I have a vague recollection of an episode of Cheers—that sitcom of the last century. Norm, greeted with an everybody-knows-your-name “Norm!” when he enters the pub, sits over a half-spent pint. As usual, he bemoans his relationship with his wife Vera, whom we never see, but is the mysterious partner/antagonist in the background of Norm’s life. In the scene I recall, Norm is processing woman as he knows her. Perplexed he blurts, “Women. Can’t live with them. Pass the beer nuts.”
Norm is not alone. How are we to understand the mystery; this wonder woman who is beautiful, gifted, a gift, confounding, and a blessing?
Let us start at the very beginning, with God the Blesser.
This is a glorious paradox. Holy God, deserving of greatest honour, always looks to bless. In the creation story, as soon as there are creatures to fill the void and join his creative purposes God leaps to bless. The word “bless” is barak: “to kneel down, praise, abundantly and altogether congratulate.”
Before humanity rises from the dust God blesses sea creatures and the birds. Then, famously and resolutely God blesses us. He delights in sharks and guppies, canaries and bald eagles, horses, and dogs (possibly even cats), congratulating them on getting busy and filling the earth with the goodness of life. This is pleasing. But, the Lord reserves his most full blessing for humanity!
Tall and short, six-pack or beer- belly, male and female are blessed and elevated. “Let us make humanity in our image” (Genesis 1:26-27) declares the Creator! (Of nothing else is this said.) We bear the image of God, relating to Him, reflecting and partnering with Him in the stewarding and blessing of the good. Male and female: in essence one, distinct in identity, blessed to live out these differences and commonalities in the one reality that together we are the image of God.
In a spectacular mystery, we individually bear the image of God. And yet, the image of God in man is incomplete without the image of God in woman. Both together reflect the fullness of God. Independent of each other or against one another, we shroud the holy mystery of God. We diminish the divine glory and end up, unwittingly, diminishing ourselves.
As guys, we may drop tears in Norm’s beer. Women are a mystery to us. But rather than nod with Norm, men of God should embrace the mystery. To do otherwise is beneath our dignity—and hers.
This is a completely different narrative of being human than our culture currently embraces. Our cultural debates are not elevating this dignity, but instead confusing – ultimately separating us from one another and absolutely destroying the blessing of God we were meant to be together.
From the beginning God’s delight in us is indiscriminate. God blesses “them”—male and female. He elevates us together and gives one mandate: “Be fruitful and multiply; fill the earth. Accentuate my good purpose. Steward what is created. I gift you all this. Be my participants, my proxy, my ambassadors, my kings and queens.”
The only thing in all creation “not good” is aloneness (Genesis 2:18). The fullness of the image of God introduced in Genesis 1:26- 27 comes clearer. God is not alone, but a communion of One—Father, Son, and Spirit. Those, therefore, made in the image also shouldn’t be alone, indeed we cannot be. If we travel alone, the image of God is incomplete. We were created as a partnership.
Marriage between a man and a woman (distinct and different, yet one) becomes a unique picture of this mystery of God. But it’s not just married guys like Norm who must work at this. There is a larger principle here: man was made for partnership with woman, and woman with man. We need each other. Men should kneel before the mystery of woman to bless. No man should diminish her. Norm is not alone, and this, sadly, is not funny.