Thursday, January 30, 2014

Journey to Wisdom

Years ago, a friend brought to my attention that there are very few senior citizens who she would want her children to go to for advice. And as I thought about it, I too realized our elderly are not the treasury of wisdom we had been promised.

I decided that for my grandchildren's sake, I would figure out how to become wise so that I do not let them down when they needed me. So I started the intellectual hunt as to how to become wise. 

The Journey to Wisdom

I first went to scripture: What I found out is that, if we truly want wisdom the first thing we must do is fear the Lord. "The fear of the Lord is the beginning of wisdom." 

I also encountered passages that told me that the Lord gives wisdom to the humble and also, that we need to seek wisdom with all our hearts--that wisdom doesn't knock on our door, but that we have to go out and diligently search for it. Wisdom can be illusive, even when it is crying out in the streets for people to come and learn from her.

So, I made my preliminary checklist for the journey to wisdom:

  • Fear the Lord.
  • Be humble.
  • Search for wisdom.

I began praying for these things. And the first major obstacle I encountered was my own pride. Walking around in my daily routine and in my normal conversation, it was dawning on me that the way I thought about myself and the way I learned was faulty. Here's what was going on in my brain:

I was a Seventh-day Adventist! I had truth that very few other Christians had. I didn't need to read other Christian writers. (I did of course and found some spiritual insight, some sweet morsels of Christian sentimentality--but please! These non-SDA writers needed more from me as far as truth than I needed from them! I had the Sabbath truth, the health truth.)

But it was even more than just Adventist elitism. Deep within my subconscious, unknowingly, I was living a pagan Socratic/Transcendental worldview. I figured this out because I realized that when people told me I was wrong, I internally reacted with defensiveness. I told myself that these people were know-it-alls, when I was exhibiting that trait by the way I reacted. I was assuming that my knowledge couldn't be challenged. And then I began noticing other people also behaved this way. Why?

Americans Think Like Pagans

The ancient pagans thought that within special people (those who could be educated) a divine genius lay dormant. Socrates taught that you could awaken that intellectual giant through questions. The great early American philosophers such as Emerson, Thoreau and many 19th-century Harvard scholars, reintroduced this idea at the same time the Second Great Awakening came to American shores.

The enlightenment, pagan idea of a inner divinity was renamed by the holiness movement as the Holy Spirit residing in us. Fiery itinerate preachers convinced millions that Christians did not need education, or churches or traditions. All that was needed was a Bible and the Holy Spirit. The "just Jesus and me" philosophy was born.

American Christianity became a hotbed of fiercely independent spirituality combined with a pious anti-intellectualism. William Miller arose in such an atmosphere convinced that his own personal interpretation of Daniel and Revelation was inspired by the Holy Spirit. And Millerism gave birth to the Seventh-day Adventist Church. 

It was a hard knock when I realized I was stuck in that arrogant mentality that was unconsciously proud of my ignorance. 

I had always assumed that the Holy Spirit downloaded all truth I needed straight into my head and to unlock my inner divine inspiration I needed only to read scripture and occasionally listen to or read something other than the Bible--for historical or contextual purposes to make things clearer. But all I really needed was the Holy Spirit to slowly unveil all truth He had already implanted in my head. 

Once the Lord wrenched that wicked worldview from my stubborn heart, I began to soften. Soon I realized that my mind is a huge blank black chalkboard that needed everything to be written on it from the outside. I am not a wealth of wisdom in a treasure box awaiting the Holy Spirit's key to open it. No! I was a spiritual baby that needed to pursue wisdom with all my heart. 

The First Steps of My Journey

So (besides getting up at 5 am each morning and reading scripture) I started reading Christian writings. I chose books I thought were too hard for my brain and found out they were. But with forced focus and sacrificial diligence, I didn't give up and often would have to reread passages numerous times in order to begin to understand. Books like "Mere Christianity," "Christian Institutes" by John Calvin, everything Martin Luther, Francis Schaeffer and A.W Tozer wrote. I remember reading Charles Spurgeon, Dallas Willard and every other 19th and 20th century American preachers of note. I even tried Soren Kirkegaard, Karl Barth and Thomas Merton. Every book was underlined and highlighted and I wrote copious notes on the sides of the margins. 

I bought the ten volume set of Ante-Nicene Fathers and began to take theology and Christian history classes. My whole life became consumed with the pursuit of wisdom. And I had lots of time, as I was homeschooling my three kids and while they were working, I was doing my own studying. 

What I have Learned so Far

I have learned something I believe to be golden: 
Don't think your smart. 
Really. All this telling yourself you are clever and intellectual and wise is self-deception. Really. Really truly.

You may have the highest IQ known to man but that doesn't bring wisdom. All that means is that your mental processor is faster than others. You still must input good knowledge. You must study fiercely and systematically and tirelessly. Then, after years of study, you begin to understand what questions to ask and where to find answers. Your experience as a student then begins to kick in and you realize how little you know, but at least you will be able to discern, with the Holy Spirit, which questions are important enough to ask and research. Eventually, you can begin analyzing what you have learned and wisdom has been ignited. 

And when the Holy Spirit ignites wisdom in your heart…. watch out. It will radically change your thinking, your worldview, your desires and your life. You will see yourself as smaller and smaller in a growing cosmos of amazement. And you will desire to grow even smaller as your perceptions widen and deepen. 

It is then that you realize each and every person is a wealth of valuable information and you become eager to learn from everyone. You don't get defensive when you are wrong. You are so thankful that someone gave you more correct information. 

All of a sudden, you quit thinking others are stupid and you start listening. Really, humbly listening and knowing it is by reaching out in need you will learn, that you do not possess truth but it is out there! 

Where is the Best Place to Seek Wisdom?

Though outside of human intellect and opinion, wisdom and truth are found hidden in the smallest voice and within the collective of God's inspiring man. No man has it all. It is through our unity that we become strong in wisdom and truth. But wisdom is not human-based, it is supernatural and can only be found where God places it.
...if I am delayed, you will know how people ought to conduct themselves in God's household, which is the church of the
living God, the pillar and foundation of the truth. I Timothy 3: 15
So, look for wisdom in the church for it is deposited there by God Himself. Which church? (Since they all disagree.) Search! Seek! Go out and figure it out through study and prayer. And (wink) I would include early on studying the early Christians writings such as the First Epistle of Clement, Polycarp, Ignatius of Antioch, Ireneaus and Justin Martyr. Many of these men were taught by, anointed by an Apostle and given the position of leaders of the church in the churches the Apostles began. These were trusted men of God. They will help identify which church holds the treasures of truth and wisdom.


Humbly seeking wisdom is an exciting adventure beyond human's capability of understanding. And to start the grand adventure, all you have to do is start at step one: Fear the Lord…. 

What's that exactly? Get down on your knees and ask God for it. Then, get ready for your life's adventure to begin.