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There are few more contentious and heart-rending topics among women in the church than submission and what it means to be man's helper. Elyse Fitzpatrick believes that understanding this topic can bring about great freedom and a more meaningful relationship with Christ and your husband. In Helper By Design, she takes an in-depth theological look at what it means to be made in God's image to be a helper. No matter what your perspective, this book will set in motion great heart changes as you grow toward becoming ...
There are few more contentious and heart-rending topics among women in the church than submission and what it means to be man's helper. Elyse Fitzpatrick believes that understanding this topic can bring about great freedom and a more meaningful relationship with Christ and your husband. In Helper By Design, she takes an in-depth theological look at what it means to be made in God's image to be a helper. No matter what your perspective, this book will set in motion great heart changes as you grow toward becoming the woman God has called you to be.
In the past three years, I've been blessed in many ways, one of those ways being the gift of our two little grandsons, Wesley and Hayden. During this time, my husband and I have had the opportunity to rediscover the joy of having little ones around. We had no idea how splendid being grandparents would be ... little toothless smiles, halting steps, ticklish toes, bright eyes.
Our little Hayden (who isn't yet a year old at this writing) has bonded with my husband, Phil (a.k.a. "Poppie"). Hayden loves him, and whenever Poppie is around, he just naturally gravitates toward him. Phil's in love, too. "Want me to hold the boy?" he asks. That's Phil-speak for "Please give me the baby right now, before I grab him."
Poppie and Hayden frequently take little strolls through our backyard. They look at leaves. They touch the flowers. They watch the birdies in the bird feeders. They are discovering the world: Hayden for the first time, Poppie anew.
When you look at the world, what do you see? When the sky blazes in dazzling golden scarlet, when you hear the silence of a snowfall, or dive under a wave as it crashes powerfully over your body, what are you aware of?
When you watch a little toddler try to stack colored rings in the right order or when an ice skater finally lands that quadruple jump and the crowd erupts in cheers, do you know what you are seeing?
Do you see God's hand everywhere? Do you see His fingerprint on this world? Lofty mountains, verdant trees, azure sky, fertile earth ... the smell of gardenias, the gurgle of a baby's laugh all speak loudly to those who are listening. Do you hear? Do you really see?
Earth is crammed with heaven. Think on those words. In everything you see, do you really see? Are you aware of the Author's presence? Do you "take off your shoes" because you know you're standing on holy ground? Or are you busy gobbling up those yummy blackberries and then trying to tidy up afterwards?
Growing in the understanding of God's pervasive direction on our calling begins with a journey back to the book of beginnings, back to Genesis.
"Then God said, `Let Us make man in Our image, according to Our likeness.' ... God created man in His own image, in the image of God He created him; male and female He created them" (Genesis 1:26-27).
What does it mean to be created in God's "image"? The Hebrew word that's translated "image" in this verse (tselem) is the same word that's used to describe idols, images that are made to represent false gods. (It is interesting, isn't it, that God creates man in His image and man then seeks to create false images of God?) Another word that's used in the verses above, "likeness" (demuth), is a word that simply means "to be like." All humanity (men and women), then, are equally representations of God and are like Him in certain aspects. (In subsequent chapters, we'll look at how the image of God in man was shattered in the Fall and how the image is being restored to believers in Christ.) But just what does that mean? In what ways are we like God? After all, there are some very definite differences between Him and us. How are we similar? Perhaps an illustration will help.
As I sit here writing in my cozy little office, I've got pictures of my family all around. I've got a picture of one son with his new, lovely bride. I've got a sweet picture of our daughter, when she was playing varsity softball, standing with Phil, who was an assistant coach. I've got another picture of our whole family-with both of our dear sons and our son-in-law-which we took at my in-law's fiftieth wedding anniversary. I can sit and stare at these pictures and they bring back wonderful memories of sweet joys. But as much as I love these pictures, I have to say that they are just images. They are representations of what the family looked like a few years ago. They are not the real thing, although they are real representations.
In some ways, men and women are images of God the way that these pictures are images of our family. The pictures look similar, but they lack the depth, the animation, the life of the real people. You would wonder about my mental health if I sat around talking to my pictures or kissing them (like I did my autographed picture of the Beatles when I was a teenager) because they aren't the "real thing."
Although there are differences between our kids and their pictures, there are also similarities. You can get a little bit of an understanding of what the family looks like, and maybe even a little glimpse of how we interact, when you look at our pictures. And of course, the pictures themselves do capture certain visual aspects of their subjects.
What's more, we're always very pleased when we get our pictures back and they look just like reality as we remember it. "This looks just like you," we happily say. We love pictures that accurately freeze one moment of time and help us see what is no longer visible.
GOD'S PORTRAIT PAINTED THROUGHOUT THE UNIVERSE
The Bible teaches that God possesses some qualities that belong to Him alone and other qualities that He shares. Some of the attributes God alone possesses include His infinity, changelessness, immensity, sovereignty, and freedom. God is also a Spirit, which means that He isn't limited by time or space. The attributes or qualities He shares in some measure with humanity include His holiness, righteousness, truth, love, mercy, patience, and goodness.
Thus people reflect or picture some of God's characteristics. I say that we reflect some of His attributes because even before sin entered the world, there was a great difference between our Creator and us, much like the difference between my family and their portraits. Before we look at the similarities between the Lord and ourselves, let's examine two of the differences.
He's the Creator
God is the Creator, and we are His creation. He's absolutely independent, needing nothing to sustain His life. We're dependent upon Him for our very life. This vast difference will never change-even when we're in heaven and we enjoy unhindered fellowship with Him. There will always be a distinction between us. Paul preached about this when he stood at the base of the Parthenon, where the Greeks worshiped their idols, on Mars Hill:
The God who made the world and all things in it, since He is Lord of heaven and earth, does not dwell in temples made with hands; nor is He served by human hands, as though He needed anything, since He Himself gives to all people life and breath and all things. (Acts 17:24-25)
We need both the material creation (air, water, food, clothing) and people (in the sense that we need to love others and to learn from them) in order to survive. We're dependent upon God for everything.
God is also the only One who always does exactly what He wants to do. The psalmist wrote, "Our God is in the heavens; He does whatever He pleases" (Psalm 115:3). God is completely sovereign, which means that He rules as the King of all His creation, doing exactly what He wants when He wants. I know that even though I'm created in His image, I can't do whatever I want whenever I want (although I frequently forget this fact when zooming down the freeway).
Next we'll look at some of the qualities we have in common with God.
God is holy in all He is and does. The Bible says that His holiness is so great it's "majestic" (Exodus 15:11)! And every day, He's exactly the same (because there is no "day" with Him). That God is holy means two things: First, that God is "other." He's different, He's weighty, He's not a vapor, He doesn't change. In this aspect of holiness, we're not like Him at all. But holiness has another meaning: moral purity. We can't share in the first sense of His holiness-His "otherness"-but we can share in His virtue.
He's Perfect in Every Way
God sees things as they really are; in fact, He understands everything about everything. Not only is our perception flawed, but even when we do observe correctly, our understanding of what we're seeing isn't always right. But God is different, as the psalmist writes: "Great is our Lord ... His understanding is infinite" (Psalm 147:5). Knowledge, wisdom, and understanding are traits that God has shared with us.
God is also perfect in righteousness. That means that His character matches His perfect standard. Toward the end of his life, Moses sang of God's righteousness, "The Rock! His work is perfect, for all His ways are just; ... righteous and upright is He" (Deuteronomy 32:4). God's righteousness was perfectly displayed for us in the life of Jesus Christ. It's this righteousness that's been credited to us as Christians, as Paul wrote: "He made Him who knew no sin to be sin on our behalf, so that we might become the righteousness of God in Him" (2 Corinthians 5:21). So, again, in one sense we share in God's righteousness, but in another sense we're growing in it. We can rejoice today that the Lord never fails in His work to transform and enlighten His children.
Finally, God is perfect in His love. In fact, John teaches that if you want to know what love really looks like, you have to look at God because "God is love" (1 John 4:8, italics added). Human love has boundaries, but God's love is so far-reaching that He sacrificed His one and only Son, the Son He loved, to bless those who hated Him. That kind of love amazes me! Our love for Him and for others will grow as we meditate on and seek to reflect His love for us to others. But He hasn't abandoned us or left us to accomplish this great love on our own. The Bible says that the "love of God has been poured out within our hearts through the Holy Spirit" (Romans 5:5).
Aside from these moral qualities, are there other areas in which everyone reflects God's image? John Calvin writes that the image of God with which Adam
was endowed is expressed by this word, when he had full possession of right understanding, when he had his affections kept within the bounds of reason, all his senses tempered in right order, and he truly referred his excellence to exceptional gifts bestowed upon him by his Maker. And although the primary seat of the divine image was in the mind and heart, or in the soul and its powers, yet there was no part of man, not even the body itself, in which some sparks did not glow.
Let's look at what God called Adam and Eve to do when He first created them in order to get a sense of how they were to represent or image Him.
Ruling Like Him
God's first call to Adam and Eve was for them to rule over the creation. In ruling, they were being like God. God rules sovereignly over all creation as a great King, as 1 Chronicles 29:11 says: "Yours, O Lord, is the greatness and the power and the glory and the victory and the majesty, indeed everything that is in the heavens and the earth; Yours is the dominion, O Lord, and You exalt Yourself as head over all."
Although we don't rule sovereignly, both Adam and Eve were called to rule under God's jurisdiction. In the Psalms, David wonders at the great privilege that's ours in representing God in this way. "What is man that You take thought of him? ... You make him to rule over the works of Your hands; You have put all things under his feet" (Psalm 8:4, 6).
After God created Adam, He planted a special place for him to dwell: a beautiful mountaintop garden. He then placed Adam there and gave him a specific calling. He was to cultivate and keep the garden. Adam also ruled over creation by naming all the animals and by observing the seasons and the world that God had created. God called him to subdue all of creation for his own use and God's glory.
We continue to rule over creation even today. Men and women explore the nature of hurricanes, examine microbes, repave streets, work to make life better. Why? Because of God's imprint on our souls. We're fulfilling God's calling. Just think about it: even little children reflect God when they build sand castles or explore the shore for seashells. When we're involved in honorable work, even if it doesn't directly consist of Christian ministry, we're mirroring one of God's attributes. Why? Because God works and rules. Men and women are called to be God's coregents, working and ruling in His world, under His authority, for our happiness and His glory. Wives who are helping their husbands rule are also growing in God's call. Not only do we reflect Him when we rule over the world, we also associate with others as He does.
Relating Like Him
God created Adam and Eve as male and female. He could have made two men or even another sort of creature for Adam, but instead He created one who was like Adam in his humanness, yet differing from him both in his physique and calling.
As we ponder this truth, it becomes apparent that God loves variety. In fact, variety itself reflects God's image. Remember who He is? He says that He is a Trinity: One God, three persons. There aren't three Fathers, or three Sons. No, God in His perfection is diverse, yet the same. God the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit are all the same in their being (all equally God), yet different in their functions.
These differences are seen in creation itself. God the Father spoke the world into existence, but it was God the Son who was the Word carrying out His decrees. God the Spirit moved over the waters, "sustaining and manifesting God's immediate presence in His creation." We see this diversity in our redemption, as well. For God the "Father planned redemption and sent His Son into the world [and] the Holy Spirit was sent by the Father and the Son to apply redemption to us." Do you see how the members of the Trinity are the same (equally and fully God) and yet different (with differing functions or roles)?
Men and women are similar to God in that aspect. We are the same (equally and fully human and in His image) and yet we are different (with both similar and differing callings).
Excerpted from helper by design by Elyse Fitzpatrick Copyright © 2003 by ELYSE M. FITZPATRICK
Excerpted by permission. All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.
1. In His Image
2. His Companion, His Helper
3. A Covenant of Companionship
4. "Here, Dear, Have a Bite"
5. What God Has]oined Together
6. The Two Shall Become One
7. Called for His Purpose III
8. Because He First Loved Us
9. Learning the Steps of the Dance
10. Created to Communicate
11. Helping Your Husband Believe
12. Women Who Hope in God
Appendix A: How You Can Know If You're a Christian
Appendix B: Your Wedding Invitation
ELYSE FITZPATRICK has been counseling women since 1989 and is presently a part-time counselor at Grace Church in San Diego. She holds a certificate in biblical counseling from the Christian Counseling and Education Foundation (San Diego) and an M.A. in Biblical Counseling from Trinity Theological Seminary. Elyse is the author of twelve books including Women Helping Women, Love to Eat, Hate to Eat, Idols of the Heart, and The Afternoon of Life. She is a member of the National Association of Nouthetic Counseling. A frequent speaker at women's conferences, she has been married for nearly thirty years and has three adult children and two grandchildren. She and her husband, Philip, reside in Escondido, California.
Posted January 3, 2010
Submission. A word that may inspire fear in both secular and Christian wives. However, we are afraid out of ignorance. Elyse Fitzpatrick lovingly, yet competently, describes and explains everything women need to know about submission and becoming a loving wife for and a helpmeet for our husband. Her book has already made a tremendous difference in my marriage.
So, do not be afraid; be informed.