TIME-IN 29: A THREE-STRAND CORD
Two are better than one,
because they have a good return for their labor:
If they fall down,
they can help each other up.
But pity those who fall
and they have no one to help them up!
Also, if two lie down together, they will keep warm.
But can one keep warm alone?
Though one may be overpowered,
two can defend themselves.
A cord of three strands is not quickly broken. (Ecclesiastes 4:9-12 TNIV)
“Two are better than one.” G. K. Chesterson writes in The Man Who Was Thursday, when the protagonist finds a friend among those he thinks are enemies: “ Through all his ordeal his root horror had been isolation, and there were no words to express the abyss between isolation and having one ally. It may be conceded to the mathematicians that four is twice two. But two is not twice one: two is two thousand times one” (G. K. Chesterson, The Man Who Was Thursday: A Nightmare (1908; Hamandsworth, Middlesex: Penguin, 1987), 88.).
“”Two are better than one.” The writer of Ecclesiastes gives a host of reasons why. A friend makes our lives more profitable (a better return), more comfortable (warmth in the cold), less lonely (a helping hand in an accident or a failure), less vulnerable (defense against an attacker), less frail (not easily broken). A friend decreases life’s harm — an economic downturn, a false step, a chilly night, an armed assailant, a quick unraveling — and increases life’s goodness — more abundance, more warmth, more safety, more strength.
I’ve found that friends do all this.
But mostly, I’ve found such a friend in Jesus, who no longer calls me a servant, but His friend (John 15:15). As my friend, He yokes up with me to do work, to give a better return. He reaches out a hand to me when I fall, from clumsiness or willfulness, and helps me back to my feet. He covers me when the night is very long and very cold. He fights with me and for me when my enemy attacks. He weaves a strand of holy companionship into the cord of my life. It’s not quickly broken.
The book began with a close look at Psalm 88, which ends with “darkness is my closest friend.”
Yes, it sometimes feels that way.
But the Man for All Seasons has joined Himself to us. He’s called us His friends.
Spend time now thanking your Friend that, no matter how cold the night gets, or hell-bent your enemy, or hard your work, or grievous your fall, He’s right here with you, in season and out.
I wrote parts of this book in two of my favorite places. One’s called Fireweed, a retreat house not to far from where I live, named after the plant that, when it blooms, flames the hillside with bright red flowers. It’s thirty minutes up the Trans-Canada Highway, and ten minutes in. But it’s hidden far enough in the backcountry, in the folds of woody hills and marshy dales, down twists and turns of narrow country road, that it may as well be hours away. The house is large and has picture windows looking out on a field stretching down to a reedy lake, and beyond that a dense stand of forest. When I arrived, the place was chilled. I built and stoked a hot wood fire downstairs, and turned up the gas fireplace upstairs, and put on a pot of coffee, and by mid-morning the house was so warm I had to shed my sweater. I wrote without interruption from early morning till bedtime, and stopped only to eat a quick lunch. Just before dinner, I walked down to the lake.
It was a grey day, damp and chill. The grass around the lake was matted from a heavy snowfall a month before. Thin crusts of snow still lay in patches in the swales, and covered the makeshift boardwalk that provides a footpath through the marshy bog to the edge of the lake. The boardwalk leads to a rickety dock, where two dinghies, one yellow, one green, lay bottoms up. I walked as close as I could get to those two little boats, and pondered going farther. The dock was half submerged and clad in ice, and I pictured myself tiptoeing out obit, edging toward the boats, and then it’s giving way beneath my weight, or tilting up like a seesaw and pitching me backward in the half-frozen water. I pictured dragging my drenched, besmirched, hypothermic self up the hill to the house, tromping mud down the hall to the bathroom, teeth chattering, skin turned porcelain white. So I stayed where I was. But I stayed there a while, as shadows sifted down through the trees. I listened to birds with thrilling melodic voices sing in the grasses, and others with throaty urgent cries answer from the woods and, deeper still, an owl emit a low and haunting call, like a solemn warning. And I watched the light keep shifting downward, and darkness gather in the fir boughs and pool in the grasslands. Up the hill, lights blazed from the house. I started back toward it, and stopped at the woodshed — an old horse stable — to gather and carry an arm load of firewood for the stove.
I had dinner at the Crow and Gate, a charming country English pub a few minutes’ drive away. I got the beef tip and a dark chocolate porter, and sat close, but not to close, to the fire, under an old photo of Winston Churchill, half smirking, half scowling, looking over my shoulder. I read a book of poems as I waited for my meal, and jotted a few notes in my journal, and called Cheryl on my way back.
The date: February 2.
Dead of winter.
The other place is called Galilee. It’s a tiny cottage perched high above Ganges Harbour on Saltspring Island. Getting to Galilee involves a twenty-minute drive from where I live, a twenty-minute ferry ride to Saltspring, and a twenty-minute drive across the island. The place I stay is at the end of a narrow twisting driveway that dips and climbs through thick coastal forest and comes out at a clearing. There the cottage stands. It looks like a place a writer or an artist, or gnome, might hide in and ply their craft, undisturbed by anything but birds and dragonflies. It has a large window, floor to ceiling, I look out as I write. The window frames a stunning view of ocean and forest and islands, and beyond that, mountains. I have to discipline myself not to daydream.
WhenI arrived the place was cooking. I opened both doors at either end of the cottage, and I got a cool breeze flowing through. Midmorning, I took a break from writing to cut the lawn, trying to steer, as I’d been instructed, around the wild daisies, trying to avoid, as I knew I should, all the rocks and the tree roots hidden in the tall grass. At midday, I took another break and drove to the village of Saltspring. At one of the village bakeries I got a bowl of smoked salmon chowder, with a sourdough roll, and a cup of strong coffee. I checked my email, sent text messages to my wife and children, and then poked around a few stores. I came back and wrote a poem with fridge magnets:
through the raw
ache of worship
at some delicate
finger of eternity
parts the waters
and shows a road
Not a great poem, but all I could muster with the limited vocabulary the fridge magnets provide. But I did write, and edit, and came away with this book more or less finished.
The date: May 28.
My second day at Fireweed, I drove to a provincial park called Hemer, ninety-thee hectares of coastal forest and frog-ridden lakes that John and Violet Hemer donated to the province for the enjoyment of all. Hemer has a broad walking trail, strewn with thick fir needles, that loop around its perimeter, and other trails that crisscross between the loop. I walked briskly and chose a route that zigzagged. The forest was cool, and the two lakes I passed were still sheeted in ice.
As I walked, I prayed. But it was more of a conversation, a heartfelt talk with a good friend, which I suppose is what prayer is. I told Jesus what I was afraid of, what I hoped for, what I regretted, what I cherished. I told Him about this book, where it felt thin, or bloated, or forced, and I asked Him, when we got back to Fireweed, if He could help me with that. I told Him how thankful I was for my wife and children. I told Him how astonished I was at what He’d done with my life so far, given the raw materials I handed Him. And I asked Him if He had anything to tell me, and He did, which I’ll keep to myself.
I prayed prayers like that at Galilee, too, as I sat on a weathered wood bench in the hot sunshine and looked out on the wide expanse of blue-grey harbor. I thanked God, and sought Him, and laid my heart before Him.
I pray like that in the dead of winter, and through late spring, and into summer, and during fall, and back ‘round again. I’ll pray like that, God willing, when my next book is written, should there be such a thing. I’ll pray like that when all these books are long forgotten. I’ll pray like that when I’m to old to drive, or walk, or eat beef dip or clam chowder, or write poems, even with the aid of fridge magnets.
I’ll pray like that until the day words fail me, and I have no breath left for speaking. And even then, He will not forsake me. Especially then, in that season, He’ll walk with me, and lead me home.
Whom shall I fear?
But I want to end by telling you my prayers for you. I pray that this book has met you in whatever season you’re in, and prepared you for whatever seasons await. I pray that it has helped you find your voice, your stride, your rhythm, in season and out. Mostly, I pray that you have, with or without my help, found Christ wherever you are. And that, even more, you’ve discovered that, wherever you are, He’s found you.
He will never leave or forsake you.
~ Darren’s Comments ~
It is sort of bitter sweet that we have come to the end of this book. Even though I read it for the first time, when my life had already experienced the deepest testing it could, my memory of such events is blazoned on me like your body is deeply connected with your soul, thus I can relate to the feelings that this book brings up,. If you haven’t experienced a certain spiritual season yet, this book gives you the preparation for it. Outside of the Holy Bible, this book has to rank in the top 5 books that I have read. And I have less than a month before I turn 51 years of age.
Even though the book “Spiritual Rhythm: Being With Jesus Every Season Of Your Soul” is more than a great read, containing what physical seasons (winter, spring, summer, fall) as it relates to each season of your life, I am going to challenge you to get this book, read it and see what I am talking about. It is a great companion to the Bible as Mark Buchanan shares things about his life that hopefully you can see in yours. It is, sort of, a life application book to go along with your Bible.
There is only one book that is “LIVING,” and that is The Word of God; however, if you are having trouble applying it to your life, then I suggest Spiritual Rhythm: Being With Jesus Every Season Of Your Soul to go along with your daily Bible reading. (just click on Spiritual Rhythm)
Spiritual Rhythm: 4 spiritual seasons – an interview with Mark Buchanan (just click on it)
~ Darren L Beattie, The Soul Blogger of TrueLifeChristianity.com ~