One question I have asked myself lately is: How wise am I? My kids keep telling me the music I listen to is old, and weird, and I recently said to my son, “What in the world does calling someone ‘sweaty’ and a ‘clout chaser’ mean? Turns out, it means someone that tries too hard and someone that wants influence, respectively. So, I’m starting to feel like the external markers of being older are here and I’m left wondering whether I am going to get any wiser.
This was brought to mind when Dale spoke about the wise men a couple of weeks ago and I was left wondering: What is wisdom and how do I know if I even have any? So, I had a look at the story of the wise men and some of the traditional things that are assumed about them and I decided that they didn’t really have a lot of hard evidence to base what they were doing on. They followed a sign, a star. Somehow, they discerned that something big, that had been prophesied, was happening and it involved a king being born. So, this is what they were working from: their expectations and how willing they were to trust their discernment. The second part of the story gives a really interesting clue to what wisdom is. Here are 3 very well-respected sages of their time. They are seeking a king who will change everything. They bring gifts, highly significant gifts, and set out on a journey which wouldn’t have been easy. They didn’t just go on Webjet and book a flight, they were all in! Contrast these men and their expectations with what they found. They arrived at a barn, with animals and a young girl, a baby and a husband. I’m not sure how you go with expectations, but if I had travelled that distance and followed a star and a prophecy, I would not have been okay with what I saw. This is much the case for how the Jews thought about the role of the Messiah. They expected a king breaker and an earthly kingdom maker. They didn’t expect Jesus to come the way he did and do what he did the way he did it. However, we have no indication that these wise men thought anything else other than this is the king. They took their gifts and they presented them to him. They believed in what might have looked like an absolute mess. This… this is what I think wisdom is.
For those of you who don’t know, I’m a counsellor and one thing I find endlessly helpful is when a client tells me they have had a dream about something. I find that it always tells them something intrinsically deep about themselves, something that they need to learn or come to terms with. When I was leading our Sunday school lesson, on the day that Dale spoke in the Church, I told the kids about a dream I’d had: I was living on the moon, and there wasn’t anyone else around. I was quite happy there, but then the dream took a turn and I was taken somewhere else. At that place I couldn’t see my kids because I was in a different time. I spent my time trying to figure out a way back because I wanted to see them, and then I was given an opportunity to go back. As crazy as the dream seemed, it helped me realize that I was feeling a bit disconnected from my kids. Since then I have been more intentional about spending time with them. Again, I think this is wisdom.
It seems that wisdom has another aspect to it – one that is different from straight intellectual intelligence and relies more on feelings and discernment from within oneself. I would assert that deep wisdom is something that comes from God and the Holy Spirit. It’s not that I think you can’t have wisdom without that, but I think there is deep wisdom to be had with that. Wisdom is the ‘thing’ that knows when something is true, even when everything around it looks like a mess. Wisdom is also finding what is great in what looks like a mundane everyday task.
So, what is wisdom to me? I think wisdom is paying attention to that which others write off. Wisdom takes the seemingly strange signs and understands that they mean something more.
There is a challenge for us here – to seek what is great, even in the mundane and mess of life. That is where, like the wise men, we will find Jesus.