassion the loneliness of the human being among the animals. He says, "It is not good for Adam to be alone; I will make a fitting helper for him." The Creator acts quickly, first anesthetizing Adam and then performing surgery: "So the Lord God cast a deep sleep upon the man; and, while he slept, he took one of his ribs and closed up the flesh at that spot. And the Lord God fashioned the rib that he had taken from the man into a woman."
Adam is now unquestionably male, and Eve is his female counterpart. Is God aware of the energy he is unleashing by separating the human into man and woman? Or has woman been part of his secret plan all along? The Hebrew word tzela is customarily translated as "rib," but another of its meanings is "side"—as in the side of a house, or an essential component of the whole. The term suggests that if you remove the "side," the structure falls apart. That woman is made from man's "side" tells us that they are two halves of a once intact whole. On the one hand, man now has a separate companion from whom he can gain a different perspective. On the other, after they are separated, each half pursues the other, yearning to become one again. As the Bible puts it: "Hence, a man leaves his father and mother and clings to his wife, so that they become one flesh." With this passage, the Bible indicates the potential for man and woman when they join together in mind, heart, and body to pursue a single goal, most fruitfully expressed as offspring.