What is Wisdom Really?

Have any of you ever done something that you wished you didn’t do? Have any of you ever done something knowing that it was probably a bad idea right from the beginning? Well, today we speak about wisdom as it is personified in our scriptures for this morning. The voice that tries to lead us in the right direction that tries to tell us what is right and wrong is wisdom at work calling to us. Ignoring wisdom can be something as simple as eating something that was a little old and truly regretting it the next day. Or something as large as saying something hurtful that never should have been said. We all struggle with wisdom. We all struggle to heed its call.

When I was younger my brothers and I used to love to go to my Great Uncle’s pond. There was always something fun to do at the pond whether it was watching the geese with their babies, fishing in the summertime, catching frogs and baby turtles, laughing at one another when we inevitably ended up chased by the geese for getting too close to the babies, rowing out into the center of the pond with our boat, or ice skating in the winter time and playing hockey with our cousins. I learned to fish in his pond and I learned to ices skate there too. I was taught early on that in the winter we needed to respect the ice. It needed to be tested for strength before we could skate. I was taught that the areas where the cattails grew were off limits because the ice was always thinnest there.

Well, one day we were out skating and playing games on the ice and I decided that I wanted to pick one of the cattails for myself. I planned to lean over the area not risking getting too close to avoid the thin ice. I will be honest; I knew this was a poorly conceived idea right from the beginning. In my mind, I heard that voice of wisdom telling me to give up on my quest and to avoid that ice. It wasn’t thick enough. I did it anyway thinking that of course nothing would happen to me.

So leaning over I grabbed a hold of the cattail and pulled hard and sure enough the ice cracked and I fell in. Lucky for me, it wasn’t that deep. It only went up to my knees. But that was the coldest water and walk home I have experienced yet. I was stupid and I decided not to follow the call to do something safer or different even though I knew full well what I was risking. Wisdom is that voice that was created by God that has always been intended to lead us back into his care; it keeps us safe, and keeps us on his path. If we listen to it that is. Our scriptures were clear about that this morning. So often we chose to do our own will rather than following God’s. So often we have our own visions in mind instead of looking for what God’s vision is. Sometimes we make mistakes, stupid ones, ones that leave us feeling embarrassed, or guilty, that leave us with the feeling of being weighed down by the cares of the world around us. We make mistakes. We make poor judgments. We are human.

Moses didn’t follow the lead of wisdom when he disobeyed God and didn’t ask the rock for water in the wilderness and for that he never got to enter into the Promised Land. Jonah didn’t follow the call of wisdom when it revealed to him God’s will for him as a prophet, and he ended up in the belly of a whale. Thomas the twin couldn’t trust in the words of his fellow disciples about the Resurrection and has since been known as the doubter. Peter didn’t trust in the wisdom given to him to continue to walk on water and started to sink. Everyone including the forefathers of our faiths have doubted, followed their own will, and all have turned away from the path that wisdom has called us to walk. If this were not the case, there would be no need for wisdom to plead with us in Proverbs by saying, “Does not wisdom call, and does not understanding raise her voice?”1 Sometimes, with the smaller things ignoring wisdom just leads us on a little detour but many other times it leads us to periods of either physical or emotional pain. But it is not because wisdom or God is punishing us for our faults. It is because our mistakes naturally lead us into struggle.

When I worked preschool, I used to speak a lot about natural consequences. If the child didn’t heed our warnings, it often led to that child falling down and getting hurt or it led to the other children not wanting to play with them. The same thing happens even when we are adults. When we ignore the advice of wisdom, the words of God come to life in the Holy Spirit then we pay the natural consequences. But that does not mean it ends with that. We hear in Paul’s letter to the Romans, “For a while we were still weak, at the right time Christ died for the ungodly”.2 When we turn our back on all that makes sense, when we make poor decisions, we are assured that because of Christ’s sacrifice, because of his death, that we have been forgiven and are given the opportunity to learn from our mistakes and to try again. So as we go forth into another week, we are reminded that no matter our struggles, no matter our limitations as creatures of habit, no matter how many times we fail to live in to the call of the Holy, we have forgiveness and are encouraged to keep trying to live by faith, to keep seeking a better tomorrow. So take a moment, to listen for the voice of wisdom, the divine reason instilled in each of us and explore where it leads you this week in your faith journeys. Because as C.S. Lewis wrote, “Relying on God has to start all over every day, as if nothing has yet been done”.3 This is how it is with wisdom. We beginning again each day by deciding that today is the right time to start seeking God in the form of wisdom pulling and leading us into a new tomorrow.

1 Proverbs 8: 1, NRSV.
2 Romans 5: 6 NRSV.
3 C.S. Lewis, 20th century.