Fertile Journey Through Genesis: Genesis 2:24-25
"Hence a man leaves his father and mother and clings to his wife, so that they become one flesh. The two of them were naked, the man and his wife, yet they felt no shame." (Genesis 2:24-25)
A man and a woman together clotheless and unashamed is a beautiful image and a beautiful possibility. It is also a beautiful reality for the couples who experience it. Intimacy, vulnerability, unconditional love and acceptance. Friendship.
The image of a man leaving his parents in order to cling to his wife and become one with her is juxtaposed next to the Hebrew concept of "arummim," or being unconcealed / naked.
Beside our relationship with our significant other, there is one other relationship where we have experienced being naked. The relationship we hold with a parent. Those who raise us are the ones who know us best. They have seen us at our worst and hopefully proudly celebrate with us when we are at our best. Our parents are our guardians, and as such they are responsible for guarding and protecting us, because they are one of the few people on this planet who have seen us unconcealed.
When we marry and find our life mate that relationship of vulnerability is transferred from our parents to our spouse. We no longer share that vulnerability with our parents until they share that vulnerability with us in their old age when we are called to care for them. Not everything in our life is revealed to them as it was previously, but more and more things become revealed to our life partner.
And it is in this unveiling, this being equally vulnerable with each other, that the prominent "ish" and "ishshah," man and woman, of Genesis 2 felt no shame.
One of the gifts of infertility is the manner that infertility removes any coverings or secrets that exist between a husband and a wife. As a couple processes through medical appointments, diagnosis and treatments and desires for their future together, often stories of the past and fears are revealed. Infertility has the potential to dramatically improve sexual communication or to do the exact opposite and shut it down. The couples whose marriages not only survive, but thrive, are the ones who use this opportunity for vulnerability and self-revelation to unmask themselves and become more intimate. These couples open up to each other emotionally and sexually, discovering each other on a deeper level.
On the other hand couples who struggle to survive infertility are the ones who carry a lot of shame and allow the burden of grief to bury that shame even further. As they go through the process they decrease their disclosure to one another and cover up their fear, anger, surprise, sorrow, concern, and guilt. In order to reverse this negative pattern, either the husband or wife need to take a step of trust by revealing a part of him or herself with the other. At first this may be something simple, such as saying, "I am hurting too." Or it may be making the choice of choosing to stay in a shared space while expressing emotions, instead of running off to a private location to hide the feelings. This vulnerability may also come in sexual expression - gently kissing, touching, or lovingly observing the physical feature of the other that seems shameful.
Adam and Eve were "arummim" with each other, in that they came together in innocence or naivety. A married couple no longer has the benefit of being naïve to one another, but through Christ and the power of God's forgiveness, they do have the ability to come together with a rediscovered innocence. When a couple who has been married for a while rediscover this innocence a playful, joyful expression of love can take place. In the infertility journey we must be kind and forgiving towards our spouse so that our play can truly be playful. Forgiveness is a key to this.
Now some would argue that the Hebrew reference to shame in this passage is actually pointing towards the denial of a public form of shame. In other words when a couple come together, clinging to one another, in complete vulnerability, they feel no public shame. Now this may not be the best interpretation of this translation, but I think that one of the reasons a couple who finds vulnerability and strength in one another feel less public shame, may be because they are confident in one another and have a sense that they have nothing to hide from each other.
So, to the infertile couple, I encourage you to leave your parents and cling to your spouse, so that you might become united. I encourage you to choose revelation over concealment, so that you can become confident in your trust in each other and be unashamed.
Here are some potential questions for discussion with your spouse:
- What is one thing that you worry about?
- What makes you afraid? What do you fear?
- What hopes do you have for our future?
- What most often extinguishes your hope?
- What do you regret most about how this journey of infertility has changed our relationship?
- What do you treasure most about how this journey of infertility has improved our relationship?
- What one physical feature of yourself do you feel most ashamed of?
- What one physical feature on your body are you most proud of?
- Where do we need to find freedom from guilt?
- How do we need to forgive one another?