Wednesday, February 21, 2007

Reflections upon Ecclesiastes 4:9-12

This sabbatical research time at Tyndale House in Cambridge has given me plenty of opportunity to reflect upon singleness. One of my friends and renewed acquaintances is Barry Danylak. I first met Barry when he was a M.A. student at Wheaton College. He was runner up in the graduate student paper contest sponsored by the Midwest Region of the Evangelical Theological Society of which I was Vice President at the time. I sat to hear his paper and offered my observations to assist the judges in making their decision concerning the winner. The winner of the graduate student paper contest that year, as Barry reminded me, was a friend of his and an acquaintance of mine, Matt Harmon, who now serves as Associate Professor of New Testament at Grace Theological Seminary (see Matt's blog). Well, I have digressed. Barry Danylak, who is single, is a reader at Tyndale House who is working on his Ph.D. dissertation on the area of the apostle Paul's instruction concerning singleness from 1 Corinthians 7. This brings me back to my point.

I want to offer a few reflections upon Ecclesiastes 4:9-12.

Two are better than one,
because they have a good return for their work:
If one falls down,
     his friend can help him up.
     But pity the man who falls
     and has no one to help him up!
Also, if two lie down together,
     they will keep warm.
     But how can one keep warm alone?
Though one may be overpowered,
     two can defend themselves.
     A cord of three strands is not quickly broken.

This passage played a role in various conversations when I was a single man, including some conversations with the woman who would become my wife, Lois. I remember well that the portion about keeping warm was a particularly attractive segment of the passage.

Well, singlene
ss has its advantages, some of which the apostle Paul mentions in his great letter to the Corinthians (7:17-39). But, as Ecclesiastes 4:9-12 point out, singleness has its disadvantages, too. I have been keenly reminded of them these several weeks as I have been working on my B.L. (Bachelor of Loneliness). Yes, by choice to step back into singleness for a designated period of time and not for an indefinite amount of time, for one who is married it is a time of loneliness and a time of being reminded of the great benefits of marriage.

Two are truly better than one. If something needs to be done, I am obligated to do it. No one else will do
it for me. Everyday, since I have been at Tyndale House, I have been keenly aware of this. Again, today I have been reminded of this because I have been occupied with washing clothes and cleaning my room. I'm not complaining. It's just that in marriage Lois and I divide various household responsibilities. Marriage lightens the load of each partner. How keenly aware of this I have been today. I miss my wife for these reasons and a whole lot more, including the "lying down together" and "keeping warm" parts mentioned in Ecclesiastes 4. I look forward to getting home to Lois.

Henry, the vacuum cleaner, is hardly a substitute companion. He helped me clean my room, but he lives in a closet.

For you in the upper mid-west region of the USA, remember the
Midwest Region of the Evangelical Theological Society Meeting, March 16-17, 2007.