Tuesday 14 June 2022

Together Entwined

A threefold cord is not quickly broken.
–Ecclesiastes 4:12b

It’s funny how things come together sometimes. In the first week of June, we held the meetings of our Academic Senate and Board of Trustees, as well as our first in-person Convocation since 2019. At our Senate meeting, ICS Senator and Vice Chancellor Dr. Beth Green referred to the passage from Ecclesiastes, quoted above, noting how strands of yarn are themselves made when wool fibres are twisted together, and how, in turn, bigger and even stronger cords are made from the twisting and twining of these individual strands.

With this image, Beth drew our attention to the importance of the creative twisting and cooperative flexibility we are called to assume in our various roles at ICS, as we faithfully strive to pursue our mission in Christian higher education. When we come together in that task, we become stronger as an institution and better able to create healthy, graceful communities of learning and discovery for the students we serve.

Yet for all its emphasis on the importance of coming together, this chapter of Ecclesiastes begins in a very different place, noting “all the oppressions that are practiced under the sun,” resulting in both the solitary suffering of victims, as well as the lonely existence of oppressors (vs. 1). The teacher then points to the fact that we all need each other to live healthy and abundant lives, that we utterly depend on each other both to survive and to thrive—“woe to one who is alone and falls and does not have another to help” (v. 10b). An oppressive society is one that has allowed itself to unravel, leaving its individual strands to untwine and ultimately fray on their own.

Later, during the ICS Convocation, I recalled the image of the threefold cord when I gave my laudatio in honour of Benjamin Shank, who received his PhD degree. Benjamin’s dissertation highlights the crucial role played by the trust relationships we form in early childhood, which give us the ability to become healthy adults, people able to live with hearts wide open to one another and to the rest of God’s good creation. When our parents lovingly entwine themselves into our lives from our earliest moments, we ourselves become part of a stronger cord, and learn how to twist ourselves in ways that will build up the others we meet along life’s way.

When such trust fails, as it can, fear and anxiety may take over. While understandable, this is a tragic reaction, because at the end of the day our utter dependence on the support of others does not change simply because fear has taken the place of trust. Untwining ourselves and going it alone, as fear encourages us to do, is not a livable option, and that fact says something deep about the kinds of creatures we are.

A good way to think about our Christian faith, then, is as a deep trust in the Source of life, a trust that instills in us a desire to become entwined with a God who, in Jesus Messiah, shows us the path of healing and blessing. As we twist ourselves into the way of that God, we take steps toward the kingdom of shalom he promises is coming. In this way, we find ourselves coming together, mutually strengthening one another, and shaping a world where no one is ever made to go it alone ever again.

Thank you for entwining yourselves into the life of ICS, friends. You make us stronger and better able to serve all the different kinds of students who come through our doors seeking God’s wisdom for the world. I wish you all a restful and creative summer, and I hope to see you back in this space in September!


Ron Kuipers