According to the most popular book ever sold in the history of man, the Bible, the wise get wisdom and become wiser. It sounds appealing. This particular attribute is not book learning or the acquisition of knowledge exactly. It’s broader, deeper — something that comes from above, yet finds grounding, human expression, and potential when it flows from the heart like the bubbling of a purifying fountain.
I read something the other day that hit home: “Learning sleeps and snores in libraries, but wisdom is everywhere, wide-awake, on tiptoe (Josh Billings).This quote is great and easy to measure its accuracy and profundity, applicable to the journey we call life.
Everyone knows at least one over-educated person who continually stays in school, earning degree after degree yet never develops the ability to make wise choices. Maybe you’ve had to bail her out of jail or debt or worse because of the absence of levelheaded, common sense choices.
The apostle Paul tells us in his letter to the Corinthians—a people who loved learning—that “knowledge puffs” our heads and egos. It can pad our wallets too sometimes. A side effect that we need to measure carefully; because in the eyes of the world, riches and luxury living are the sum total of success. Sadly, the accumulation of wealth has nothing to do with acquiring wisdom and the ability to live a joyful and purposeful existence.
Actor Jim Carrey said, “I wish everyone could experience being rich and famous so they’d see it isn’t the answer to anything.” Evidently, this became a lesson he acquired too late. He suffered in ways unknown to us, and his desperate expression, even plea, proves once again that humankind’s best training, hardest work, greatest gifting can bring affluence and influence but not deep, down soul satisfaction.
You could say Jim Carrey is wiser now because he climbed the ladder according to the prescription or “wisdom” of the world but found it disappointingly empty at its peak.
I also like what Herbert Clark Hoover said, “Wisdom consists not so much in knowing what to do in the ultimate but knowing what to do next.”
This boils it down to simple yet profound truth of the importance and duty of wisdom. I may not know how to negotiate preparations from now to my dying day—the final end of earth’s journey, but I can gain the heart savvy on what to do next. After all, the next step is vital for the last leap. I cannot end up at my targeted destiny if I misstep over and over in small, daily choices or direction.
The Jewish shepherd/king, David, said, “Your Word is a lamp unto my feet and a light for my path” (Psalm 119:105). Ultimate and profound wisdom develops through meditating on God’s Word—ruminating and chewing the life-giving morsels slowly, swallowing them deeply, and allowing their cleansing properties to effectuate change. In the process of savoring the spiritual nutrients, we find old-fashioned know how to make the next step properly. In reality, we also find that God’s Word becomes not only a blueprint for life’s passages, but it is “health to our bones” as well.
I am not against gathering the colloquial knowledge of the day of of yesterday to bring about a desired end. Education, reading, self-improvement are excellent tools that aid us on the way. They offer great advantage.
Fools of this world balk at heavenly wisdom for earthly matters when they hear it, or they are too puffed up from their learning to recognize a higher plan to life’s journey.
When I was in nurse’s training in Denver, Colorado, in my early 20’s, my roommate was not a believer. She saw me reading my Bible every day and said to herself that it seems like a foolish waste of time. She could never be interested enough to read it daily. Later when she came to believe and embraced Jesus as her Messiah and Lord, she couldn’t stop reading God’s Word. What foolishness at one time became wisdom to her.
Our libraries and bookstores are over-laden with a glut of fantastic books and not so fantastic, self-help guides, creative fiction and non-fiction applicable to life’s complex journey homeward. Each person has a story to tell of value, and it is easy to self-publish these days. But we can soak in it beyond the point of saturation and find ourselves asleep and snoring in the library. Wisdom waits on the street, everywhere, on tiptoe or on high alert to be received and applied. Not every book is based on wisdom, although helpful or entertaining.
The instructors of our day, both spiritual and worldly, send out strong imperatives for us to read, read, read! But I might add to that command the word “read carefully.” If we do not choose what we read carefully, the stories or self-improvements may become as self-anesthetizing as our addiction to television, movies, or food for that matter. We may find ourselves in a stupor while wisdom waits…
I don’t want to be found asleep in the library in these critical days. I want to be on high alert on tiptoe, seeking and using wisdom to navigate the journey with joy. There are three foundational ways to acquire wisdom.
1) Pray for wisdom. God promises to give it liberally to those who ask.
2) Meditate on God’s Word constantly.
3) Ask for counsel from older, wiser disciples.
These simple steps will lead you to joy and purpose in life. They will lead you to take great care in the small, daily steps that ultimately guide you home to God’s destiny for you life.
Jewish sages are known for their wisdom, and God’s chosen people in general are known for their opinions. It is very true that opinion and the truth of wisdom may be very different, but often they run on parallel tracks. It is also said that if you find two Jewish people in a room together, you will find three opinions. Interestingly, even humorously, I find this true about myself. I may have two opinions on one subject, and to make it worse, they may be differing opinions. And I like to weigh in on opinion as much as anybody.
As I have devoted myself to God and been a follower of Jesus for nearly forty years now. I have developed many opinions, hopefully not in a divisive way. In reality, I don’t like to call these opinions rather reflections on life’s journey. Hardly anyone appreciates unsolicited advice. So I try to steer away from solid advice, especially on non-life altering matters.
As I reflect, I write. And maybe what I have gathered is more for me than anyone. Maybe it is more for my family. Time will tell. Through all of my efforts, I want to restore glory to the Lord’s name among the nations, to honor Him for what He’s done for me and the whole world. I do not want to be found in a stupor—asleep and snoring in the library—rather awake and alive to God’s wisdom, everywhere, on tiptoe.
That wisdom is there for me to help guide me homeward with joy and purpose.
For a number of years, I have been writing and gathering sayings, poems, short stories, reflections, and brief summations of life from my experiences that settle upon me in the glow of reconsideration of the significance of the days and moments of the journey. And as I am concluding this, I think this will do nicely for the introduction to my second book with the thesis statement of “Those found sleeping and snoring in the library will never discover the wisdom needed to take the next step in life.”
“Wisdom shouts aloud in the streets, she calls from the public squares” (Proverbs 1:20).
(Photo credit: Mary Jo Pierce on the left and me on the right.)