The Deep Well with Erin Davis Podcast

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Episode 2: God’s Plan for Our Relationships

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Laura Booz: So Erin, I have a feeling that you and I have something in common. I have a feeling that both of us dreamed about being Laura Ingalls Wilder when we were little because we both grew up and have our little farms.

Erin Davis: For sure. I love Laura Ingalls Wilder and the Boxcar Children. I wanted to be some combination of that—like live in a boxcar but have lots of farm animals. I’m kind of living it without the boxcar.

Laura: Yes, but here’s the difference between us. When you talk about animals, it sounds like you care. We have these chickens, we have these honeybees, and my husband and kids love them. They just adore them. We’ve had a couple goats. I like animals, theoretically, in a book.

Erin: Right. Pictures of animals.

Laura: Yes, but they certainly don’t satisfy me relationally. Give me a nice, human being any day over a puppy or a chicken.

Erin: Well, I’m with you on that one. My animals are highly functional. I mean, non-farmers can feel a little bit put off by the fact I’m like: Yeah, we eat them. Yeah, we don’t name them. It’s their job to give us breakfast in the morning. So they aren’t my friends.

Laura: We’re probably offending a lot of animal lovers right now.

Erin: We probably are. I mean, I love my farm animals, but they don’t satisfy my deepest needs for connection. And in the Bible, we read that Adam felt the exact same way.

Laura: Welcome to The Deep Well with Erin Davis. It’s a podcast from Revive Our Hearts. I’m Laura Booz. 

Last time Erin began a new season on loneliness. She explained the problem, the pandemic on loneliness. Today we’ll look to the Bible for help, and Erin’s going to start in the very first book. 

Erin: Adam might hold the Guinness world record for loneliness. After all, he did spend some time as the only person on the face of the earth. Let’s open our Bibles to Genesis chapter 1.

For many of us, the Creation is a familiar story. Maybe it’s so familiar that we’ve missed some of what these early chapters in our Bible mean for us, as we live our lives outside the walls of the Garden of Eden.

Genesis 1 describes many things happening. God created the heavens and the earth. He created light and dark. He created water and land. He created animals of all shapes and different kinds of habitats.

And then in Genesis 1, verse 27, something special happens. Let me read us Genesis 1:27, 

So God created man in his own image, in the image of God he created him; male and female he created them.

If this is the final painting, Genesis 2 shows us some of the brush strokes. Let me read us Genesis 2:5–8, 

When no bush of the field was yet in the land and no small plant of the field had yet sprung up—for the Lord God had not caused it to rain on the land, and there was no man to work the ground, and a mist was going up from the land and was watering the whole face of the ground—then the Lord God formed the man of dust from the ground and breathed into his nostrils the breath of life, and the man became a living creature. And the Lord God planted a garden in Eden, in the east, and there he put the man whom he had formed.

This is a mysterious moment. There’s mist everywhere. There’s no sound of human voices. And out of the dust God creates Adam. Then he sets Adam inside a garden that He has planted just for him.

There’s this interaction between God and man. I think we can take for granted a little bit when we read this story. Verses 15 and 16 tell us this, 

The Lord God took the man and put him in the garden of Eden to work it and keep it. And the Lord God commanded the man, saying, “You may surely eat of every tree of the garden . . .

Hear what God said next in Genesis 2:18, 

Then the Lord God said, “It is not good that the man should be alone; I will make him a helper fit for him.” 

I want to pretend this is the first time you’ve ever heard this story. The only voice Adam had heard at this point was the voice of God. They’re talking face to face. God is communicating His will to Adam with no veil between them. I feel like I’d give everything I own just to hear God breathe. Just to see His smile. Adam heard Him speak! 

Later in Genesis 3:8 we learned that God walked the garden paths, the place where Adam lived. That’s not a metaphor. He literally walked in the garden. Adam could see Him with human eyes. He could hear Him with human ears. He could reach out and touch God with his human finger tips. 

This intimacy with God, this face-to-face relationship with our Creator is so foreign to us that it’s hard to grasp. But we need to try, because it didn’t last long. The fracture of sin that started in the garden, it runs straight into our relationship with God, and it runs straight into our relationships with each other. 

Adam, the first man, had a companion and provider in God. He didn’t need a thing, and yet something was off. Even in the context of unbroken fellowship with God, being alone is not good, according to the God who made us. 

Now, many of us know some of what Adam might have felt. We’ve got people around us, our basic needs are met, but something just isn’t right. Let’s keep reading about the creation of man and woman, and ask the Lord to give us fresh eyes as we do. I’m going to read us Genesis 2:19–20.

Now out of the ground the Lord God had formed every beast of the field and every bird of the heavens and brought them to the man to see what he would call them. And whatever the man called every living creature, that was its name. The man gave names to all livestock and to the birds of the heavens and to every beast of the field. But for Adam there was not found a helper fit for him.

There was this parade of creatures, try to imagine it. Every creature paraded before Adam, and Adam gets to name every single one. He’s surrounded by companions. Now, I love my dogs, Marley and Luna. I love my chickens, and I love my cows, and I love my cats. I’ve got a menagerie of my own on the Davis farm. But they’re not an adequate substitution for human connection. 

We look closer at this part of the story; I think this animal parade was really an object lesson. It helps us understand God’s plan for our relationships. It was before God started bringing the animals to Adam, that He declared it’s not good for the man to be alone, I will make him a helper fit for him. 

God had already created the animals, remember? We see that in Genesis 1. God had hard-wired Adam to need other people. I don’t think that it was ever God’s plan for the animals to fill this void in Adam’s heart. 

It doesn’t align with the character of God who was sovereign over all things, who the book of Mark tells us does all things well, (Mark 7:37). This naming of the animals was just an exercise in trial and error.

Surely God didn’t think the lion was going to be a good helper for Adam, a bit too carnivorous I think, or that the spider would fight loneliness, that gives me the heebie-jeebies. He didn’t think a fish was the companion Adam needed, and He just forgot to give Adam gills. No, God knew that the animals could not fill the void of Adam’s life, but Adam didn’t. 

Adam was surrounded, but there wasn’t a creature who was enough like him. I have a feeling that you and I have something in common.

Matthew Henry is my commentary. I’ve got an old tattered blue version that sits on my shelves; it’s like an old friend. You should see my copy of this book. That commentary looks at this scene of the naming of animals and describes it this way, “Though there was an upper world of angels and lower world of brutes, yet, there being none of the same rank of beings with himself, he might be truly said to be alone.” 

When God surveyed all that He had made, only one thing displeased Him. Only one part of creation got God’s stamp of disapproval, it was Adam’s loneliness. 

What God said of Adam, Solomon says of all men. Now, Scripture tells us that Solomon was extremely wise. And in Ecclesiastes 4:9, Solomon wrote this, “Two are better than one, because they have a good reward for their toil.” He really was wise.

Because being connected is better than being disconnected. Being a part of a pair or a family or an inner circle of friends, it produces a good reward in our lives. 

I want you to think again about the progression of creation that we see unfolding in Genesis 1 and 2. Why didn’t God create Adam and Eve out of the same sand sculpture? Why did Adam have to spend a nanosecond alone, if God decided that’s not good? 

I believe there was a delay between the creation of the first man and the creation of his mate to teach us a lesson. And the lesson is this, it is okay to need each other. Scripture amazes me with its consistency. God truly does not change and the themes in His Word don’t change either. 

So, if we fast forward many generations past Adam and Eve, past the garden, to 1 Corinthians we find that the apostle Paul wrote a letter to Christ followers in the church at Corinth. And there must have been plenty of not good going on in relationships between Paul spills a lot of ink, teaching God’s people to need each other. 

This is where we get Paul’s beautiful word picture of God’s people being like a body. That’s why we say “the body of Christ.” All of the body parts work together, and all of the body parts need each other.

I’m fond of saying there is no spleen in the kingdom of God. You can have your spleen removed and it’s of very little consequence to your body. Your body just keeps on functioning, but that’s not true in the body of Christ. We need each other. 

In 1 Corinthians 12:21 Paul writes, “The eye cannot say to the hand, ‘I have no need of you,’ nor again the head to the feet, ‘I have no need of you.’” 

Let’s be very clear what Paul was talking about here. He was talking about how Christians view and relate to other Christians. He was calling us. Yes, he was calling the Corinthians to this but through God’s Word he’s calling all of Christ’s followers to this, to a deep and permeating and permanent mindset that we need each other. 

We have a tendency to revert to our own version of the animal parade. We try to swap out other things for human connection and for connection with God, but nothing suitable will ever be found. Busyness can’t do it. Our “I” stuff can’t do it. Our achievements can’t do it. Our acquaintances can’t do it. Our online communities are not a suitable substitute. They cannot make a helpmeet fit for us. 

So we’ve got the first few chapters of Genesis under our microscope here, and we’re trying to learn what they teach us about God’s design for our relationships. There’s one more verse we need to read together.

It’s Genesis 2:24, it’s the very first wedding. It says this, 

Therefore a man shall leave his father and his mother and hold fast to his wife, and they shall become one flesh.

It’s a beautiful verse. It’s a beautiful picture. But it’s also giving us a permission slip to cleave. Now, that’s not a word that we use very often. It means to hold on tightly to. I miss the days when my babies cleaved to me like little baby monkeys. Now they’re big boys. They would be embarrassed that I even said that.

But sometimes, even now, in the night when they’re afraid, they want to be as close to their momma and daddy as humanly possible. That’s cleaving. And this verse, that a man shall leave his father and mother and hold fast to, cleave to his wife, I think it’s a picture for God’s best in our relationships with each other. 

Here’s why I think that, because Adam and Eve had no father and mother to leave. They were not born of man and woman. God created them. So all of this leave your father and mother and cling to, cleave to, hold fast to one another business, it must have been prescriptive, not descriptive. 

God intends us to cling, but we resist this. Clinging is exactly what we don’t want to be in our relationships. We associate it with codependency and neediness, and we live in a culture that highly, highly highly esteems independence. So what if by refusing to be needy, we deny God the opportunity to meet a deep and genuine need that each of us have?

I want to take us back to Matthew Henry’s commentary on this passage; it’s so rich. He writes, 

Perfect solitude would turn a paradise into a desert, and a palace into a dungeon. 

I say a version of this to my boys all the time. They’re always squabbling—that’s what boys do. I will say, “Boys, if we were in paradise, what’s paradise? Describe it to me?” They always want to go to the beach in their minds—“We’re on the beach, it’s warm, there’s sand, there’s waves.” I’ll say, “Boys, if we were in paradise sun and sand and endless fun and you chose to spend it breaking fellowship as brothers tend to do, it wouldn’t be a paradise anymore.”

I’m not sure I live out what I teach my boys in this area. Yet, solitude, loneliness, being disconnected, that’s what we often choose. We isolate ourselves. We neglect our relationships with God and others. And somehow, we think it’s good, maybe even holy to not need anyone.

I call that the Patmos effect. We elevate John, the disciple. He was exiled on the island of Patmos, and somehow we think of that as more holy than when John was part of a brotherhood of disciples. I gotta tell you, we don’t find that idea in the pages of our Bible. 

For John, that isolation was a punishment. It was inflicted by a government that did not seek God’s best for its citizens. It was not a reward. It was not something that John earned by being extra righteous, or extra holy, or being an extra good follower of Jesus. 

Day by day we live out this idea, and it’s a bad idea that we don’t need each other. And we wonder why we feel so sad. We wonder why we are chronically out of sorts. We wonder why we are a perpetual square peg that cannot fit into the round whole of our lives?

Adam did not trade in his relationship with God for his relationship with his wife. He had both. He needed both. And to be without both, was not good. And we need both. 

Let’s pray. Jesus, we love You. We know that You love us. Lord, help us to have a right understanding of our relationships with you and with each other. Lord, where we’ve been deceived, where we’ve bought a lie, help us to see the truth. Help us to love You and love others and need You and need others. It’s in Your name I pray, amen. 

Erin Unscripted

Laura: The problem of loneliness goes way back to the Garden of Eden, and Erin’s been showing us that here on The Deep Well.

Hey Erin, I just love the point you made about the creation order, revealing that it’s okay to need each other. I’m just wondering if you can get a little personal here. Have you seen evidence of this in your own marriage? 

Erin: I need Jason Davis, no doubt about it. We are built differently. We have different temperaments. We have different gifts. We have different tolerances for things. We have totally different circadian rhythms. He is up until one to two every night. I wake up between four and five every morning. So, we’re really different.

I think we spent the early years of our marriage kind of fighting that, and then learned to lean into it. 

I need him for everything from remembering to bring a cell phone charger, which I am unable to do anywhere, anytime, any trip, to helping me see things from the right perspective. 

I mean, nobody can calm me like he can. Nobody can say to me the things he can say . . . like, “Well, Erin, did you think about it this way? or Did you think about her that way?” He gives me such perspective, but we just also need each other to get through life. 

We take turns being weak, whether that’s emotionally weak or spiritually weak or physically weak. I can think of several times in recent years where I had some hard physical stuff, and he had to really take care of me. I haven’t had to do the same to the same degree for him yet, but maybe someday I will. 

We just need each other every day. We both work from home in offices on separate ends of the house. Lately I’ve noticed at about eight times a day we kind of pull towards each other in the middle of the house, give each other a quick hug, and a ”How you doing?” And then we go to our spaces. It’s just like: I just needed to see ya; I just needed to touch ya; I just needed to know you were still here. 

It’s a great picture, though challenging. I mean, everyone knows marriage is challenging, relationships are challenging. But I acknowledge that I need him, and he acknowledges he needs me. There’s a lot of sweetness in that. 

Laura: There’s this great book, I might have to look up who it’s by, but the title alone is really powerful. It is Relationships: A Mess Worth Making.

Erin: So good. 

Laura: Because they’re a mess, and they’re worth it over the long haul to have a shoulder to lean on. Two are better than one, because when one falls the other can pick them up. 

Erin: Do you ever watch that show that’s called Alone?

Laura: No.

Erin: Well, it’s a favorite at our house. Here’s the premise: They take ten people and they drop them off individually somewhere totally isolated. They might be in Alaska, or sometimes they’re in the jungle. It’s not like Survivor where you’re not actually alone. They are alone. 

It is an interesting study in the way that we’re built. Because what always happens is . . . These are survival experts, so they get their shelter built. They figure out rhythms to get their food. They find clean water. Then it gets hard. They’re just alone for day after day after day. 

They get a button they can push on a satellite phone. And whoever pushes their button last wins. But what happens is they don’t push the button because they’re hungry. They don’t push their button because they’re cold. They start talking about their family members, and you know they’re out.

Or if they remember that the day they’re out there is someone they love’s birthday or their anniversary, they’ll push that button every time. They do have what they need. I mean, on the hierarchy of needs, they have food, they shelter, they have water. But hey don’t have other people. They don’t make it very long. It’s a really good show. 

Laura: I’ve never even heard of it. That sounds good. It actually reminds me of that movie, uh this where I just can’t remember any details, but that movie with Tom Hanks where he is alone on the island.

Erin: Castaway

Laura: Castaway. There we go. He’s got that volleyball, and he calls it Wilson. I remember that, because it’s not a volleyball to him, it’s a person.

Erin: Right. 

Laura: And so, it’s not that a volleyball will take the place of a person, but he needed to do what he could to have that human touch.

Erin: Right.

Laura: God created us to be with each other.

Erin: He sure did. And we will be with each other in heaven. So this idea that God’s all I need, well, that bubble gets burst when you think about what God’s promised us for the future. He hasn’t just promised us that we’ll be one on one with Him forever. We’re going to be together. God’s people are going to be together in the new heaven and the new earth, and there’s going to be community in heaven. So if it is part of God making all things new, then it’s good.

Laura: Right. In our mega-church, socially-connected world, I think we can believe that we’re beholden to as many people who come on our radar. Right? So every single thing you see in your social media feed you need to answer to directly and connect with and mourn and weep and rejoice. All the ups and downs, and honestly, I feel like it’s a little too overwhelming. 

I think that has to do with us constructing this shallow manageable public self, and shallow manageable relationships, because there’s just too many. Can you give us a biblical framework for understanding what you mean by being made for connection and close relationships? 

Erin: Yeah, you’re on to something there. Sociologists are saying we have developed compassion fatigue. We have developed empathy fatigue, and part of the reason is because we’re seeing so much all of the time that we just can’t respond to it. 

So Jesus models this so well. I mean yes, Jesus was with lots of people and responded to lots of people often, but not always. Then Jesus had the disciples; there were twelve of them. He spent a lot of time with them. He would pull away with them a lot, even of course while the crowds were needing from Him and wanting His attention.

But then He had an inner inner circle—Peter, James, and John. And if you really read the Gospels there are times, like the transfiguration, like the healing of Jairus’ daughter, where only Peter, James, and John were there. 

He didn’t do all things equal. It wasn’t like everybody gets the same amount of my attention; everybody gets the same amount of my power. And even among the disciples, they had a sense among each other that He loved some of them more, and, of course they were describing themselves that way.

I love that, because they maybe all thought they were Jesus’ favorite, and they couldn’t be, because I’m Jesus’ favorite. So I kind of love that. He just modeled that. He would go to some people’s homes and eat, but we don’t see Him going to everybody’s homes and eating.

I don’t ever hear people talking about this, but Jesus had boundaries. Jesus had really beautiful boundaries. I can get into the weeds, and I may be taking everything I’m saying here too far. I have too much ownership in all of my relationships and want to be with everyone and want to love on everybody and want to let everybody in . . . and then everything goes back to shallow.

So I think some variation is good. All of this takes discernment, and all of this takes wisdom. All of this varies by season. Isn’t it maddening how God doesn’t give us formulas on the things that we want Him to give us formulas for? Like just give me a formula for my relationships. Just give me a formula for how to be a good friend. Just give me a formula for how many friends I should have. 

Nope, we walk by the Spirit, and we are continually turning this over to Him. But I don’t think to be a Christian means to know everyone and have everyone know you. 

Laura: Yeah. I hear that, and that really resonates with me to seek Jesus’ wisdom on it. To wake up in the morning and ask, “Who’s on Your heart for me to reach out to today?” And whenever I do that, it’s never overwhelming. Like He never directs me to something that . . . t might feel bigger than me to reach out to someone or to speak into a certain situation or whatever. It might feel intimidating. But it’s never the overwhelming feeling when I’m constructing my goals for the day and everybody I’m going to save.

Erin: So true, me too.

Laura: So I really just need to seek Him. Another thing that you brought up in this session made me wonder, what’s the secret to being connected to others? Like especially when I think about the church body. Who gets to really feel connected at church? I see a certain pattern, and I see certain characteristics that are similar, and I’m wondering if you do? I want to hear from you first. 

Erin: Well, something that came to mind when you were saying that is that it’s strange. I’ve paid attention to it for a while. We are a culture obsessed with the categories of extrovert and introvert.

And while I think the Enneagram and the Strength Finder’s work, we’re really obsessed with knowing our temperament and letting what we think we know about our temperament drive us. 

I’m not against those categories, necessarily, except for when we use them as the driver for how we relate to each other. I’m an extrovert, so I’m going to be the initiator. I’m also an introvert. I don’t wear it as a label. Aren’t we all, all them at one time or another? 

I think those patterns or those labels have not helped us, for the most part. Because it is the people in my church that kind of embrace that extrovert label, that I think other people would say are the most connected. And maybe they’re just connected in the most extroverted way, you know? 

As far as patterns in the church, the only real pattern that I see is those who are the most committed to serving in the church are the most connected. Those people who serve in the children’s ministry are way more connected with people and other families because they have a heart to serve. They have a heart to serve those kids. They have a heart to know families. 

Then me who’s not serving in the children’s ministry, I have a consumer. I just want you to take care of my kids for an hour. I don’t know that person at the front desk because I’m not serving alongside them. So, it’s the people who see the church as their place to serve others. It’s the people who don’t wait for the connection to come to them.

So, I’m going to join a small group. I’m going to be on a service team. I’m going to show up on the church workday, and not wait for someone to ask me to do those things. People who do these things are more connected people.

Laura: I totally agree. In fact, I’ve been telling my kids, “Look, you think it’s fun to go to the event, but let me tell you where the real fun happens. The real fun literally happens with the team setting things up and then tearing things down afterwards.” That’s when everybody kicks off their shoes and really connects and has a good time. That’s when everybody’s laughing and that’s the fun. It’s a secret.

Erin: Yes, absolutely. Those are the moments, like when you’ve accomplished something together and you’ve seen God bear fruit in it. You are glued to each other. No one can take that away from you. It’s so sweet.

When I was on staff at my church, I had this epiphany over and over again. I did not know that this was true, but if I would look women in the eye and say, “I see this gift in you, and we have this thing that would be perfect for that.” 99.9% of them would go, “Really? Yeah, I’d love to.” 

No one had ever called out her gift, and she didn’t know. Women feel funny about saying, “This is my gift,” even though, of course, it’s God-given. Nobody had ever pointed her to an on-ramp, and when someone did, it unlocked the church experience, the Christian experience, the connecting with other Christians’ experience in whole new ways. I loved that, that was my favorite part of that job.

Laura: That’s awesome. I love that. You actually remind me of my friend, Jen, who was always inviting people. She’s so much like you—an “in-folder.” Her big line was, “Come on, it’ll be fun.” Whatever it was, and I love that, because she was right. Because when you are doing it with people, when you are folded in, and yes, it’s going to be sweet and fun.

Erin: Right. An “in-folder,” I love that.

Laura: I also wanted to come back to that idea about introverts and extroverts, because I honestly have experienced that. Years ago, I would have said I am a pretty extreme introvert. But as the Holy Spirit has worked in my heart and healed things and sanctified me and made me more and more like Jesus, I find that I’m coming closer to the middle. 

I am understanding the extrovert side. I am going to guess that extroverts would say the same thing. Years ago, maybe they would say, “I just so desperately need to be with people. I cannot be alone to feel good about myself.” 

And as the Lord works. He just sanctifies, and suddenly you find, “Oh, it’s not introvert or extrovert. It’s Christ-likeness that we are looking forward to.” He’s who we’re becoming more and more like. 

Erin: Right. And He was both.

Laura: Right.

Erin: You know, He was with people, and then He withdrew from people. There is a middle one, I can’t remember what it’s called, it’s the ambivert or something. It doesn’t roll off the tongue quite as easily, but I actually think we’re all there.

I wouldn’t ever add to God’s Word, but another of Paul passages where he’s saying that in Christ there’s no Jew or Greek, there’s no man or woman. I would say in Christ there’s no extrovert or introvert in terms of, this personality. I’m going let this temperament define my relationships, because we let Jesus define our relationship, and He’s called us to be with each other.

I think I use introvert as an excuse, and I ought not.

Laura: Yeah, I can understand that. 

I think what I’m going to walk away with from this session is a reminder to surrender to the good work that God did in creating us to need one another, and to watch Him work in my heart and my life because of it. 

So even when I feel like I’m an independent, cause I am introvert, I am. To surrender and say, “Lord, I see in Your Word that You’ve made me for other people, so do Your good work. What do you have for me?” And to go from there. 

Erin says there’s a difference between being loved and being known. She’ll explain more on the next episode of The Deep Well. God’s Word is a deep well. You can drop down your bucket and pull up truth every time.

The Deep Well is a production of Revive our Hearts, calling women to freedom, fullness, and fruitfulness in Christ.

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About the Teacher

Erin Davis

Erin Davis

Erin Davis is an author, blogger, and speaker who loves to see women of all ages run to the deep well of God’s Word. She is the author of many books and Bible studies including: 7 Feasts, Connected, Beautiful Encounters, and the My Name Is Erin series. She serves on the ministry team of Revive Our Hearts. When she’s not writing, you can find Erin chasing chickens and children on her small farm in the Midwest.

About the Guest

Laura Booz

Laura Booz

Laura Booz is the author of Expect Something Beautiful: Finding God's Good Gifts in Motherhood and the host of the Expect Something Beautiful podcast with Revive Our Hearts. She'll cheer you on, share practical ideas, and point out the beautiful ways God is working in your life. She lives in Pennsylvania with her husband, Ryan, and their six children. Meet her at LauraBooz.com.