Wisdom Part 2

Age gives the opportunity for wisdom, but does not guarantee it. Yesterday I said that I really don’t know how to become wise. However, I do have a couple of ideas. First of all, I think we can clearly says that knowledge does not bring wisdom. I briefly explained the difference between knowledge, understanding, and wisdom. Clearly, simply learning something does not make one wise. Some degree of knowledge is certainly required for wisdom, but knowledge doesn’t bring wisdom with it (though we often like to act like it does). However, age doesn’t bring wisdom either. Ultimately, I think that wisdom comes through a combination of knowledge, experience, and character. Proverbs tells us that you can beat a fool a thousand times and he will learn nothing (I often think this describes me better), but a wise man will learn simply from watching others.

I think that without experience there can be no actual advance in wisdom. However, we all know people who simply refuse to learn. They fail in the same ways over and over (maybe I’m describing you… all too often I’m describing me), and despite their experiences, they do not grow in wisdom. So, experience does not simply bring wisdom. This is where character comes in. Our character determines how we respond to our experiences. Do I do the same thing over again, even though it ended badly last time, or do I learn from my mistakes? In many ways pride is the enemy of wisdom. If my pride keeps me from learning from my experiences, then it keeps me from developing wisdom.

Similarly, hope can sometimes be the enemy of wisdom. As I said yesterday, wisdom answers the why questions. Why should I do this, or why shouldn’t I do this? Hope, especially foolish hope, often presents unrealistic reasons that wisdom should pierce. For instance, I’ve mentioned before that in the past I’ve had a bad habit of dating young, emotionally traumatized women. Let us say that I meet a young woman who’s just come out of an abusive relationship. Wisdom should tell me that pursuing her is a bad idea. It is unlikely that she will be ready for or willing to enter the kind of relationship that I’m looking for, and I will probably get hurt if I try. However, hope whispers in my ear: ‘maybe this time will be different’.

This hope is not realistic, nor is it wise. It is, in many ways, prideful and it focuses on me and what I want, rather than focusing on God and seeking to do his will. So, I wind up following a hope that pridefully puts my own selfishness before my devotion to God. This is, of course, obviously not a wise thing to do. So, pride and prideful hope can both be enemies of wisdom, and either might result in keeping me from wisdom no matter how old I get.

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Emptiness is What I Long For…

I don’t know how many of you remember the song “Holiness” by Micah Stampley (as far as I can tell, though I found websites attributing the song to three different people). Honestly, I had to look it up because all I could remember was the first line of two verses. This isn’t a bad song, holiness and righteousness are things that we should long for, and they are things that we should pursue. God commands us to Holiness and to Righteousness, and this is what sanctification is all about. However, when I was in college we used to use this song to mock one another horrendously. Whenever someone was struggling, frustrated, down in the dumps, the lyrics of the song were replaced with whatever that person was feelings at the time. We would sing out ‘bitterness, bitterness is what I long for’ or ‘lustfulness, lustfulness is what I long for’, and we weren’t entirely being mocking. A part of the reason for this was to remind one another of where we should be. Clearly bitterness and lustfulness are not what God wants from me, and they are not what I should be pursuing. Nonetheless, we often do. In our human hearts we often mistake bitterness for righteous anger, lust for love, pleasure for joy, etc and we convince ourselves that this is the way that we should feel. We convince ourselves that this is a good thing, even though it is clear to everyone around us that it isn’t.

Last night I was at a get together with a large number of very young people. There were a few people who were my age, but most of the attendees were between eighteen and twenty-one. Part of the evening (a large part actually as there were a lot of people) was a kind of popcorn sharing of meaningful events over the summer. We were asked to share what God has been doing in our lives, and it quickly turned into people being chosen to share by others. Honestly, I spent most of the night thinking about what I might say, and as it ended I’m really not sure whether I would have said that I didn’t have to share or that I didn’t get to share. Honestly, and I hope my journal reflects this, God has done a lot over my summer. Certainly too much to share in a short tidbit.

God tends to use the summers in my life to do work on me, whether I want him to or not. I was during the summer that I started learning how to trust him. It was during the summer that I let go of my anger. It was during the summer before I converted that the Holy Spirit started drawing me himself and out of the sins that I was so comfortable with. The summer has always been a special time for me, and I honestly don’t think that’s likely to change any time soon. This summer one of the things that God has taught me is that I need to empty myself. I need to let go of my pride, my self-esteem, my self-importance, my desires, my hopes, my longing, and give them all to him. I’ve let go of some of these, but certainly not all of them. Pride is probably the most significant thing I need to let go of right now. It consistently gets in the way of following God and obeying him. Whether I’m too prideful to go to a Sunday school class, too prideful to ask out a girl, too prideful to accept being second best, too prideful to see the qualities of others… ultimately, something that God has shown me this summer is that I am often too prideful to obey. I can think of two major fights that I had with God over the past three months that were based entirely on my pride.

So, this is my song for the moment: Emptiness is what I long for. I want to be empty of myself and filled with the Holy Spirit. Somehow, I have a feeling that’s going to hurt.

A Right View of Oneself

I think I’ve mentioned before that I do martial arts as a hobby, and help teach an Aikido-Jujitsu class. I really enjoy this, though I’m not the best fighter in the world… or probably in the state, but I practice because it’s a lot of fun. I’m a fairly big guy, so I’m used to being the biggest, strongest person in the class, and being the toughest person in the class. I have to say that this always makes me feel good about myself, and there are times where I have to work hard not to be a bully (it’s a natural inclination of mine). Last week a new student started in the class. A guy who’s a little bigger and a lot stronger than me, and a lot of the simple things that work on people just don’t work on him (he doesn’t feel most of his pressure points). He’s a really nice guy, but he makes me feel inferior. In a real fight I might be able to take him… might being the key word. There’s a part of me that would like to find out honestly.

Then there’s the part of me that only wants to be around people weaker, dumber, less perceptive than myself. People that I can feel superior to. I am a prideful man, though I think I’m a lot less prideful than I used to be, and it’s something that I’m continually working on. This new student (…honestly, I haven’t had a chance to learn his name yet), we’ll call him Bill, is someone that I can definitely practice on. He’s offered to teach me some Brazilian Jiu-jitsu, an art that I’m not hugely fond of… mostly because I don’t really like ground-fighting, but I think it would be a good opportunity both to expand my martial skills and to intentionally practice humility. 

That being said, I go back to the verse in Romans 12:3. If I convince myself that only people weaker than me are worth spending time with, then I’m not likely to have a right view of myself. Spending most of my time with people that I can make myself feel superior to is a way to boost my self-esteem (i.e. pride), but not a good way to boost my confidence or a good way to have a right view of myself.

Something that I need to, and have been, making an effort to do is to spend time with people who are better than I am at things that I love to do. People who are smarter than me, people that are better fighters than me, people who are more spiritual than me.  I need to seek out ways to make myself better, instead of seeking out people who make me feel better. This is a hard thing to do.

Dang Stupidhead!

God values our honesty. This is something of which I am absolutely and completely convinced. Read the Psalms sometime if you don’t believe me. See how deeply honest the psalmists are in their prayers and praises. Psalm 136 is a great example of this in my opinion. It takes an awful lot to get more honest than that. So, God values our honesty, and sometimes that means telling him things that don’t sound particularly respectful.

Sometimes it means telling God that you think he’s a nutjob and what he’s asking for is utterly ridiculous. That’s the position I found myself in tonight… and the thing is, it wasn’t even ridiculous, just a little bit humbling. The thing is, I really am massively prideful, and so ‘a little humbling’ and ‘I don’t want to’ quickly turn into ‘God, you’re insane, this is just a stupid idea’.

When I do this God’s response is usually something along the lines of ‘Uh-huh. I don’t care, do it anyway’, which is of course wonderful for me to hear. Nonetheless, this is the conversation I had with God tonight. It finally wound up with me asking God to lay off and just let me complain about everything for five minutes, which I thought was fair considering that he knew that I was going to do exactly what he told me to do. So, I got my five minutes of whining, and he’s getting his public humiliation tomorrow, which honestly probably won’t be particularly humiliating.

This is the thing though, have you ever had something that you both really did, and absolutely didn’t want to do at the same time? Yeah, I have a feeling that my entire week is going to look like that. The thing is, I know it’s going to be good. I know that tomorrow is going to be good, and I know that fasting this week is going to be good, and I know that giving up is going to be good. Nonetheless, I find that I still don’t want to do it. The very idea of it scares the crap out of me, and I know that isn’t likely to change until I actually get through all of this. Sometimes God makes us do hard things, and as much as that isn’t any fun, it is good. … … …It still doesn’t keep me from calling him a stupidhead jerk sometimes though.