I really enjoy preaching the message that says we need others. I do not enjoy tasting the bittersweet of that reality, with the first word coming out of my mouth as a babe: “mine.” I’ve been married for almost four full years, but whenever I reminisce about our wedding day, the pronoun flips to my wedding day. Alone has not too often bothered me, but working with others has allowed for a world of conflict and problems. I’d prefer to deal with my neediness that I also don’t want to acknowledge on my own.
Yet, most growth is birthed from confession of neediness, hand-in-hand with others. These words take humility, and like growth, can be painful to embrace. The issue with humility and I is that I do not want to admit failure. The issue with failure and I is it devastates me instead of becoming a new avenue to change. Still I pray the Lord would gently reveal idols, and there is always an answer to that prayer.
My husband washes dishes while I write at the last hour. I finally hit my own breaking point with proposal rewrite number three (which I also hate to admit) and ask trusted people for help. After my faithful apologies for not responding to a text for the umpteenth time, a persistent friend gets on my schedule. I buy the wrong thread due to my tireless love for efficiency and unfortunate lack of knowledge, and get to thank my co-worker for patiently teaching me new things and for having grace with me.
The story found here in Ecclesiastes is actually a citation from the story of Gilgamesh. In order to slay the monster Humbaba, Gilgamesh asks his friend to help him, to stick with him, to join forces. It is a human thing to need one another.
My story comes laced with saccharine, the grace of a small handful of people to call ours, and who also call us theirs. Gilgamesh and Enkiddu defeat the monster together. Where Qohelet’s proverb stings is the words of a community needed, and a situation where a community is not found. In your loneliness, I mourn with you, reader. As the teacher laments it, so must we.
Chapter Four continues on Ecclesiastes similar timbre with the quick rise of solace and meaning into an immediate fall, the story of power had and lost, of meaninglessness. No person or generation has been able to, as Robert Alter calls it, “herd the wind.” We have all felt the grievances of grasping, of searching, of waiting.
The gift of reading Scripture is that after a chapter, there is another. As the context of a sentence determines the meaning of the word, so does the context of the book as a whole help us to see even more of what is in front of us. Slowly, and readily, we are disheartened along with our author. There is more to know, the study not yet finished. In humility again, we receive, and do the next thing.