On Wisdom, Middle Age, Romance…

I’m thinking about wisdom this morning and its lack of value in today’s world.  I wonder if it has always been so.  What is the value of experience and the knowledge gained from making and observing of good and poor choices over many years?  Information is certainly valued today, but can wisdom be learned from books and courses?

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One of my principal roles these past two years has been that of a mentor.  We began with many enthusiastic young men desiring to be mentored in seeking wisdom and waking in the Spirit.  They were anxious to learn from the experience of older men.  The enthusiasm lasted for less than a year, after which only a few remained consistent in meeting regularly.  Though I’m sure much was imparted over that time, when the honeymoon ended (the emotional “high” of learning new things, etc), only a few remained interested in working (without instant gratification) to gain wisdom.  Paul compares spiritual growth to physical training.  It requires effort and discipline.  Like so much in the Kingdom, the path for those who seek wisdom is narrow, and few choose it.  Though we are called to love every person, we must spend ourselves on the hungry, those who value wisdom and instruction.  It does little good to continue to scatter good seed on hardened, unbroken ground.

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It seems to me that something’s value is determined both by its owner and especially by its seeker.  To prioritize the pursuit of wisdom is to de-prioritize other pursuits .  What is the value of seeking to make wise, sober, decisions instead of what “feels” best?  Every person in leadership knows the tremendous value of having such a person on their team, yet it seems that few others today appreciate the same.

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Reaching later middle age has been for me both rich and frustrating.  Rich because of how much has been gained over many years of experience, error, difficulty, instruction, pain, etc.  Frustrating because of the general disinterest demonstrated by those who could best benefit from what I’ve learned in the school of “hard knocks”.  I know men who will readily learn from books or from people in positions of authority.  Polished presentations hold their attention but they have difficulty receiving from the people walking with them.  They are like the proverbial man on his roof during a flood, asking God to save him while refusing help from the boats that pass by.  They continue to ask God for wisdom while ignoring His response.  It has been said that Eisenhower was a poor natural leader but what made him great was that he surrounded himself with wise leaders and he appreciated and valued each of them and their input.  He was the encourager and the facilitator of a great team.  He was wise in that he valued and took full advantage of the accumulated wisdom and experience of his colleagues.

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But is wisdom valued today?  So many adults have never grown up and exhibit as much interest in learning as the yawns and moans of a junior high classroom.  Many people, as well, in their fifties and sixties, are still living for leisure, like the twelve year old they once were.  There is almost universal disinterest in looking beyond one’s own life to sacrificially contribute to tackling the still horrendous problems of our world.  There is talk, so much talk, and still the laborers are few.

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Why such indifference toward acquiring wisdom?  I believe the disinterest in pursuing wisdom is the result of one or more of the following: 1) superficiality – ignorance of the potential benefits that could be gained from “digging” for the wisdom in others, 2) arrogance – no perceived need for others’ experience and wisdom, and 3) laziness – unwillingness to pay the price – in humility, effort, time, trust – that learning requires.  In all cases, others’ experience is dismissed as irrelevant.  Who is harmed by the rejection of input from those with experience?

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Why are there not more questions in human dialogue, especially among believers?  Why must all of our times together be fun?  Where is the serious discourse, the transparent curiosity of another’s thoughts?  We all have so much we can gain by the experience and input of those around us. 

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Humility is key to acquiring wisdom.  It is not necessary for learning information, which is only somewhat helpful in living well, but it is an essential quality in learning the appropriate application of that information (wisdom).  Which is valued more in our culture today, gaining information or gaining wisdom?  Humility is demonstrated in hunger for input, from our Designer and from other people.  It is demonstrated in our dependence on our Father and in how much we are listening to Him.   Humility is otherwise demonstrated by how much input we seek from others, for if we are not actively seeking input and feedback from those people God has put in our lives, we will not learn from the wealth of experience and insight right in front of us.  In either case, we will not gain wisdom.  We easily forget, as well, that we honor those of whom we ask questions.

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Wisdom is more valuable than gold (Pr 3:14, 16:16).  Do we believe this enough to “pay” the cost?

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We have so many self-confident and ignorant youth who have all the answers and are destined to walk through the same pain that we’ve experienced if their ears and eyes remain closed to wise counsel. Why do we see such a lack of desire for wisdom in the decisions of our young people?  I’ve heard it said that maturity is demonstrated in the willingness to sacrifice short-term gain for long-term benefit.  The world today is driven by short-term gain and instant gratification.  “I want what I want when I want it” is never said but is religiously followed.  Wisdom, however, is gained over time.

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After thousands of years to gain wisdom, for example, most young people marry because of what they feel for another and, that this is widely accepted illustrates how little we appreciate the value of wisdom in making such a (life-long) decision.  “Follow your heart” is a valued attitude in Hollywood, Nashville and among young people within the church today and only among our TV-raised, western populous could such a preposterous life motto hold water.  People marry because of how they “feel” while qualities such as wisdom, maturity, proven character, hard-working, reliability, and faithfulness are hardly appreciated because they don’t stimulate passionate emotions.

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But this isn’t all young people.  I’ve met some young men and women thirsty for wisdom and they are such a joy.  I am counseling a 23 year old man and woman who have dated for three years and will wait another two because he wants her to complete her education (she is studying in another town 14 hrs away) and he wants to work and save so they are in a position to begin their marriage well-prepared.  They will be apart for most of this time and acknowledge this painful cost but agree that this is a huge decision and they desperately want to begin their marriage wisely.  They want to do what is best for the long haul much more than have their immediate desires fulfilled.  You must understand that, culturally, no one here waits!  What a joy to counsel such a couple!  When we are together, they are full of questions, hungry for input and so interested in our (experienced) perspective.

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Another young man I am mentoring recently took a teaching job in the interior two hours away (he relocated there) and will work for one or two years before marrying the girl he has been dating for two years.  His motive also is to prepare well for their marriage.  Both of these couples are choosing short-term difficulty (living apart, putting off their desires to be married) for the sake of long-term benefits.  These are imperfect but mature young people in pursuit of wisdom, in contrast to the majority of young people who do what feels best today and see no reason to wait and prepare for such a life-long decision.

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Sadly, though, we have very busy older people in our churches who are not interested in putting forth the time and effort to help to develop wisdom in our young adults.  The young men and women hungry for input would so benefit from a little encouragement from us and a some sober conversation about what we’ve learned about how to live in this confusing world.

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Our generation is one of the spoiled child.  What characterizes a spoiled child?  Little is expected from them and much is provided for them.  They have many rights and these rights will be assured through the (unappreciated) work (cost) of others.  There is disproportionate whining and complaining with little gratitude.  They are never content.  Listen to the dialogue among today’s Christians and it is so much about us.  Our dialogue about God is that of spoiled children comparing what their wealthy parents have done for them lately.  There is little appreciation for the cost (Jesus) but only talk of the latest “miracle” fad.  Our talk is not that of compassion for those hurting from life-threatening disease and sin (and how we might help) but rather a preoccupation with our warts and blemishes.  We are exhausted from maintaining our things and leisure time while still millions know nothing of a meal every day and the hope of eternal relationship with their Maker.

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What produces a spoiled child?  1) More than sufficient resources, 2) sheltering from pain, 3) self-focus, and 4) isolation from the “normal” populous.  Much of the western world especially fits this profile:  1) The amount of consumption in the west as compared to the rest of the world is comparable to that of the wealthy, corrupt dictators that we love to criticize,  2) we have not faced tragedy, war or significant, wide-scale hardship since WWII,  3) we care little for those outside of our borders, and 4) we have little exposure to the “real” world living on the rest of the planet.

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What did God give us that separates us from the animals?  It is certainly more than a thumb and  the ability to walk uprightly.  It is certainly not feelings and emotions, as I’ve had many dogs and they all knew pleasure, disappointment, happiness and sadness.  When God made us in His image, He placed in us a longing for Him and for those qualities that are uniquely found in Him, like wisdom, joy, love, peace, etc.  He knew that some would pursue knowing Him, knowing wisdom and knowing love while others would compromise with counterfeits.  He knew that many (the majority) would live solely by emotions and animal instinct, even though He lovingly placed within each of us the capacity (and even the desire) to seek Him.

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Let us renew a desperate search for wisdom, and begin at the Source.  Let us soberly walk the path less traveled.  Let us communicate and demonstrate (especially to our young people) the value of wisdom in our every word and deed.  Let us allow our passion to be seen by those who know us.  Let us honor the one next to us by asking him or her questions in order to plumb the depths of their person and experience…

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Consider:

A wise child brings joy to a father (Pr 10:1).  What a pleasure to have wise children (Pr 23:24).  What delights our Father?

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