by Scott Sauls
The first time God ever said, “It is not good,” he spoke the words into paradise. “It is not good for the man to be alone,” God said. “I will make a helper suitable for him” (Genesis 2:18).
God took swift action while Adam was fast asleep, creating a She to complete the He. When he first laid eyes on Eve, Adam erupted into a poetic love song. She was flesh of his flesh, bone of his bones, and a helper corresponding to him.
About that word helper. Eve was not some sort of weak or lesser-than “little helper” to Adam. Indeed, she was quite the opposite. She was not his employee to boss around, his personal assistant to do his bidding, or his sex object to gratify his libido. She was a different, more dignified and necessary kind of helper, in the same way that God is our helper.
“Behold, God is my helper; the Lord is the upholder of my life” (Psalm 54:4). The word the Psalmist used to describe God is the same word God used to describe Eve. The word is ezer, which means a helper who provides for Adam a strength that he lacks on his own. It’s a strength that helps him flourish and not languish.
That sounds true to my own experience. As a man, I represent half of the image of God in my gender. Without the voice, influence, and leadership of the She’s in my life, I would be much less of a man than I am. Even the Apostle Paul, an unmarried man, surrounded himself with women. Among many others were Phoebe the deaconess, Lydia the businesswoman, and Priscilla the theologian. Likewise, the unmarried and perfect God-man Jesus welcomed into his circle the sisters Mary and Martha, Mary Magdalene, the bleeding woman, and the woman caught in adultery. Women were chosen as the first eyewitnesses of his resurrection. They were then sent to tell his doubting disciples—the men (!)—that the Lord was risen.
The church where I serve includes as many women as it does men in leadership. I seek out the female perspective for wisdom I do not possess on my own. I learn from books written by women, listen attentively and often to teaching by women,, and learn from the correction of women on a regular basis. In the Bible, I’m drawn to Hagar, Hannah, the persistent widow, the poor generous widow, Anna the prophetess, and the Virgin Mary, to name just a few. Why? Because I need all kinds of help from the She’s…help to see more clearly the world as it is, people as they are, and God as he is. Like Adam, I am lesser and also a bit lost without the female perspective. Maybe the same is true in the reverse? I suspect that it is.
Jesus had his female companions, and so did Paul. Israel had Deborah, Esther, and Ruth. Timothy had his mother. Augustine had his mother. Luther had Katie. King had Coretta. Keller has Kathy. Every great man in history is surrounded by great women.
Similarly, history boasts of many great women who led from the front. Mother Theresa, Rosa Parks, and Lottie Moon. Sojourner Truth, Amy Carmichael, and Corrie Ten Boom. More recently, Joni Eareckson Tada, Christina Edmondson, and Christine Caine come to mind.
In my daily life, there is Patti Sauls, without whom I would suffer not only to preach the gospel (my primary calling), but also to believe it. One Wednesday before Easter, we were on a dinner date. In a moment of weakness, I started tearing another person down through gossip. After I finished assassinating this person’s character, Patti gently responded, “Scott, I love you, and you shouldn’t have said any of that.”
This faithful word from the She in my life sent me into a crisis. I abhor the sin of gossip, and yet so easily fell into it. Gossip is pornography of the mouth: a cheap thrill at another’s expense, an assault on their dignity, while making zero commitment to them. All for a cheap, self-serving, shameful rush.
Patti’s correction sobered me, so much that I fell into shame and self-loathing. How can I call myself a man, much less a man of God? Preaching and tearing down someone else’s good name with the same tongue? How can that be? I am a man of unclean lips!
I asked Patti if she thought I was a fraud. Should I quit the ministry?
Then, the She who knows me best affirmed that indeed, my behavior was dark. Then she spoke of the deceitful Jacob, the adulterous David, and the abrasive Peter. All were flawed, sinful men through whom God is still speaking today. She reminded me of how I preach both sides of the gospel to others—that we are all busted-up sinners without hope except for the mercies of God, and that God has met that need richly through Jesus. We are both desperate ruins and graciously redeemed.
“Scott,” she said, “now is the time for you to preach the second part of the gospel to yourself. You are a mess. But the darkness in you can never outcompete the grace of God.”
My sermon that Easter was stronger and more fruitful than any other Easter sermon I’ve preached. This was not in spite of my moral failure a few days prior, but because of it. I lost my strut and recovered my limp, as every preacher must. To rise out of a self-loathing place, it took the tender, tenacious voice of a She to remind me of a grace that says to my limp, “Rise and walk.” Because of Her, I was made more ready to tell others that in Christ, they can rise and walk, too.
It is not good to be alone. And it is good—very good, in fact—for the He to receive strength and help from the She.
Scott Sauls is senior pastor of Christ Presbyterian Church in Nashville, Tennessee and author of several books, including Jesus Outside the Lines and A Gentle Answer.