Posts Tagged ‘wisdom’

This past week, we celebrated a birthday in our family – my husband turned seventy.  Now that, as we all told him earnestly, is really old. It even sounds old – much older than sixty-something does! Now he definitely qualifies to be called an ‘oldie’ by his children and their generation – not to mention his grandchildren! Recently he joked that, having now reached his ‘three score years and ten’, his time could well be up any day. He is well aware of what Psalm 90:10 says:

The length of our days is seventy years – or eighty, if we have the strength; yet their span is but trouble and sorrow, for they quickly pass, and we fly away.

Sounds quite pessimistic, doesn’t it? Yet it’s true we will all face trouble and sorrow in some shape or form during our lives. We are all human – and we chose long ago to go our own way and forget about God. But it’s also important to look at the context of those words. In my bible, this psalm is called ‘A prayer of Moses the man of God’ and begins:

Lord, you have been our dwelling place throughout all generations.

Before the mountains were born or you brought forth the earth and the world, from everlasting to everlasting you are God.

You turn men back to dust, saying, “Return to dust, O sons of men,”

For a thousand years in your sight are like a day that has just gone by, or like a watch in the night.

To God, seventy or eighty years are nothing – God was and is and always will be. From God’s perspective, we don’t have long on this earth to make a difference here, to do what we were created to do, to live as God would have us live. So I think it’s important we all pray the words of verse 12 from this same psalm before we get any closer to our own ‘three score years and ten’:

Teach us to number our days aright, that we may gain a heart of wisdom.

It’s so easy for the weeks, months, years to slip away and for us not to take stock of where we’re heading in life, isn’t it? I don’t know about you, but I want to ‘number my days aright’, to live wisely, walking hand in hand with God, listening to that still, small voice within, doing what God calls me to do. Recently, someone commented that I should have started writing my novels years ago. For a moment that caused me to feel a little chilled inside and to wonder if perhaps I’d taken a wrong turn somewhere along the line. Would I have been able to touch more people and been used more of God, had I begun writing earlier? I suspect I needed to be the age I was, however, when I started. I don’t think I would have had the confidence to embark on such a journey any earlier, not to mention the life experience and understanding of people required. And I suspect I needed time to know God better and also acquire more of that ‘heart of wisdom’ mentioned in the psalm. I still do.

My husband has used his ‘three score years and ten’ very well, I believe – over forty of them in some form of ministry – and I hope I do too. But how about you – how are you travelling? Are you gaining that ‘heart of wisdom’?

Are you ‘numbering your days aright’?

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I have come to the conclusion God enjoys catching us unawares, sneaking up and surprising us when we might least expect it – like the time a few weeks ago when I sat down to prepare a sermon. After reflecting on the first few verses of Romans 12, it occurred to me I needed to check out their context. My eyes flicked back to the end of the previous chapter – and that was all it took for God to ‘ambush’ me and trigger a memory I thought was buried long ago.

In a millisecond, I was back in my bedroom in Brisbane where I grew up, sitting at the brown masonite desk my father had made for me, chewing the end of my pen as I studied and staring at the wall in front of me. The wall was a pretty shade of pink – except for the space right before my eyes. Much to my mother’s disgust, I had insisted on sticking up a variety of quotes, Scripture verses and other bits and pieces there. And in amongst it all, carefully written out by hand, was one of those verses I had just caught sight of again as I sat at my current desk over forty-five years later – Romans 11:33:

Oh, the depth of the riches of the wisdom and knowledge of God!

                How unsearchable are his judgments, and his paths beyond tracing out!

As I sat stunned, I felt every emotion from those middle teenage years in Brisbane. At fifteen, I had just come to understand what being a Christian meant – and it had been a momentous, life-changing experience for me. From that point on, I was eager to grow in my faith and do great things for God. Even then, when I had first stuck that verse on my wall, I realised I belonged to an awesome, amazing, ‘unknowable’ God, so high and holy, and so far above and beyond my own wisdom or that of anyone else in this world. But I also knew that this God knew me and loved me, would watch over me and would show me the way forward in my life. Yes, I had the normal teenage doubts and fears – but I belonged to God, who gave me real purpose and direction in life.

Then, again in a millisecond, I was back in the present – and realising what God wanted to show me. Through all the twists and turns of my life since those days in Brisbane, God, in his infinite wisdom and knowledge, had indeed guided me and faithfully ‘traced out’ my paths. And as a result, that verse rang even more true for me now. I sat still for some time, filled with awe and overcome with thankfulness for God’s gracious, loving hand of mercy on me throughout my life.

Now I truly was in a place to share God’s word from Romans 12. Now, ‘in view of God’s mercy’, as verse 1 says, I could wholeheartedly encourage others to offer themselves as ‘living sacrifices, holy and pleasing to God.’ After all, as the rest of this verse is put in the New Living Translation, ‘when you think of what [God] has done for you, is this too much to ask?

No, it definitely isn’t, I concluded, my heart still caught up in that image of the fifteen-year-old sitting at her desk so long ago, wondering what her life would hold.

But how about you? Do you think it’s too much to ask?

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I had a humbling experience this week.  It happened like this.  I was in the middle of a rather heated phone conversation with a business associate when this person, during the course of a prolonged harangue, declared that he and his colleagues were ‘not unintelligent’.  He then proceeded to defend his actions (or lack of them) even further, but at that point I cut in – or tried to.  I wanted with all my heart to strike back, so began telling him, I’m sure in equally heated manner, that that was in fact how I felt he was treating me – as someone quite unintelligent and stupid.

But here’s what happened next.  As I began hurling my own insults back, he spoke over the top of me – even more so than he had already.  But this time he told me he couldn’t hear me clearly because the line was ‘crackly’ – that sometimes it did that, that he was very sorry but would I please repeat what I had just said?  At first, I was unsure I had heard him correctly myself.  The line wasn’t ‘crackly’ my end – except with my own fury!  I could hear perfectly well – so well that it made me very sceptical he was in fact speaking the truth.  At that point, however, I regained a little more sanity.  What was the point of playing ‘tit for tat’?  How would any rude comments of mine help?  With wisdom way beyond my own, I therefore told him, albeit rather curtly, that what I had said didn’t matter.

With the beauty of hindsight, I believe God rescued me.  I believe God stepped in, called a halt, and put a firm hand over my mouth!  Little did this business associate know God was using such lack of self-discipline and possible lack of Christian integrity on his part to shock me into realising I could respond in a much better way.  Indeed I have to, if I am going to take seriously what God says.  Listen to Proverbs 17:27-28, for starters:

A man of knowledge uses words of restraint

                And a man of understanding is even-tempered.

Even a fool is thought wise if he keeps silent,

                And discerning if he holds his tongue.

And then there is James 1:26 – and what a punch it pulls!

If anyone considers himself religious and yet does not keep a tight rein on his tongue, he deceives himself and his religion is worthless.

That certainly doesn’t leave me with many excuses.  Neither does Ephesians 4:29:

Do not let any unwholesome talk come out of your mouths, but only what is helpful for building others up according to their needs, that it may benefit those who listen.

I did not feel built up or encouraged at all at the end of this particular phone conversation.  But I would have felt much worse if this person had actually heard all the words I had tried to hurl at him.  I suspect he has lots of needs.  I don’t know what would benefit him most, but hopefully there are those closer to him who do and who will act in love towards him.  In the meantime, I’m so grateful that God reached out to me in love, put his hand over my mouth and reminded me to close it!

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