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Navigating Loneliness Through Community

Lesson 40 –

Genesis 2:18-24 NRSV

18 Then the Lord God said, “It is not good that the man should be alone; I will make him a helper as his partner.” 19 So out of the ground the Lord God formed every animal of the field and every bird of the air and brought them to the man to see what he would call them; and whatever the man called every living creature, that was its name. 20 The man gave names to all cattle, and to the birds of the air, and to every animal of the field; but for the man there was not found a helper as his partner. 21 So the Lord God caused a deep sleep to fall upon the man, and he slept; then he took one of his ribs and closed up its place with flesh. 22 And the rib that the Lord God had taken from the man he made into a woman and brought her to the man. 23 Then the man said,

“This at last is bone of my bones
  and flesh of my flesh;
this one shall be called Woman,
  for out of Man this one was taken.”

24 Therefore a man leaves his father and his mother and clings to his wife, and they become one flesh.

Today’s passage is often recited at weddings and in reference to romantic relationships. In grander context, this passage is a reflective story on all the ways Creation was brought into being. Earlier in this chapter, we learn about the creation of the Earth. God is depicted as the original artist and creative genius, planting gardens where there were none and breathing life into beings that did not exist before. In your own devotional period, read the entire chapter. Can you imagine God creating water for the first time? Trees? What do you think went through God’s mind in designing all this?

Today’s lesson will focus on navigating loneliness through community.

Read the scripture out loud together. What’s happening during this passage?
God thinks aloud. God says, “it’s not good that this man should be alone. I’ll make another to be his partner.” God takes dirt and creates animals and birds. God shows these creatures to the human so that the human (not yet named Adam) names them. The human names and views all the living beings, but God does not find that any of these living beings are suitable partners.
God performs the first surgery! God puts the first human to sleep and takes a rib. From this rib, God makes a second human (not yet named Eve).
Adam says “this is bone of my bones, flesh of my flesh. This one shall be called Woman.” The passage ends with an editorial note. It is an epilogue used to explain why “a man leaves his father and mother and clings to his wife, and they become one flesh.”

Why does God create a second person?
God realizes that this lonely human created needs a companion. God looks out to all that has been created. Nothing created compares to the human. The cows, though valuable, are not partners for the human. The trees, though beautiful, are not partners for humans. The eagles, though powerful, are not partners for humans. The human needs someone who can communicate and who has similar needs and goals. The human needs someone with whom to share food and responsibilities. It’s hard work being the one human among all these creatures!
Perhaps God recognizes that this world is so big and intimidating. With all these living creatures, who else could relate to this first human except someone made from the same materials?

What does the “deep sleep” suggest about the relationship between the first person (Adam) and second person (Eve)?
This “surgery” is described much like a kidney donation. It’s not just one person who is impacted by the surgery; both people must be ready for the procedure. And they both must recover! It is likely just as physically stressful to receive a rib as it is to give one. While the text does not tell us how they respond to the procedure, we can imagine. What do you think they said upon first seeing each other? Did they realize how significant this experience was? How did they tend to each other’s wounds and scars?
This part of the creation story changes the people we come to know as Adam and Eve for their entire lives. They come to support each other. As the first humans, they don’t have elders. They don’t have examples of how to do this. No one teaches them how to tie a diaper, wash clothes or make dinner. They learn everything, for the first time, together. As the world is being formed and in flux around them, they have each other to lean on.
At least as this story goes, the “husband and wife” narrative is added in later. In these verses, there is no evidence of a wedding. But there is evidence of partnership, which can be romantic, platonic, or spiritual. In Adam and Eve, God creates a model for community. None of us can do what we do alone.

What questions do you still have of this scripture? How will you commit to journeying with this text this week?


Connection to Today’s World

In 2015, the Be My Eyes app was launched. It has one purpose: “to make the world more accessible for blind and low vision people.” In their own words, the app connects “blind and low-vision individuals with sighted volunteers and companies from all over the world through a live video call.”
For example, a blind person can open the app on their phone and display a pair of earrings to the phone. They can ask, “can you describe these earrings for me?” and the volunteer will reply, “these are gold hoops, about the size of a quarter.” Free of charge, this service connects people and makes this very inaccessible world a smidge more navigable.
The app is based on one premise. Those who can see are connected to those who cannot. Given how inaccessible our world is, this app can stop someone from mixing dangerous chemicals while cleaning or mixing prints before a first date. It also teaches sighted volunteers to be available upon request, rather than offering unwanted help. While our world can certainly be more accessible, it is the responsibility of local communities to support the flourishing of all people.

Journal: Has there been someone in your life whose presence has made the last 18 months livable? It can be a friend, family member, nurse, grocery store or bodega worker or even an artist whose work spoke to you.

Closing: Listen to “You Are My Friend,” sung by Patti Labelle

You are my friend
I never knew it ’til then
My friend, my friend

You hold my hand
You might not say a word
But I see your tears when I show my pain
You’re— my, my friend
I never knew it ’til then
My friend
I feel your love
When you’re not near
It helps me make it knowing you care
The thought of you helps me carry on
When I feel all hope is gone
I see the world with brand new eyes
Your love has made me realize
My future looks bright to me,
Oh, because you are my friend

Dear God, You are the God who dwells among us. You call us your beloved ones. You delight in our wellness. We are often in need of more support than we admit. It has been difficult to live these 18 months in relative isolation. We ask a special blessing over all those who are isolated and who may feel forgotten. We ask that you comfort us if we are feeling alone and left behind. In Jesus’ name we pray, Amen.