I dated a girl many moons ago who believed that God had one particular person in mind for each of us to marry. I remember one of our friends making a very humorous, but insightful comment in regards to this belief saying, “So, what you’re saying is, if I choose wrong then I’m screwing it up for everybody.”
I’m not sure that I’ve ever been a proponent of this thinking, namely that God has selected one particular person for me, leaving me the job of discerning who this particular person is, or at once “screwing it up for everybody.” There is certainly a point to be made here about God’s desire for the type of mate whom I select. And this most certainly involves discernment, which leads us to another crucial ingredient in decision making. The Jews (including Jesus and Paul) had a very specific way of expressing this. They called it “hochmah”, or what we know as “wisdom.” In the mind of the Jewish authors of the Old Testament, not least in what we now call the Wisdom Literature, “wisdom” was God’s handmaid when He created the world, and is the ultimate advisor for how mankind will best get along in the created world that he/she is now commissioned to care for. A quick read of Proverbs 3 (esp. v18-20) brings this point home very quickly, most notably in the recurring phrase “My son” and the way in which wisdom is woven into the created order, most notably human decision making.
In fact, choosing a spouse could easily be lumped in with the many other decisions that I make in my life that have the opportunity for both good and bad outcomes. Still, I can’t think of a single decision in life with more dire and long-lasting effects than the decision to, and whom to marry. Then there are the many decisions I make each day that affect this relationship for good or evil. Once again, I see this as God longing for me to grow in wisdom, even now depositing His Spirit within me (cf. Ez 36:26ff, and “the Spirit of wisdom” in Eph 1:17) to lead me in these choices, in both choosing my spouse wisely, as well as choosing to act wisely within this relationship, thus following His masterful design for my being genuinely human…and genuinely husband.
I think of Moses and his dying words, “This day I call heaven and earth as witnesses against you that I have set before you life and death, blessings and curses. Now choose life, so that you and your children may live and that you may love the LORD your God, listen to his voice, and hold fast to him.” (Deut 30:19-20a) This seems to be a very powerful way of saying, “The choice is yours, so choose wisely.” This is what, I believe, Moses to be saying concerning the law. It was intended to be a tutor. Not God making the decisions for you, but rather you making good decisions through God’s wise direction.
So what does this have to do with the price of tea in China? Well, for starters, I think as married Christians, we have all made two choices: (1) we’ve chosen our spouse and (2) we’ve chosen to follow in the way of Jesus. And where these two are at odds with one another would be where the kingdom of God (the rule/reign of God) has something very important to say to us. As a husband, I can choose to love my wife (and the meaning of “love” in covenant speak has much more emphasis on loyalty and faithfulness than the modern romanticized meaning), trusting in the directives of God as seen in the Bible and in the life and teaching of Jesus (“it will not be so with you”), or I can take matters into my own hands and choose what “I” believe to be right for me. This, I would think, would be a very real way of viewing idolatry today. Case in point: the wife I have is not meeting my needs, therefore, I will go against “the way” of Jesus (or worse still, rework the scriptures to suit me) and create my own way through adultery, pornography, or abusive behavior.
As for Gen 1-3, did God make woman as a suitable helper for man? You bet! Does God have ideas about the type of mate you should choose? Of course! But this is where the relationship between God and man becomes its most beautiful. God allows us to choose, good or bad, blonde or brunette, white or black, Christian or atheist, all the while dying for us to make the wise choice.