“Two are better than one…” (Ecclesiastes 4:9).
It was for good reason the Lord said “It is not good for man to be alone.” He who made humans knew them. “He knows our frame; He is mindful that we are but dust.” (Genesis 2:18 and Psalm 103:14)
The Heavenly Father knows we need someone in harness with us.
Ever try to row a boat with one oar? By stroking only on one side of the boat?
Without the counterbalance of the other oar, we tend to get off course, to go in circles, if you will.
Most of us need marriage. We are better people as a result of being joined in wedlock to someone different from us, someone who loves us, but who sees life from another angle and brings their own perspective into every issue.
Consider this a word in favor of marriage and remarriage.
I’m not saying everyone needs to be married, nor that all widowed seniors should have that as their goal. After all, the widows will greatly outnumber the widowers, we’re told, so clearly, remarriage is not possible for a large contingent of older women.
In the previous article on this subject, we danced all around the topic but without ever answering the question whether widowed seniors should remarry. That is, yes or no, is it a good idea?
In sharing the idea with my wife Bertha (we had just celebrated two weeks of marriage with pecan waffles and bacon at the local Waffle House! ), an incident from history came to mind as an illustration on why marriage is a great idea in general, and remarriage in particular.
Anderson Prison was a Confederate penal institution during the Civil War. Located in South Georgia, this sad place may win the ignominious award as the worst prison ever on American soil. A roomful of books have been written on that prison. I’ve read several of them, including McKinley Kantor’s prize-winning “Andersonville.” My wife Margaret and I once walked over that site and grieved for the sad lives lost there. A particular story from Anderson stands out in my mind.
As prisoners are wont to do everywhere, Union prisoners tried tunneling out of that hell-hole again and again. This particular time, they were using scrapers of some kind–I’m rusty on the details; going by memory here. They began by digging down inside someone’s tent, then dug horizontally for a great distance. Eventually, they were sure they had tunneled underneath the stockade walls all the way to freedom, but they had no way to make sure. They were to find out the hard way that they had failed.
A soldier walking through the camp fell into a hole. That hole turned out to be the farthest extremity of the tunnel–and still inside the prison compound. The poor prisoners had been digging the tunnel, not in a straight line, but in a huge arc. The reason why they did that is interesting and makes the point I’m getting at here.
All the diggers were right-handed. So, in the dark tunnel, as they scraped with their crude instruments, everyone was pulling dirt the same way, in the same direction, without any way of measuring their progress or determining their direction. That’s why the tunnel ended up going in a huge arc. Eventually, I suppose, had they kept at it long enough, they’d have made a complete circle.
There was no counterbalance, no corrective.
And that, it seems to me, is the role of a wife to a husband, a man to his mate.
When a person lives alone, they tend to do the same thing over and over. Their life is lived in one direction, sweeping across the landscape as they see fit and think best. Their habits are a certain way, good or bad, with no one to say otherwise. The totality of their life–investments, time spent, diets, recreation, everything–is generally run according to how they want to do it.
During my two years of widowhood, I found myself eating ice cream out of the carton. After all, no one else was there to share it, so why not? Who was there to say otherwise?
During my two years of widowhood, there were no flowers or green plants in my house since caring for such is not something I do well. I love them, I just don’t make a point of buying them and caring for them. Since Bertha has moved in to this new home, plants are all over the place. This home is beautiful. She has ideas on how pictures ought to be hung, better ways to place the furniture than the utilitarian arrangement I had adopted, and the yard is looking better every day. This afternoon, she brought a gallon of stain from her car to the back deck and began painting. I knew it needed a fresh coat, and eventually–I suppose–I’d have gotten around to it. But Bertha does not hesitate. If there is a need, she takes action.
God made us this way
How does that line go in Genesis? “It is not good for man to be alone; I will make him a helper suitable for him.” (2:18) The footnote in my Bible indicates that “suitable” means corresponding to. Somewhere I have heard that the Hebrew there literally means “like opposite.” That is, the woman whom God made for Adam was both like him and opposite to him.
That seems to me a perfect description of a good spouse. We are like each other, sharing values and goals and a thousand other things. But we are also opposite to one another, seeing with our individual eyes and perspective. We bring different experiences and philosophies into marriage. And that’s good.
This must be the big reason God declared that singleness is not His plan for mankind. He knows we need balance in our lives. We need a partner.
“Two are better than one,” says Ecclesiastes 4:9, “because they have a good return for their labor.”
“For if either of them falls, the one will lift up his companion. But woe to the one who falls when there is not another to lift him up. Furthermore, if two lie down together they keep warm, but how can one be warm alone? And if one can overpower him who is alone, two can resist him.”
Marriage does this. It provides a co-laborer, a helper when one is down, warmth, and a team member when facing life’s giants.
No two people will bring the same things into the marriage
Bertha and I agreed from the outset that we would not be comparing each other with Gary or Margaret, either positively or negatively. That was her idea and I endorse it completely. People are different.
I’ve told on these pages, for instance, how during the last few years of her life, over the breakfast table, Margaret would listen as I read the latest article for this website to her. Sometimes she would question a word or volunteer some thoughts when I was stumped. She was known to ask, when the article was particularly boring or too general, “So—who do you think will be interested in this?” Such input is invaluable to one who is trying to write something helpful.
Bertha brings other strengths to the table and does things in her own way. When I told her a friend had suggested we write our thoughts on widowed seniors remarrying, an hour later she handed me two hand-written pages with points and pointers on the subject. Her ideas formed the basis of much of the article. She’s a schoolteacher and will continue teaching in the local community college in the same way I will still be preaching and traveling (and sketching) as long as the Lord will allow it.
Bertha’s Gary and I are alike in many ways. We were classmates in seminary and we attained the same three degrees. We were both pastors in Southern Baptist churches in some of the same states. But our approaches to so many things are not even close. Bertha is good with that, and does not expect me to compete with or imitate him.
What does God have for you? Even if you do not know, He does. “I know the plans I have for you,” He told the Jews in Babylonian exile (Jeremiah 29:11).
We would each be wise in laying ourselves before Him for whatever He has. After all, His way is best, He will lead us in the path of righteousness, and we will never go wrong in following Him.