Have you ever spent much time pondering the Old Testament book we call Proverbs? I’ll just say upfront, I haven’t. Yes, we read and discussed it in OT class in seminary and I’ve read through it several times as I’ve lead the Bible in 90 Days program in the parishes I’ve served but I’ve never spent time really pondering this wisdom literature. As I was considering what to do for my personal reflection time during this season of Advent, I was drawn to the Book of Proverbs.
The book is a collection of sayings presented as though from a father to a son. I remember sitting down and writing to my son when he was heading off to college a synopsis of all that I wanted him to know, the things I thought would make his life easier or better. I was trying to impart the (little) wisdom I had gained by living my life in a feeble effort to prevent him from making some of the same mistakes I had. As I’m now on the down hill side of middle age (it’s a slow and steady slope following Jesus on an amazing journey that is so much better than charging the hill in my earlier years) I am coming to know that words of wisdom help build the framework of the loom that will weave the beautiful fabric of life with lived experience.
We can gather words of wisdom but until we grasp the purpose and meaning of wisdom I don’t think the words can’t shape our life effectively. Wisdom, to be wise, is taking what we learn and experience and letting it guide who we are and what we do so that we (and yes the plural is intentional) flourish and thrive in whatever family/group/culture/society we are living in. Part of living wisely is knowing that because we are created by the Trinitarian God (the ultimate community) to be in communion with God and each other, we are most fully human in community. We do not thrive when we seek an individualistic life in which we look out only for our individual self and not also those with whom we live.
So, perhaps, the reason I’ve not delved into the book of Proverbs before now is that I wasn’t ready. I was still seeking only knowledge and not wisdom (even if I thought I was). Wisdom literature can’t so much make us wise as it helps us discern the wisdom we’ve gained through life experience as we follow Jesus as God’s beloved children.
The writer of Proverbs begins like this:
“Their (these sayings) purpose is to teach wisdom and discipline, to help one understand wise sayings. They provide insightful instruction, which is righteous, just, and full of integrity. They make the naive mature, the young knowledgeable and discreet. The wise hear them and grow in wisdom; those with understanding gain guidance.”
Proverbs 1:2-5 CEB
The writer also personifies wisdom as a woman. I like the idea of wisdom as a companion, not something we possess or gain but someone with whom we journey, ever growing, ever maturing, our best self. To be fully transparent, I’m not quite sure what this journey into the Book of Proverbs has to do with the season of Advent but I’m listening to the prompting of the Holy Spirit as I spend time reading and praying and pondering them each day. I’d love it if you’d be able to spend some time with Proverbs, too, and share with me what you are gleaning from the richness of these words.
May your Tuesday and your coming week be filled with the awareness of the presence of God, my friends.