God created us for relationships. Three ‘things’: Soil, Breath of life, and the rib in the Genesis account of Creation highlight the connectedness with God, the world around us and with others. “Soil”, “Breath of life” and “rib” in the story are illustrative of the inter-relatedness we have with the World, God and with other humans.
Soil: Adam was formed out of the dust of the earth. Adam is an “Earth-ling” or a “dirt-creature”. The Hebrew Bible employs the adam/adamah word play to indicate their inter-connectedness. In this sense, we are part of creation and belong to the earth.
True, we have the mandate to ‘rule’ the earth but that is not a ‘licence” to misuse, overuse and abuse the earth. We are ‘Earth-ling Rulers’. Our ‘rulership’ mandate is not to exploit its wealth, deplete its reserves, and pollute natural resources.
Rulership is Responsibility. With great power comes greater responsibility. We are to care for the world and nurture healthy relationship with the earth. Technology and our modern-day gadgets may give us a sense of ‘power’, ‘invincibility’ and ‘control’ over the earth but we can’t live our lives entirely in a ‘virtual’ world created with megabytes and megapixels entirely dis-engaged with the real world.
We are to recognise our inter-relatedness with the earth and nurture a healthy relationship with it.
The breath of life: After God formed Adam, God breathed into his nostrils the breath of life; and man became a living soul (Gen 2:7) . We may be ‘earth-lings’ but we are ‘spiritual beings’. While we share our connectedness with the rest of creation, we also stand apart from the rest of creation. We have the capacity to ‘spiritually’ connect with God.
The Genesis account presents God walking in the garden in the cool of the day (Gen 3:8) in loving relationship with Adam and Eve. God’s passionate search for Adam: [“Where are you?” (Gen3:9)] reveals His love for humanity. Adam (and his wife) ‘hid’ themselves amongst the trees of the garden (Gen 3:8).
Adam and Eve ‘disconnected’ themselves from the presence of the Lord (Gen 3:8). We must nurture ‘spirituality’ and grow in our understanding of “who God is” and “what His will is for our lives”.
God’s love seeks us from the ‘spaces’ we run to, and run away from to hide from his presence. The Bible is God’s love story of reaching out to people who break the relationship with Him. The soul awakening ‘breath of life’ in us is a powerful reminder of our spiritual connections with God.
Rib: We are made for community. We are not designed to be a group of ‘individuals’ but rather as a “persons-in-community”. The Genesis story presents God as one who seeks to find “a helper fit for him” (Gen 2:18) because “ it is not good that the man should be alone” (Gen 2:18). God himself assumes responsibility for finding “a helper comparable to him” (Gen 2:18).
God takes one of Adam’s ribs, makes the woman and brings her to the man (Gen 2:22). Adam and Eve don’t just live together in the Garden but they share a “committed relationship” with each other. Eve is Adam’s wife. Adam is to “hold fast to his wife and “become one flesh” (Gen 2:24).
The Genesis story is about how Adam and Ever were both “each for the other” and “for God”. Love needs intimacy, passion and above all commitment (Sternberg’s triangular theory of love). Intimacy and passion remain ‘real’, ‘excellent’ and ’delightful’ only with commitment. Intimacy and passion become ‘gratification’, ‘demand’ and ‘self-seeking’ when taken out of the boundaries of marriage.
We are called to nurture a healthy relationships that is built on love, companionship and a sense of belonging. Adam and Eve’s ‘knowing’ brings the gift of Cain (Gen 4:1).
Marriage is not merely for ‘love’ but also to nurture family. Intimacy comes with the responsibility to ‘birth’, ‘raise’ and ‘care’. The family becomes a microcosm of the community. We belong to each other. Our identity is ‘in-relation-to-the-other’. The reference to the genealogical record “Adam fathered Seth who fathered, who fathered…” (Gen 4: 3f) is a reminder that ‘fathering’ provides ‘identity’ , ‘sense of belonging’ and ‘meaning’.
We are called to ‘recognise’, ‘relate’ and cherish relationships within family. The family is to abound with love, care and commitment.
I-Thou, I-thou, I-it relationships
We are related to God, the world around us and to each other. We are called to nurture these relationships. The word pairs ‘I-It’ and ‘I-Thou’ proposed by Martin Buber are helpful in nurturing meaningful human relationships. ‘I-Thou’ describes the world of relations.
We enter into a I-thou relationship when the feeling or idea of relationship is the dominant mode of perception. However, we can reduce the ‘I-thou’ to ‘I-it’ if we lose the idea of relationship. Therefore, a relationship with a thing (book, music and art) can become a ‘I-thou’ relationship while a relationship between two individuals can easily become a ‘I-it’ relationship.
It is the dominance of the idea/feeling of relationship that defines the nature and meaning of relationships. Buber reminds us that all relationships are spiritual because they ultimately bring us into relationship with God, who is the Eternal Thou. God, therefore, is the relation to all relations.
We are called to meaningfully relate to God, the world around us and to each other. The ‘breath of life’ reminds us that we are capable of experiencing the ‘I-Thou’ relationship. Our connections with the soil (as ‘soil-man’) and our connections with the other ( bone of my bone and flesh of my flesh) reminds us that we are to nurture ‘ I-thou’ relationships.
We must nurture a ‘I-Thou’ which will in turn determine the I-thou relationship and redeem the ‘I-it’ relationships. This would enable is to live ‘fully’ and ‘meaningfully’ – Samuel Thambusamy
Picture Credits: FreeBibleimages.org.