"The sweetest thing in all my life has been the longing —
to reach the Mountain, to find the place where all the beauty came from —
my country, the place where I ought to have been born. Do you think it all meant nothing,
all the longing? The longing for home? For indeed it now feels not like going, but like going back."


~C.S. Lewis




Sunday, February 19, 2012

Arwen, Frodo, and the woman's quest

To all the girls who have been heard little more on godly femininity than to have an "internal beauty" (and felt ashamed), "be a helper" (and tried to not be bored), and study Proverbs 31 (and gotten totally overwhelmed)this is for you.


When God creates Eve, he calls her an ezer kenegdo. 'It is not good for the man to be alone, I shall make him [an ezer kenegdo]' (Gen. 2:18). Hebrew scholar Robert Alter, who has spent years translating the book of Genesis, says that this phrase is 'notoriously difficult to translate.' The various attempts we have in English are "helper" or "companion" or the notorious "help meet." Why are these translations so incredibly wimpy, boring, flat... disappointing? What is a help meet, anyway? What little girl dances through the house singing "One day I shall be a help meet?" Companion? A dog can be a companion. Helper? Sounds like Hamburger Helper. Alter is getting close when he translates it "sustainer beside him."

The word ezer is used only twenty other places in the entire Old Testament. And in every other instance the person being described is God himself, when you need him to come through for you desperately.

There is no one Like the God of Jeshurun who rides on the heavens to help you…
Blessed are you, O Israel! Who is like you, a people saved by the Lord? He is your shield and helper and your glorious sword.
(Deut. 33:26, 29, emphasis added)

May the Lord answer you when you are in distress; may the name of the God of Jacob protect you. May he send you help. (Ps. 20:1-2, emphasis added)

We wait in hope for the Lord; he is our help and our shield. (Ps. 33:20, emphasis added)

O house of Israel, trust in the Lord—he is their help and shield.
O house of Aaron, trust in the Lord —he is their help and shield.
You who fear him, trust in the Lord —he is their help and shield.
(Ps. 115:9—11, emphasis added)

Most of the contexts are life and death, by the way, and God is your only hope. Your ezer. If he were not there beside you... you are dead. A better translation of ezer would be “lifesaver”. Kenegdo means alongside, or opposite to, a counterpart...

You see, the life God calls us to is not a safe life… God calls us to a life involving frequent risks and many dangers. Why else would we need him to be our ezer? You don't need a lifesaver if your mission is to be a couch potato. You need an ezer when your life is in constant danger.

Picture the character Arwen in the mythic motion-picture trilogy The Lord of the Rings. Arwen is a princess, a beautiful and brave elf maiden. She comes into the story in the nick of time to rescue the little hobbit Frodo just as the poisoned wound moving toward his heart is about to claim him.

It is she, not the warrior Aragorn. who rides with glory and speed. She is Frodo’s only hope. She is the one entrusted with his life and with him, the future of all Middle Earth. She is his ezer kenegdo.

Their longing in the heart of a woman to share life together as a great adventure—that comes straight from the heart of God, who also longs for this. He does not want to be an option in our lives. He does not want to be an appendage, a tagalong. Neither does any woman. God is essential. He wants us to need him—desperately. Eve is essential. She has an irreplaceable role to play. And so you'll see that women are endowed with fierce devotion, an ability to suffer great hardships, a vision to make the world a better place.

~John and Stasi Eldredge, Captivating, pg. 33-34