After the Fall, Did God Still Expect Adam and Eve to Find Win-Win Solutions?
Over nine hundred years of living, it is safe to say that Adam and Eve had to deal with good pink and blue desires that differed and collided. Adam was called to cultivate and maintain the garden (which after the Fall took place outside of Eden in some field), and Eve had to nurse and look out for the toddlers Cain and Abel, who were now growing up in a fallen world. Would any of us argue against the proposition that natural tensions arose after the expulsion from the garden during their nine centuries of marriage? I find it tough to say that every trouble they encountered was due to sinful and selfish motives, just as not every tension we have in marriage today is due to a hedonistic sentiment.
For example, did Eve expect Adam to parent Cain with a bit more leniency, since Adam did not like Cain's attitude about not being his brother's keeper? Did Adam intend to discipline Cain for fighting too often with his brother? Did Eve counter Adam with, "I will keep reminding Cain to cooperate, let's give him another chance"? Did Adam take the position that Eve needed to let him discipline Cain? Though fulfilling his sweat-producing duties in his field during the day, did Adam feel he should chastise Cain when he came home from the fields?
This parental conflict is conjecture on my part, but I believe they would have legitimate disagreements based on their gender outlooks. We certainly know they had troubles with Cain and Abel later on when Cain killed Abel. Surely the seeds of that brotherly warfare took root early on.
Hebrews 12:10 says that our fathers "disciplined us for a short time as seemed best to them." By in large fathers were the disciplinarians. But Scripture suggests mothers lean more toward instruction or verbal communication of what should be done (Proverbs 1:8; 6:20; 31:1). Of course, dads also instruct, though they may lean toward disciplinary action; and though moms indeed can discipline, they may focus more on verbal oughts. So what should a mom and dad do when he prefers disciplining the child by enacting consequences to misbehavior whereas the mother wishes to give the child another chance to get it right after she reminds the child again of what should be done? Or, there can be moments when the mother expects the dad to discipline since she sees him responsible for backing her with his strength, but he is too disengaged. Or, he feels she over-instructs with too many rules, and there needs to be less talk and threats, and more disciplinary action.
We too will find ourselves in common disagreements with our spouse. How do we resolve the split when we both have goodwill and good ideas but must make a decision? We cannot always agree to disagree since eventually we must turn right or left. For example, as parents, we too will differ on child discipline. A decision must be made. We will discipline our children more, less, the same, or not at all. A mom and dad need to put their heads together on a solution. A mother cannot say, "My way or the highway," nor a dad exclaim, "My might makes me right." What do these accomplish? Thus, we must merge our differing approaches as best we can.
The good news is that with a little work, and God's help, as we discuss (and even debate) the options, we can discover better ideas. As parents, for instance, we can agree to do what seems best for our kids (Hebrews 12:10). Together we can come up with a plan to both instruct and discipline our children, the very thing Ephesians 6:4 highlights: “Fathers, do not provoke your children to anger, but bring them up in the discipline and instruction of the Lord.” Mom and dad can incorporate both of their concerns into a merger of sorts. When she prefers more instruction and he prefers more discipline, this serves as a moment to blend their honest differences of opinion. She can propose ways for him to confront with information while he can introduce ways for her to enact consequences soon after instructing. Or, they can agree that she will educate, but given the child willfully disobeys, they inform the child of dad's discipline for disobeying. This kind of approach is the process that God intends couples to enter to find win-win solutions.
As it pertains to pink and blue differences, all was not lost in the garden when Adam and Eve disobeyed God’s command to not eat the fruit from the tree of knowledge of good and evil. I assume it was God’s plan from the beginning for mom and dad to merge their differences together, even in a perfect world, when raising their children. I hope this encourages you today despite the differing parenting approaches you find yourself having with your spouse, whether the examples I use or some other difference.
Questions to Consider
- What is an example of a sinful tension or conflict in marriage? What is an example of a natural tension or conflict in marriage? Why should having the latter not be cause to worry about having marital problems?
- Does your marriage fit the scriptural description of the father being more the disciplinarian and the mother focusing more on instruction? Are you the opposite? Have the two of you ever acknowledged those differences? Why should two parents talk openly about these differing approaches they have?
- Emerson said, “We cannot always agree to disagree since eventually we must turn right or left.” How, in general, do the parenting decisions get eventually determined in your marriage? Do you find this to be a healthy way? Is one spouse often upset after the decision is made?
- Think back to one of the more recent instances of child discipline in your home. How could a blend of both discipline and instruction (per Ephesians 6:4) have worked in that situation?