Well before I understood that there was an aspect of the curse in Genesis specific to women, I experienced what it predicts: “…in pain you shall bring forth children. Your desire shall be for your husband, and he shall rule over you” Gen. 3:16.
The Difficult Truth
We all have a problem desiring God. As C. S. Lewis said, we all play in the mud puddles of the slum, ignorant of the joy of the holiday offered at the sea. But the curse in Genesis 3:16 teaches that such misplaced desires are core to the struggles women in particular will face.
Eve was created in the image of God to be a strong helper to Adam. Ezer is a term used many more times of God himself than it is of the woman in the Old Testament, and a study of His example of help in Scripture is simply inspiring. But Adam and Eve sinned, resulting in the curse. The curse is stark for men. Their work to provide is wearisome toil. And the curse is stark for women. Childbirth will be painful, the man will rule over her (an oppressive rule as opposed to the gracious leadership that characterizes those imitating Christ), and yet, she still desires him.
Craving Lesser Things
The word for desire in Genesis 3:16 is strong, more like a craving or addiction. I didn't have a husband until my late twenties, but I certainly had a strong longing for one. That longing defined how I thought of myself, how I dressed, how I fixed my hair, where I wanted to go in my free time, who I hung with as friends, etc. It influenced how I treated the boyfriends I had in college. I wanted something from them they couldn't do for me. It was elusive. Was it affirmation? Status? Physical things? Flowers? Gifts? Essentially I wanted them to make me feel good about myself. They didn't, and we broke up.
Then I met and married my husband. But it didn't take very long to realize I had expectations of him that he wasn't going to meet in me either. Even with his best effort, the depth of the need in my heart is one he simply can't meet. When I look to him to meet it, I set him and I up for failure. As Genesis 3:16 predicts, I desire him and look to him to meet needs in my heart that only God was supposed to meet.
True Desire Recovered
God began working on my heart on this issue using Psalm 73:25, “Whom have I in heaven but you? And there is nothing on earth that I desire besides you.”
The psalmist goes on to say that when his flesh and his heart fail, God is his strength and his portion, his rich supply in his need. I spent years meditating on the ending verses of Psalm 73. How did entering the sanctuary of God put everything back in perspective for the psalmist? God is my portion? God is my strength? What does that even mean?
Then a friend gave me Desiring God as a birthday gift, and I was stuck for a while in the first three chapters, constantly rereading Lewis's quote about being content with mud puddles in the slum because I don't understand the offer of a holiday at the beach. Later, I studied through Ephesians with John Stott's short commentary by my side. There, Paul is intent that we understand the depth of God's lavish grace poured out on us as the foundation for imitating God in our churches, our marriages, our parenting, our work environments, and so forth.
God is the Gospel
At some point, it started to sink in: God is my portion. He has lavished his grace on me so that I am equipped to do every good work he has for me. He loves me unconditionally. I have free access to him where I can boldly bring my needs and receive grace and mercy. I have a longing, and he alone is able to satisfy it. God is the gospel, and the good news of all I have in union with him dwarfs any good news and affirmation I'm hoping to get from a man.