Snoring in the Library

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Marking Jewish Themes with Devotion

Sabbaths, Feasts, and More

“A wise man will listen and will add to his wisdom, and the intelligent will gain leadership” (Proverbs 1:5).

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. 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 is a profound quote and applicable to the journey we call life.

Everyone knows at least one over-educated person who continually stays in school, earning one degree after another 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 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.

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 or of yesterday to bring about the desired end. Education, reading, self-improvement are excellent tools that aid us on the way. They offer great advantage.

Our libraries and bookstores are over-laden with a glut of fantastic books and not so fantastic. Each person has a story to tell, 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.

For more study…

James 1:5, Proverbs 1:20-33, Job 12:13

Work it into daily life…

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 your life.

©Bonnie Saul Wilks


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