I looked out the window of a shop built on the edge of the Grand Canyon and thought, “Man, that other side is a long way off. Can you even get there from here? How long would it take to descend down into that great rift and back up the other side? How many miles would it be to walk around? Before telephones did the people living on either side even communicate with each other?”
Can I admit there is something strangely satisfying about venting long-withheld anger? For a moment. Then there’s the mess to clean up.
My children still talk about the day I was so frustrated with the filthy condition they left the kitchen in that I wound up and with all my might, hurled a brand new bag of Oreo cookies at the wall. They stared incredulously as the split package of crumbs and filling slid to the floor with a thud. Store-bought cookies were a highly-valued rare treat in our home. One simply does not throw Oreos at the wall.
Not the Oreos!! Mom must be really mad.
I made my point. They took me seriously and for a while, scrambled to tidy up after themselves.
But then I noticed the kids start to express their frustration with each other by throwing and smashing things. I had set a precedent. Now I had a bigger mess to clean up than a bag of broken chocolate cookies. My end goal was to raise responsible, considerate children, but I lost track of that bigger picture in my longing for just one evening without dirty dishes filling every inch of the counters (and in this case actually sitting on the floor when they ran out of room to pile them by the sink.) It was a Pyrrhic victory.
I remember reading a verse in the Bible later that said, “The anger of man does not accomplish the purposes of God.” Oops. My action was temporarily effective, but not wise.
Lately the Lord has been bringing the word wisdom to my attention. Googling “spiritual gift of wisdom” led to an interesting, if inconclusive rabbit trail. Is wisdom the ability to study scripture and make practical behavioural applications in a sermon, or is it a sudden divine download on how to secure a better mortgage rate? I’m not satisfied with what I found, frankly. I need more. I find that I am in need of wisdom about understanding God’s definition of wisdom.
Sometimes, as a starting point, we can learn more about what something is by hearing what God has to say about what it is not – like the description of love in 1 Corinthians 13. “Love does not envy or boast; it is not arrogant or rude. It does not insist on its own way; it is not irritable or resentful; it does not rejoice at wrongdoing, but rejoices with the truth.”
We read in Proverbs that wisdom is not presumptuous or insolent, nor the product of our personal conclusions; in Psalms that it is not about striving or frantic activity; in James that it is not a hypocritical or bitter or envious or self-seeking action (the KJV uses the words vainglory and strife).
I looked up the original word for strife in Greek. Eritheia. That’s revealing. It implies a political-style power grab via manipulation.
In 1 Corinthians 3:3 we read: For while there is jealousy and strife among you, are you not of the flesh and behaving only in a human way?
The result of strife – the human fleshly way – is division. Separation. A rift as wide as the Grand Canyon.
That’s the other thing grabbing my attention lately – division. It’s as if people are pressured to join one side or another and are actually repelling each other in their zeal to win the argument. Topics may vary from vaccination to modes of education to climate and pollution to the evils of processed cheese. Mob mentality on social media means middle ground is sinking into the earth and fewer people are willing to listen to each other. More people seem willing to compromise civil behaviour and resort to dismissive name-calling to win their case. Instead of solving problems I see my culture splitting and becoming more entrenched in extremes.
I’m not the only one noticing it. The political rift is becoming dangerously polarized to the point where teenagers in my neighbourhood in a little valley in Canada talk to me about classroom discussions of fears of civil war breaking out in the country to the south. The kids see it and they are afraid of the effects it could have around the world.
How does it help to portray people who disagree with us as enemies? How did people who love the same country become adversaries? Where is wisdom in all of this?
One beloved children’s TV show host talked about taking his mother’s advice to look for the helpers after a disaster. Right now I am in a search for the wise before a disaster.
How will we recognize the wise in a world of angry frightened people hurling words at each other, rejoicing in Pyrrhic victories, and talking in terms of winners and losers?
I found this clue of what to look for and warnings of what to avoid in a search for those who demonstrate wisdom:
Who in your community is understanding and wise? Let his example, which is marked by wisdom and gentleness, blaze a trail for others.
If your heart is one that bleeds dark streams of jealousy and selfishness, do not be so proud that you ignore your depraved state.
The wisdom of this world should never be mistaken for heavenly wisdom; it originates below in the earthly realms, with the demons. Any place where you find jealousy and selfish ambition, you will discover chaos and evil thriving under its rule.
Heavenly wisdom centers on purity, peace, gentleness, deference, mercy, and other good fruits untainted by hypocrisy. The seed that flowers into righteousness will always be planted in peace by those who embrace peace.
(James 3:13-18 The Voice)
Oh Lord, we need Your wisdom. We need people You have gifted with wisdom. We need humble people willing to set down their own opinions and learn from You. We need those who see from Your perspective to arise in the body of Christ to speak purely, peacefully, gently, mercifully with deference and full of Your love and grace. Give us discernment to know when we have heard Your truth spoken in love. Help us to pay attention. Change our hearts, Oh Lord. Make us more like You.