Tuesday, August 19, 2014

WISDOM by Teresa Beem

ears ago, something my friend mentioned decidedly changed my life. 

She lamented that she did not have a grandmother or grandfather to whom she could pour out her heart and receive godly advice. She grieved the futile dream that one day her children might receive wisdom sitting at the feet of their grandparents. Looking around, she noticed that everyone over sixty seemed to be living a foolish, self-centered existence of trying to maintain their youthful "cool." Grampas dressed in black leather, sporting tattoos and riding Harley-Davidsons. Grandmothers taking pot trips to Colorado or listening to AC/DC. Or simpy regular older people who had attained the age of wisdom without attaining much of the wisdom.

For weeks I pondered her concerns and realized she was right. Wisdom doesn't automatically come with old age anymore than being a long-time fan of the Dallas Cowboys gives you the credentials to be their coach. Therefore, I decided to buck the trend and make a commitment to my children and future grandchildren. They would be able to count on me in a crisis for wisdom. I would become wise.

The Pursuit of Wisdom
When I began telling people of this commitment I found something strange indeed. What I kept hearing confounded me. It seems like in today's culture, it is considered being a real American to pursue one's personal dreams of fame or fortune. It is even heroic if one gives one's time and energy to make money for
one's family. Or if someone were to exercise their rights to publicly explore their irregular sexuality, that person might be hailed a hero. But try talking about wanting to pursue wisdom and you are labeled weird. Pursuing a big bank account or youtube fame? Normal. Pursuing wisdom? Put that one in a straight jacket and pump them full of psych pills. So I began to prepare myself. Being wise won't make me popular, won't make me appreciated, won't give me worldly glory. 

Then it dawned on me that if I was going to go to a lot of trouble to become wise, I better teach my children and grandchildren to value wisdom. Because if they just slide into the thinking of the culture, my wisdom will neither be wanted nor appreciated. 

I set upon the challenge and quest of my life: Enlightenment. Wisdom.

So, I thought, what road does one take to become a sage? It is evidently not the normal road everyone else is taking. It isn't going to accidentally happen. It won't come upon me like wrinkles. It has to be willed and planned and sought after. Where does one start?

The Fear of the Lord
The Bible says that the fear of the Lord is the beginning of wisdom. So there is where I began. I began to pray for that fear, to pray for that wisdom and study scriptures. I began reading the writings of great men of God.

And now I look back....

Years ago, I embarked on a quest that has been, bar none, the most difficult of my life. For wisdom doesn't come easily. I had to give up comfort and put on discipline. I had to lay down my rights and my dreams; put aside my opinions and listen. Listen to God, listen to others and just be quiet and think. All of a sudden thinking, really thinking became one of the most important times of my day and remains so. 

Don't have time to think? Yeah you do. Turn off the computer, television, turn off all noise and if necessary go to bed fifteen minutes early. Believe me, you make time for priorities. Make wisdom a priority.

Begin reading ancient philosophy as well as ancient Christian philosophy. Compare them. Read the Ante-Nicene Fathers. Read Dostoyevsky…well… Better start with C.S. Lewis, then go on to G. K. Chesterton and Peter Kreeft, before attempting The Brothers Karamazov. Then the writings of Thomas Merton or Pope Benedict XVI or St. John Paul II. 

You will then get the privilege of watching your small worldview (one you didn't even realize you had) being transformed and  thrust into a new cosmos of thought and realizations that are terrifying and mysterious.

It becomes intense and things that once upon a time seemed fun, no longer bring you entertainment. You enter a battle, a spiritual battle, that is relentless and exhausting. It costs you everything, because once you have seen the battle, not of wisdom, but the battle of spirituality that gives us wisdom, it changes everything.

The Pursuit of Happiness

You soon discover that the pursuit of wisdom is the opposite of the pursuit of happiness. And let's face it, the pursuit of happiness has failed us as a people miserably. The pursuit of fame and wealth has also failed miserably. We see the tragic stories of people who live their lives in pursuit of the wrong thing. Most Americans simply pursue comfort and relaxation and entertainment and fun. We have become a nation of hedonists, Christian hedonists. So we must put away this American dream of the right to pursue happiness. That is truly a lie.

Yet, I want to be very clear about this. The pursuit of wisdom does bring lasting peace and joy, so don't assume life is going to be miserable if you give up the pursuit of happiness. You just have to switch priorities and become tough-spirited.

The pursuit of wisdom is a daily discipline of hard work. But if I can even attain a little bit, it will be a gift far superior to anything else I could ever give my grandchildren. I would become a pearl of great price for them. If each of us parents would take on this same project, the world would change.

Genius is not wisdom 
I have discovered that wisdom is not just knowledge and analyzation skills. You can be a genius and have little or no wisdom. Intellect is like one very strong leg on a footstool. It is good, but it cannot hold anything up. Intelligence alone is broken. To be wise, you need not only have a continuing and relentless pursuit of truth in the form of information and facts but the ability to understand, analyze and utilize that information.

Then the second leg is the action of sacrifice. You must then go and do unto others. Your life must be poured out upon others.

And finally you must add to these two legs, a third which makes the footstool strongest… holiness. Along with truth and sacrifice, you must pursue holiness in order to be wise. This is about spending time in prayer, praying always. This is not casual, laying in bed and the last thing at night rattling off a list of things you want from God, type of prayer. This is kneeling down or laying prostrate interceding for those you love to God. This takes prayer to a new level. You war against the darkness with prayer. It is exhausting, relentless prayer. Prayer that changes the world.

One thing I must warn you is that those who see you in the battle to become wise, the spiritual battle, will see in you a new peace and confidence that they will mislabel as pride. They will be wrong. Wisdom of its nature cannot be prideful, for it is forged in the deepest gifts of suffering and sacrifice. Wisdom in its very essence is humble because it has seen the sorrow of the cosmos, it has knelt at the feet of the Infinite with fear and trembling and knows who it is.

However, through this journey to wisdom, you will find that sorrowful sacrifice doesn't lead to desperation. It joins you with the good souls in both the physical as well as the heavenly realm. Wisdom is never alone nor independent. It finds itself in a vast treasury of what others have given. Wisdom is found in unity.

Wisdom is Often A Type of Martyrdom
Wisdom must be poured forth as an ocean of love and grace. It cannot remain stagnant within a person. Wisdom is renewed and fortified in the giving of self. 

Wisdom feels the pain of each personal cross, yet it also knows the Resurrection.  It lives in eternity so it is not afraid of death. Wisdom is not necessarily found in a strong body, but a strong spirit. For wisdom often wears out the flesh in complete sacrifice. It is an offering of mysterious joy. It is a hope in Him, and a faith that though the battle rages, it is won.

There is yet another reason to spend your life pursing wisdom. Your grandchildren
desperately need your bright light in a dark, scary world of ignorance and sin. A saint, a heavenly hero, one who is truly holy and wise is the greatest proof of God that there is. 

We are a new generation of parents, let us be willing to sacrifice all for our children that we may be a fountain of wisdom for them. Pray that when we become wise that others will exploit it.

Live the gospel.
Live the Kingdom of God.

Be wise. 

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