Life is often referred to as a journey. The paths we take and the decisions we make determine where we end up, but it is often difficult to find the “right” path or even know what it looks or feels like.
“Do I pursue a relationship with this person? Should I take this job transfer? How do I lead my teenager through this issue? Where do I go to further my education? Should I quit my job and start my own business?”
Wisdom offers clarity on recognizing the best course so we do not stumble or end up in the wrong place.
Roughly twelve years ago, my husband and I desperately needed help finding our way forward as it had been clouded by loss, confusion, and painful circumstances.
Laslett John Pott [Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons
We all need advice from time to time. We need people in our lives that can speak into dilemmas or challenges we must confront to give us insight, a different perspective, or direction. Proverbs talks a lot about the importance of having advisors and asserts:
“Plans fail for lack of counsel, but with many advisors they succeed” (Prov 19:20).
In Managing Oneself, Peter F. Drucker states that some people need advisors to force themselves to think, “then they can make decisions and act on them with speed, self-confidence, and courage (pg 20). That’s me. I often need someone who knows the right questions to ask to help me order my thoughts and priorities without necessarily trying to give me “the answer.”
But how do we know who to listen to? How do we recognize someone who we can trust to give us wise counsel?
I have many friends with stories of pursuing their dream of business ownership. Many of those stories portray success and accomplishment, inspiring onlookers to follow their own dreams and entrepreneurial spirits. Others, however, are stories of loss, betrayal, and bitter disappointment. Some have lost their business, been thrust into uncontrollable debt, or found themselves in prison for illegal activities their partners conducted unbeknownst to them. These stories can be terrifying and make us ask, “Is there any wisdom for choosing a partner that will protect my investment and ensure the greatest opportunity for success?”
Of course, there is risk. Starting a business takes risk– everyone knows that the risk-takers are usually the rain-makers, but some risks may not be worth taking in the long run– like choosing a poor fit to partner with in your new venture. Another term for this kind of partnership is yoking.
Who will you “yoke” yourself to when attempting a big venture?
If you have been around the church for a while, you have probably heard the New Testament caution, “Do not be yoked with an unbeliever” (2 Cor 6:14), which is most often applied in the context of dating and marriage. That is HUGE and I cannot underscore enough the importance of this in the context of personal relationships, but I believe this has a much broader application than most Christians know or practice.
Do you ever feel like no matter what you say, it’s going to come out wrong, or worse, not at all? Like when introducing your friend and editor of your very first book to a gathering of women at YOUR church and you forget her name in front of God and everyone?!? Nothing says “I love and appreciate you for your tireless effort of cleaning up my writing and rambling” more than, “Oh my gosh, what is your name!!!” Talk about wanting to run screaming from the room….
Even our best intentions at encouragement, comfort, or reassurance often take flight only to drop with a nearly audible thud right in front of us. Like when you’re at the funeral of say, a former pastor that you love and respect, who is grieving the loss of his wife, and say something like, “She is finally well again, at peace with loved ones…waiting for you!”
A few nights ago, I had trouble getting to sleep…I mean TROUBLE! Everything was wrong…the room was too warm, my pillow too hard, the covers too heavy, and my mind- I just couldn’t shut it down. It was speeding into overdrive imagining every possible thing that could go wrong. Yes, that old frenemy “fear” had come to visit.
Loic Djim- Unsplash
I’m not sure why I was so anxious that night- it had been a great day— but as I was winding down, I started to feel uneasy. “It’s too much….” The day was too much, my commitments were too much, the news was DEFINITELY too much…and before you know it, I was laying in bed tossing and turning to the sound of complete chaos in my mind while watching precious minutes speed by.
I tried praying– that’s what most Christians do (understandably) when we start to panic, but I couldn’t!! There was so much noise in my head that I could not organize a single, coherent sentence!!
Everyone today seems to be offended by something or by someone…it is the latest victim-mentality of the 20-teens, or whatever we’re supposed to call this decade of the 21st Century. You know how it goes, you do or say something, whether audibly or digitally, something that might reflect your unique feeling, opinion, or perspective on something, without considering if every. single. person. within range would agree with you, and BOOM! Conditions are ripe for offense.
Caleb Woods Unsplash – no alterations
A few weeks ago my toddler and I were having lunch with friends. You know the sitch- we’re talking, laughing, eating our weight in chips and salsa, and the child decides she no longer wants to sit quietly like the perfect little cherub. I feed her chips, one of those brilliant squeezy-pouch applesauce concoctions, and all the chicken from my soup, but she wasn’t having it. Like a fighter pilot in a tailspin, she searched frantically for the emergency ejection button to her highchair, to no avail. She let out a howl here and there, but this was not what an experienced mom like me calls a four-alarm tantrum…nothing requisite of a “trip to the bathroom” or an early departure– she was moderately irritating if I had to be honest.
Do you question what it takes to grow in wisdom? Do you find yourself doubting that YOUR life could reflect and amplify godly wisdom or wonder if you can experience the peace and blessings of being on the right path?
Moses sought a “heart of wisdom” in (Ps 90:12) and Job’s friend Elihu believed that God shows a “regard for all the wise in heart” (Job 37:24.)
So what does our heart have to do with wisdom?
Most of us think of wisdom as being associated with intelligence, experience, or discernment, not something that goes deeper, to the very heart of a person.
Attribution: © Nevit Dilmen no alterations https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/GNU_Free_Documentation_License
It’s no surprise that our hearts are hurting. Current events in the world and recent social and political turmoil in America have left many feeling confused, angry, and brokenhearted. It seems everywhere we turn there is criticism, argument, and overwhelming fear or negativity. And it spreads like a virus, going straight to the heart, weakening who we are as individuals and as a nation. We need healing.
But with such pain and frustration, it seems easier to join your preferred bandwagon rather than be the lone voice of faith, hope, or love, especially when many are now hardened and cynical, doubting that ANY of those things even exist anymore.
But what if I told you it is much easier than you would think…to change the course of conversation and bring about health and healing?
We live in a culture of more. More things. More food. More fun. We strive to get more in nearly all aspects of our lives. More education. More responsibility. More money. Even things that are beneficial drive us towards getting more of something. More muscle. More focus. More time. And the more we get, the more we want. Yet we are never satisfied... never actually content.
I walk around my home and I see too much stuff…clothes, toys, books, knickknacks. Every Saturday I clean out the fridge and dispose of leftover foods from the week that we either cannot or will not eat, yet head to the store to buy more groceries. My bi-annual trips to donate unwanted households to our local charity have become monthly in an effort to curb that choking feeling when I look around at unnecessary stuff and struggle to breathe. The more I get, the worse I feel.
We all want to feel alive and growing in our faith, knowing and understanding God in a deeper way, secure enough in Him to weather the many storms of life, and still see evidence of this health in our relationship with God and others. But how does that happen? How do we consider these aspects of our journey of faith? Well, I believe it can best be assessed if we each saw ourselves as being “planted.”
Our faith and our relationship with Christ, is the result of someone sowing a seed or many seeds into our lives. And truth, the gospel message, even our faith, are referred to as seeds in the Bible. These seeds and the plants they grow are a powerful metaphor for our spiritual lives.