Think of chapter one of Proverbs as simply setting the table for readers to understand and feast upon true wisdom. So what is wisdom and where does it come from? The writer seems to give two sources, The Lord and those who have gone before (i.e. Mothers and Fathers). It’s interesting because ideally these sources will produce the same wisdom but more often than not they are somewhat different if not utterly contradictory.
“Listen my sons, to your father’s instruction and do not forsake your mother’s teaching. They will be a garland of grace your head…” (1:8). If this verse is meant only for children who grew up in healthy two parent homes than well over 90% of us should cut it straight out of our bibles. However, as there often is with God’s Word, we have other ways to understand this nugget of wisdom.
“Wisdom calls aloud in the street, she raises her voice in the public squares…in the gates of the city she makes her speech” (1:20).
What we must trust about the wisdom of God is that is it not hiding. It is not only found in prayer closets, large (often expensive) worship experiences or when we’ve found the time and privilege to quarantine ourselves away from distraction. Wisdom is all around us, shouting at us, pleading with us to listen, but hearing wisdom has almost nothing to do with our five senses and everything to do with the sixth sense of humility.
“If you had responded to my rebuke, I would have poured out my heart to you and made my thoughts known to you” (1:23).
God’s rebukes are typically not experienced in visual or tangible ways but they are always felt by the humble heart. They are also rarely formal external statements of disappointment as much as they are internal nudges in a different direction. But often when we sense that we are in the wrong we imitate the ancient magic trick making our sin and even ourselves disappear behind more presentable fig leafed facades.
The word rebuke in verse 23 in the Proverbs has to do with turning or changing course. We can also translate the word rebuke to mean to return or to turn back. You see the Church has often been plagued by a theology of hiding. We believe wisdom is hiding so in order to find it we hide all the things in us that aren’t wise. In doing so we hide our true selves for we are not made of only light but a mixture of light and shadow. When we hide ourselves we, like Adam and Eve, always project our hiding onto God, putting words in his mouth that we are unacceptable and must be cleaner before coming to him.
But maybe there is a different option. Maybe we can replace our theology of hiding with a theology of returning. What would it be like this new year to return, to revisit the ways we were taught to understand God. What if we revisited some of the projections we place on God, that he is somehow hiding from us or consistently disappointed in us? What would it be like to return to our earliest wisdom and revelations about God, his goodness, gentleness and love for us? What if we revisited some of the un-wisdom that may have set us up to mistrust God and stifled our growth, joy and formation into the image of God?
The writer of proverbs one seems to think that wisdom is not waiting to speak to us only when we open our ears, but rather that in every relationship, menial task, and in every season of light or shadow we encounter, wisdom is shouting to us when we humbly cancel our burdensome search for it.
What if this year we could risk returning. I don’t know what it is you might be feeling a drawing to return to but whatever it is what if you returned to it?
You see, the things that kill our growth in Christ faster than anything are experience that have left us ashamed. When we experience shame we tend to cut that shameful part of ourselves off. But when we cut off or even hide a part of ourselves we can’t help but cut off all of ourselves.
Shame’s thesis statement is always one of two statements, “You are unacceptable. Or, I am am unacceptable.”
Here’s my final question. What about you do you view as unacceptable? What about other’s do you view as unacceptable?
What I’m finding is that wisdom and the source of wisdom, Christ is found in the unacceptable. Repentance is not closing our eyes to our sin or purifying ourselves so that we are acceptable. Repentance is returning, revisiting and hosting the least within ourselves, the parts of our soul and life experience that we’ve shoved in a closet.
God has chosen the foolish things of this world the shame the wise but we often live as though to find wisdom we must shame what is foolish in ourselves. Wisdom is shouting from within us if we’d only be foolish enough to listen.