It was a beautiful day for the farmer’s market. We wandered around enjoying almond croissants and fresh watermelon juice looking for nothing in particular when the guitarist, back from his break, started into his next set with the Billy Currington tune “I want you to love me like my dog does.”
If you’ve never heard it before, the final dog howls alone make it worth clicking the link. If you do know the song then you know these memorable lines:
He never tells me that he’s sick of this house
He never says why don’t you get off that couch?
He don’t cost me nothin’ when he wants to go out
I want you to love me like my dog.
Hum. Yes. I can see the appeal of a spouse loving like a four legged pet.
Fortunately that’s not the way God created the sexes. This bizarre country & western tune offers a great chance to pontificate on a fascinating phrase in the Hebrew text. After man completes the task of naming all the animals in Genesis 2:19, there is the realization that man needs a ezer neged.
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[a] there was not found a helper as his partner.
ezer = helper; neged = partner
Those words are often translated as “help meet” or something similar. But actually the meaning of ezer neged is far more exciting. Ezer means “to assist, to help”, but the meaning of neged is “to stand in front of” or “to be opposite of”. Neged describes a helper who pushes back, who provides the hard word, who assists by bringing the opposite opinion or dissimilar energy to the situation at hand.
Man was never to be paired with a canine. Man was created to be in relationship with another who is equally strong, equally matched, but different in thoughts, opinions, skills and energy.
From the beginning our God valued diversity and the challenge of personhood. Companionship was so important that God saw it was worth the disagreements, the struggles and the misunderstandings it might take to become one.
God wants more for us than a tail-wagging shadow at our beck and call. When God calls us into partnership, it’s with someone who answers back, who sometimes even pushes back when our views or decisions need a push. We can all enjoy a pet, but what we need is a partner.