Saturday, March 28, 2009


Two are better than one, because they have a good return for their work: If one falls down, his friend can help him up.

                        Ecclesiastes 4.9-10

The End

After dazzling the world with their prodigious talent and stirring up every imaginable sort of controversy, The Beatles entered the studio one last time to record “The End,” a deceptively brief, simple tune that ingeniously captured the whole of their art and philosophy. They left the world this message: “And in the end/The love you take/Is equal to the love you make.” Take a moment to let your mind wander through the entire Beatles catalog—from “Can’t Buy Me Love” and “Help!” to “Eleanor Rigby” and “In My Life” and on to “Come Together” and “Let It Be”—and you realize every stylistic road they traveled inevitably led to “The End”. Likewise, every mode of enlightenment they explored inevitably brought them back to their spiritual foundation as Anglican catechism students. For what is “The End” if not a superb distillation of Christ’s doctrine of selfless love?

“The End” frames Jesus’s commandment to love others as we love ourselves (Matthew 22.39) in the context of an earlier statement: “Give, and it will be given to you… For with the measure you use, it will be measured to you.” (Luke 6.38) We give love with confidence it will be repaid measure for measure, if not by those who receive it, then from another source. Faith in the divine principle of reciprocation profoundly alters our search for companionship. Instead of rushing to and fro looking for love, we continue to love others as love looks for us. Ecclesiastes 11.1 says, “Cast your bread upon the waters, for after many days you will find it again.” The love we give today—the compassion, forgiveness, and sacrifice we invest—determines the quality and quantity of love we receive in the future. In the end, the love we take is equal to the love we make.

A Never-Ending Beginning

The quest to love and be loved doesn’t conclude with finding “that special someone.” Love is a never-ending beginning, a dynamic process of discovery that starts over and over each moment a new factor emerges. Changes within and around us relentlessly challenge us to adapt, to reset our expectations, and to reassess our responsibilities. Companionship, whether with life partners, friends, or family, is seldom a static, predictable undertaking. Often the needs of the other demand we forego our needs and give more than we desire for his/her benefit. We keep making love, producing it at great personal expense sometimes, in order to take love when we need it.

Love is hard work, and the world runs rampant with people who selfishly prefer lazy loneliness to the intensive labor of companionship. They’re the ones who bail out the minute a partner or friend asks for more patience, understanding, or mercy than they can easily give. “I didn’t sign up for this,” they say. “It’s not working out.” And in all fairness, many times we’re misled into relationships that turn unhealthy when fiction created to lure us there breaks down and ugly facts come to light. But there are just as many times when “It’s not working out” is no more than a cowardly way of admitting “I don’t want to work this hard.” Being together means being in it together—working through difficulties, uncertainty, and unwelcome surprises. But if we uphold our commitment to those we love, Ecclesiastes 4.9-10 promises our faithfulness will be rewarded.

For Better

Two are better than one, Ecclesiastes tells us, because they accomplish more together than on their own. They’re there for one another, ready to do the heavy lifting when the other stumbles. The writer continues in verses 11 and 12, observing, “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.” What’s fascinating here is the focus on hardship, suggesting companionship is primarily meant to sustain us rather than fulfill cravings for romantic or friendly bliss. Before we recoil in horror—What? No happiness?—let’s ask how any relationship can be happy unless both parties care for and protect each other. Bearing the other’s burdens, shielding him/her from harm, and tending to his/her growth and contentment are the hallmarks of happy companions.

Proverbs 17.17 says, “A friend loves at all times, and a brother is born for adversity.” Borrowing from traditional marriage vows to stay together “for better or for worse,” companionship is designed to capitalize on worse for better. It exemplifies God’s stubborn love and unfailing concern for us. In exhorting the Early Church to lead lives that please God, Peter stresses this, saying, “Above all, love each other deeply, because love covers over a multitude of sins.” (1 Peter 4.8) True companions overlook one another’s faults, forgive one another’s mistakes, and compensate for one another’s weaknesses. This is how God loves us. This is how we love one another. This is how we stay together.

Two are better than one.

(Tomorrow: Mysterious Ways)

Postscript: Love Online

I’m delighted to recommend two blogs, both of which contributed to the inspiration for today’s post. First, though, I also must apologize for my absence this week. Professional commitments got the better of me and although I sat down a number of times hoping to produce something worth your time, the thoughts and words didn’t come. (Even today’s post shows signs of strain.) But I’m back on the job and look forward to resuming the daily schedule starting today.

Mariah and Byron Edgington are a marvelous couple who visit and comment here frequently. The care and acceptance expressed in their responses reflect the tender joy that courses through their blog, Caffection! Married to My Best Friend. The title says it all. They believe the best, happiest marriages (straight and gay) are built on nurturing the relationship between two best friends for life—lovers who are committed to one another at all times, i.e., “Co-affection” or “Caffection.” Their posts are always refreshing and inspiring. I encourage all those desirous of enriching their relationships to make Caffection! a regular reading habit.

The Parish Blog of St. Edward the Confessor far exceeds its intended purpose as the online extension of the congregational life of a vibrant parish in Albany, New York. Edited and predominantly written by Fran, whose personal blog FranIAm and regular comments here are a constant joy, the St. Edward blog is an embarrassment of riches—meditations in keeping with the liturgical calendar, essays probing theological topics, and superbly chosen illustrations. One of my favorite things about it is “Poetry Tuesday,” a weekly poem by local parishioner Donald G. Harmande. Don and I have become good friends via email. As I’ve got to know him better—particularly learning of his cherished marriage to his late wife—I’ve come to appreciate the spirit of love and wonder in his words. Drop by St. Edward’s and bask in its gentle light.  


kkryno said...

Hey, Tim! Have I got alot of catching up to do, too! I love Fran. Between you and her I seem to be coming back 'round to my spiritual side.

It's time and I really need it. I have some major forgiveness issues that must be dealt with, or I cannot progress. I know this is inevietable, and have been shown in dreams the act of forgving one certain individual. I know that The Father is showing me the importance this will play in my spiritual growth, so I'm leaning toward this.

In the case of another, I am not sure that I am capable. God hasn't even approached the subject, so I feel He Knows that I am not ready yet. By that same token; I must prepare myself for the Lord's request. I'm sure that is inevitable and the situation will present itself when He feels I am most ready.

When that happens, I must be most receptive--yet leary. Just as much as I want to believe; I will not be suckered in by a charlatan. The Lord will guide me through this muck and help keep me balanced. It is very important that I navagate this murkyness carefully. You can forgive without condoning; and that is a very fine line. I must impart upon this individual that I WILL not allow it to happen to even ONE other person: that he can be forgivien, but that I will be ever watchful...I can live with that.

Can he?

There is no more le-way for this man in this sort of situation. The piper is due. I must keep watch as there too many more young ones around him.

It is time. To remain silent is negligent.

Pray for me, Tim.

Tim said...

Vikki, I most surely will lift you in prayer. And I also will pray God's protection for the young ones around this individual--and for him, too, because it sounds as though he needs God's help in a very real, profound way.

You are wise in knowing forgiveness is not consent, nor is it pardon. Both of those actions fall outside our responsibilities, as they involve judgment--which God reserves for Himself. We must forgive others because He forgives us. This is key to our healing and peace of mind. Yet in forgiving we must take care also to release the burdens of anger and condemnation we carry as a result of the wrongs we (and others) have suffered because of the person we forgive.

Does this absolve us from doing all we can to prevent others from getting hurt? Absolutely not. We are one another's keepers. And Jesus was very clear about the fate of those who destroy the innocence of children.

In Luke 17.2, He says, "It would be better for him to be thrown into the sea with a millstone tied around his neck than for him to cause one of these little ones to sin." Then He adds, "So watch yourselves. If your brother sins, rebuke him, and if he repents, forgive him."

Be watchful, Vikki, and trust God's Spirit to guide you as you deal with this. You are right to speak up--and you'll know when the moment presents itself to do so. But in your courageous effort to safeguard others, take care to protect yourself against relapsing into the anguish this person has caused you. You have forgiven him and released yourself from his influence. You can't afford to slip back into his distorted and dangerous universe.

Forgiveness is often a repetitive process. Jesus wrapped up His statement about harmful people by saying, "If he sins against you seven times in a day, and seven times comes back to you and says, 'I repent,' forgive him." The task seemed so impossible, the apostles immediately replied, "Increase our faith!"

My beloved sister, I pray your faith will support you and guard you and guide every step you take to bring this unfortunate situation to a healthy resolution. Be strong in knowing your help comes from God.

Blessings of love and peace always,

Anonymous said...

I am dumbstruck to read this post and then the lovely Vikki's comment.

I am also glad that you noted the great talent of our resident poet, Don. He is one beautiful human being.

Vikki- you are always in my prayers.

As are you Tim.

(having log in issues so let me just leave this this way!)

Tim said...

Fran, don't ask me why, but opening an "anonymous" comment to find it's you is perhaps the funniest thing I've seen in a long, long time. I hate when the technology doesn't cooperate, but I bless its cantankerousness this time because you're the least anonymous of all my online friends. Having you "sneak in" is an unexpected joy!

Not much else to say, except Don truly is a treasure and I thank you for introducing me to him. And I'm so glad to know you're beside me in prayer for and with Vikki.

How good is God that you're in upstate New York, I'm in Chicago, and she's in Alaska, none of us has ever met face-to-face, yet we're bonded together by His love and Spirit? That's a miracle all by itself. And if our Father can do something this wonderful simply for His own pleasure, there's no reason in the world to suspect He won't take Vikki in His arms and carry her through this struggle. He will be all she needs to accomplish all He desires--I don't doubt that for a second.

Even under cover of "anonymity," it's a boundless delight to see you, Fran. As always, I pray your cup overflows with love and joy.