I’m still captivated by beautiful grace in the streams of water-river metaphors. It began with linear time and oxbow lakes; then I realized there was a separate understanding of time, a trump card of sorts. When I considered the river metaphor from a personal perspective, I was drawn into how rivers are fed and how they bifurcate and separate and diverge. Healthy rivers have a way of living and changing, moving, and sharing the flow. The filling enrapt my attention this time.
If we place ourselves in the metaphor, how do we fit? From the shore, we see a portion of the river, and we can think of each of us as the slice as far as our eyes can see. But a river is never a slice, or we have a something completely different—a lake, pond, or puddle, maybe, but not a river. A river flows continuously, headwaters to end, with a few name changes along the way, swelling and dwindling with seasons and precipitation and water supply.
That’s it! A river is supplied—fed—with water from other or earlier sources, tributaries. When I think of the water source for my little slice of the river, it’s those who have lived before, walked some of the same roads I’m walking, or have a little more maturity in an area than I. Does that sound reasonable? Wait until I add that this has nothing to do with age.
Don’t let anyone look down on you because you are young, but set an example for the believers in speech, in life, in love, in faith and in purity. 1 Timothy 4:12 NIV
Relationships are a source of something beautiful for our lives. Carefully chosen, we are infused with wisdom that comes from others’ experience, knowledge, or study. John Donne wrote “No man is an island.”¹ I suggest none of us makes a good puddle, either. Nothing more than microscopic organisms teems in stagnant water. If we cut ourselves off from a good source, we’re building a dam with our own two hands. In the river metaphor, the water isn’t replaced, the river bed dries up, and all the good water remains inaccessible (by our own choice). Spiritually, we stagnate in our minds and dry up in our hearts.
The truth is we have been given the gift of those who have gone before, both in our contemporary lifetime and through Scripture. The Bible and Christian community are two beautiful gifts we’ve been given to source wisdom for everyday life. I love the challenge of the wisdom literature. Proverbs and Ecclesiastes could keep a reader busy for quite some time. I’m nearly always called to examine something in my heart when I read Proverbs, and it’s no surprise. God gave us Solomon’s wisdom for a purpose, and I’m thankful for it. There’s a need—a demand—for it.
There are two pieces of wisdom from Proverbs I want to remember:
* Seek wisdom.
* Use the “buddy system.”
That nutshells some of Proverbs, though there’s a whole lot more depth to it. Of all things, Solomon quite plainly states that we desperately need wisdom. Pure and simple, he reiterates, “Get it.”
Let the wise hear and increase in learning, and the one who understands obtain guidance, Proverbs 1:5 ESV
The fear of the Lord is the beginning of knowledge; fools despise wisdom and instruction. Proverbs 1:7 CSB
A discerning mind seeks knowledge, but the mouth of fools feeds on foolishness. Proverbs 15:14 CSB
Wisdom is supreme. Get wisdom. Yes, though it costs all your possessions, get understanding. Proverbs 4:7 HNV
Wisdom originates in the earnest pursuit of God: determining the truth of his existence, and recognizing his love, holiness, and power. We can get it from reading Scripture, but much of the working out of our salvation (Philippians 2:12) takes place in relationship. One thing is pretty clear: we should invest time and intentional energy in obtaining it. I think we are responsible for recognizing and responding to the need for wisdom—and getting it! We’ve got to seek out the deep truths for ourselves, to possess them more than just at the academic level. I believe there is a deeply-placed demand for wisdom in the fabric of our souls. That’s no accident; we’re wired that way.
There is the available supply we are hardwired to crave, and then there is an additional important piece to the whole “filling” of the river. The source of the water feeding the river determines everything about the water quality. Rocket science? Not so much. Good or tainted water flows through a riverbed the same, but there’s a dramatic difference in the river’s aquatic ecosystem and the dependent local creatures’ health depending on the quality of the water. My thought: we are as spiritually healthy as the sources we allow to infuse us.
Where we get our wisdom matters!
Solomon put it this way:
[L]et the wise listen and add to their learning, and let the discerning get guidance— Proverbs 1:5 NIV
He who walks with the wise will become wise, but the companion of fools will suffer. Proverbs 13:20 CJB
The “Jen Translation” might say something like this: You are who you hang with. When I had the pleasure of serving in junior high and high school ministry, the girls heard that more than once. Why would this wisdom nugget apply to youth more than adults? It certainly applies at every age and stage. Our slice of river is always influenced by others, and it’s up to us to determine who we allow to share in our lives. Who we trust as a source really matters, whether a relationship or a removed source (books, audios, etc.). Discernment is so very important. If the river stinks, the cause may be immediate, or we might need to consider a source.
As women, we have a beautiful example of the river flow in Titus 2:
[The older women] are to teach what is good, so that they may encourage the young women to love their husbands and children, to be sensible, pure, good homemakers, and submissive to their husbands, so that God’s message will not be slandered. v. 3-5
Our relational “buddy system” looks like that. The “young women” (and we all are in some way) should seek out relationships that instruct reliably. Not one of us has “arrived,” when it comes to biblical knowledge and wisdom. The minute we get comfortable in that spot, we’re in trouble. The women we know may be a source of wisdom for us, if we are open to them. And as I said before, it may have nothing to do with age. Choose wisely.
I’m only dealing with the receiving side of relationship (or I’d go on too long). We need to become wise. The life-giving flow of wisdom that feeds us comes from a source outside ourselves. Our sources for wisdom can be Scripture and revelation (which never contradicts Scripture), but it also originates in community and relationship with others. The practical walking out of our faith is always with others; it’s the reason we live.
Am I just restating things you already knew? Maybe.
Ahhh, the grace in the gift of wisdom past…and passed along!
Questions to Think About:
Has the Bible been a main source of wisdom for you? What has been most precious in your interaction with biblical things in your life?
Have you sought out strong Christian relationships to encourage and strengthen you? What has been most difficult about that? What has been the biggest benefit you’ve experienced as a result?
Do you search out resources to encourage you in your growth and maturity? Have you ever found any difficulties with that?
Scripture sourced from http://www.biblestudytools.com.
¹ “Meditation XVII,” Devotions upon Emergent Occasions, John Donne. 1623.
Photos sourced from http://www.morguefile.com.