It’s been a week and I still like my job, my boss, and insurance. The week was a little slow. I’m being trained by a gal who juggles a lot of balls (none are deflated), which means there are lots of interruptions. It’s all good, but I’d rather write about something other than that, and you’d rather read about something other than that!
I managed to get to bed by 10 each night and get up at 5 each morning. It was a short week (I had MLK Day off), so I’m not sure if a 5 day week would have been as successful. But nevertheless, I was happy with my success of 4 for 4. I alternated between doing PT and weights at the club and walking. My walks are sacred.
It’s a time without distractions where I can pray and listen to something that edifies my soul. I recently subscribed to Ron Mehl’s sermons through Compassion Ministries. I didn’t know Ron Mehl, who died several years ago. He is famous around here, within the church community. He served at Beaverton Foursquare (where I belong today) for 30 years. Anyone who knows me, knows I love my church. They know I love Pastor Randy. I’ve given links in the past for Pastor Randy’s sermons. Last week’s sermon was Waiting on the Lord. It was deep and relevant. As I related significantly and as I listened, joy filled me as I considered my last six years and the blessings that have come out of faithfulness. There’s been no over night success, but blessings that have provided a sweet victory.
I’ve known that one day I would get around to hearing Pastor Ron Mehl’s messages, and now is that time. This week, I listened to his words of gentle, but direct wisdom, and at the close of each sermon, I found myself blubbering, having discovered a new aspect of either my faith, or my faults, of which I became encouraged through his message to improve. And now I know why he was the beloved man that he was.
One morning I was praying for my children, like I usually do. I asked God to give them wisdom. I laughed as I heard my words. “God, I pray that you will give Bridgette and Bradley wisdom.” “Get Wisdom.” It sounds like the milk slogan. Got Wisdom? But truthfully, if we could all “Get Wisdom,” life would be different. It would be like a magic scepter that zaps wisdom and good fortune into us. Voila! We’re wise and all our decisions bring forth good outcomes. But the truth is, we don’t just “Get Wisdom.” Wisdom is earned. As I considered this, my prayer for my kids changed, yet my end hope continues to be that my children will be wise.
FOUR WAYS WISDOM IS EARNED OR OBTAINED
1. Natural gift
- Some people are innately more wise than others.
- Good and Bad
- Trial and Error
- The older, the wiser
4. Listening to God
- Which ultimately is submitting to his authority
If I want to be clever, I could say that Wisdom is gained by one or all of NEAL. I suppose if you want to remember the four potential conditions of wisdom, you can remember my cute little acronym.
None of those factors (outside of #4) are guaranteed to bring us wisdom. Listening to God trumps them all. However, they all contribute greatly, if we let them.
There are some people who are naturally more wise than others. They are more cautious and skeptical as early as babyhood. They analyze a situation before plunging head first. They watch the adults around them and understand that good behavior is preferred and they imitate it. They recognize bad behavior and run from it. Or, they know just how far to go, and know where to draw the line. I’ve known people like this, and it truly is a gift. We benefit from these people peppered within our circles. If we all played on the playground of life without a sense of awareness, it would be utter chaos. God designed some people this way and I’m grateful for what they provide to us.
I don’t think it means they’re immune from heartache or disappointment or unintended consequences. For true wisdom, they too must always resort to #4.
Our kids don’t understand that we have been there and done that. We’ve sped and gotten tickets. Many of us have drunk and paid a regretful consequence, or we’ve experienced shame, or simply had the headache and lack of productivity that goes with too much to drink. We understand procrastination and we understand foolish things that come out of our mouth, both of which have resulted in an unplanned or disappointing outcome.
Some experiences are simply that. Experiences, both good and bad, easy and hard. Some have created hardship or have been born out of hardship. One might be a child who was a victim of parents who made bad decisions, resulting in losing a home, or facing foster care. Or maybe your hardship came from a medical crisis, or catastrophic event. Hardships can produce what some people call the silver lining. But a silver lining in severe hardships often translates to much more than a lining of any kind. It often translates to a new view on life; the kind that propels one to life changing behaviors that result in a quality of life never imagined. Or not.
Yet, regardless of the warnings and advice we give, most of our kids insist on experiencing the behavior and outcome themselves. As much as we hope they’ll learn from us, there’s no question that the experience provides the deepest lesson. But even severe hardship doesn’t guarantee that a lesson will be learned, or wisdom will be gained.
I’m 54, and there’s no question that I’m more wise today than I was at 5, at 16, at 22, 33. You get the picture. It’s a given that the older one gets, the wiser one is. But aren’t we glad that it’s not just age that grants us wisdom? If it were, we’d all have to wait half a century to be equipped to make good, solid decisions (if we’re using me as a benchmark for age). Or, some might use age as an excuse to make bad decisions. I can hear it now. “I’m sorry officer, for going 45 in a 25 MPH zone. You see, I’m not yet 54.” Age alone doesn’t grant us wisdom. But the life we experience over the accumulation of years grants us a wealth of understanding and comprehension that is a gift to be cherished and if someone is wise, to be revered.
LISTENING TO GOD
Listening to God trumps all factors in gaining wisdom. It takes shape in several forms. I believe that the most direct form of listening to God is through his word; in other words, the bible. Sometimes we wait to hear God speak to us, which may be different for each of us. I think God’s Holy Spirit usually talks to us through our spirit. When working through a situation we may feel unsettled. If God is not the author of confusion (1 Cor. 14:33), then we might believe that the direction we’re considering may not be of God, given the unsettling feeling we’re experiencing. If our decision were of God, would we feel the sense of confusion? An opposite feeling of celebration might communicate that the direction we’re going is within God’s will. There are times that God’s voice seems loud and clear, and other times we have a hard time knowing where God wants us in a particular situation.
Above all other forms of communication to us, we can be certain of one thing. That what we read in the bible will not lead us astray. Regardless of our Natural Ability, our Age, our Experience, Listening to God is the most dependable resource in gaining wisdom.
I began writing this blog before church this morning. At church Pastor Randy spoke from James 1. Even though Pastor Randy’s message wasn’t on wisdom, there’s no question that the passage from which he spoke is valuable in the teaching of wisdom. James 1:22 says simply: “Do not merely listen to the word, and so deceive yourselves. Do what it says.” Pastor Randy beautifully elaborated on that verse and others. Verse 25 finishes by saying that those who do God’s will, will be blessed.
Wisdom doesn’t come naturally to most of us. Unless you’re that person who innately seems to question and cautiously proceed, you’re like most people who have to learn wisdom. James 1:5 says, “If any of you lacks wisdom, you should ask God, who gives generously to all without finding fault, and it will be given to you.” “We should ask for it. In today’s world, asking for something is rare. Somehow the act of asking has been replaced with informing. Kids “let us know where they’ll be” instead of asking if they can go. They tell us what they need, instead of asking if we can buy something for them. I see it in marriages, as well. Asking is a form of humility. Somehow the asking feels like a form of submission, which isn’t well received in today’s culture. We must humble ourselves before God, and ask him to grant us wisdom, recognizing that he is all powerful, and that our own ability, as good as he’s designed us, isn’t enough to provide the wisdom and insight we need for the decisions we face. When we humble ourselves to the point of asking, he will “give generously to all without finding fault…”
So, me asking God to give Bridgette and Bradley wisdom doesn’t humble Bridgette and Bradley before their Lord. That prayer skips over the essence of how wisdom is earned. My prayer instead is that God will urge them, and that his Holy Spirit will be present in their lives, and that my kids’ hearts will long to serve their heavenly father. My hope is that from this, as well as experience and age, they will gain wisdom that will direct their paths according to God’s will.
A better acronym might be LEAN. We could change #4 to #1, changing NEAL to LEAN, which makes a lot more sense. But it’s late, and I’m not switching my letter order because I would have to re-write my blog.
The truth is, Listening to God is all you have to remember. Regardless of one’s Experience, one’s Age, or one’s Nature, Listening will get you wisdom before anything else will.