How Is Wisdom Gained?
Wisdom comes from instruction; advice; experience; counsel; prayer; observation; parents; examples; experimentation; revelation.
Proverbs Chapter 2
The time had come. The father still grieved. But he felt his dark secret needed to be shared with his growing son. He wondered how to do this. He was torn. His eldest sons had discovered their father’s ugly secret many years earlier – something that their high-profile father had not been able to hide from the public much less his older sons. It was this shameful episode in the father’s past that had dogged him unrelentingly. His guilt and shame led to poor judgment and even greater shame. He had broken trust. He had let himself down. He had sought and found peace. So dramatic was his experience of divine forgiveness that he penned-
“Count yourself lucky, how happy you must be—you get a fresh start, your slate’s wiped clean.”
But now his heart ached for his son. He knew that his son could never understand all that he wanted him to know at this moment, and especially the things that had brought so much pain to his life. Tragically, this pain was not his own. It could never be fully healed in those who had never invited it. His late wife endured silently, and his four sons not-so-silently, this wound to their premature graves. Who would have thought that a moment of pleasure would bring a lifetime of agony for so many?
“What is it Daddy?” his adoring and unsuspecting son enquired.
In a moment, not just a point in time, a moment, the father begged for his son’s full attention in a way that his boy had come to recognise.
“My son, if you receive my words and treasure up my commandments with you, making your ear attentive to wisdom and inclining your heart to understanding; yes, if you call out for insight and raise your voice for understanding, if you seek it like silver and search for it as for hidden treasures, then you will understand the fear of the LORD and find the knowledge of God.”
The father was preparing his son for the ugly truth that he would one day discover about his dad. Shielding him to this point had been easier because he wasn’t yet old enough to understand. This could not last though. The father drew breathe. His mind raced. He had rehearsed this moment many times and even then in those sterile imaginary fatherly exchanges had never quite managed to find the right words. He had himself grown up without a loving father and had been determined not to be like his own absentee dad. He had failed. To this point. He was now determined to make amends with the only child he had left. This was not the resolution of a man who had merely turned over a new leaf. No, this was the resolve of a man who had been rescued from destruction who was now left to mourn those he felt he had destroyed. But his own rescue was far more than a momentary reprieve. It was for him, redemption. God had saved him. Saved, him. He felt divine purpose in his second chance at life. And this divine purpose was now sitting on his lap looking up into his dad’s red eyes. The father prayed a quick prayer for the strength to tell his son what must be said. He then realised that this practice had become his way of life and source of any wisdom that he had found.
“For the LORD gives wisdom; from his mouth come knowledge and understanding; he stores up sound wisdom for the upright; he is a shield to those who walk in integrity, guarding the paths of justice and watching over the way of his saints.”
In his previous talks with his son he had stressed responsibility, consequences, and right choices. Choices. No one was going to live your life for you son. You must choose. “If you…If you…If you…” His son had come to know that his father never repeated himself without wanting to emphasize something profound. He had heard his father- “If you…If you…If you…” and he knew that what his father had to tell him was only worth as much as he chose to put it into practice. And if he did choose the path that his father was presenting to him, then he heard his father continue-
“Then you will understand righteousness and justice and equity, every good path; for wisdom will come into your heart, and knowledge will be pleasant to your soul; discretion will watch over you, understanding will guard you, delivering you from the way of evil, from men of perverted speech”
At this point, the father nearly broke down as he remembered his oldest boys and how they had been deceived by “men of perverted speech“. He paused. Braced himself. What he was now about to tell his son was wisdom born out of great pain.
“who forsake the paths of uprightness to walk in the ways of darkness, who rejoice in doing evil and delight in the perverseness of evil, men whose paths are crooked, and who are devious in their ways.”
As the father reflected on those who had so callously abused his sons with their deception it was hard for him not to feel anger and hatred. But he had learned some difficult truths about his own heart that made it even more difficult for him to judge others. Now he must tell his son his own dark secret. A secret? He wondered how his sin could any longer be considered a secret when it had hurt so many and was known by even more? No matter how he had rehearsed it, he couldn’t just come out and say it plainly to his boy. Instead, he hoped that what he had to say now would one day make sense to him. Seek to live wisely son-
“So you will be delivered from the forbidden woman, from the adulteress with her smooth words, who forsakes the companion of her youth and forgets the covenant of her God; none who go to her come back, nor do they regain the paths of life.”
The father knew that his subtlety may be lost on his boy, but he needed him to understand that illegitimate sexual pleasure always brings pain. Only by the grace of God had this broken father been rescued: he had come to know that those who cross this line – a line that the Deceiver says does not exist – would never “regain the paths of life.” The boy looked intently into his father’s eyes. He saw the pain in each tear welling up. He could not however hear his dad’s thoughts. His father’s mind was racing. Why oh why did I choose the bad over the good? What was I thinking? Why did I trash my integrity? Why did I act so wickedly? Why did I commit such treachery? He was emotionally exhausted but knew he must put these thoughts into a positive direction for his beloved son-
“So you will walk in the way of the good and keep to the paths of the righteous. For the upright will inhabit the land, and those with integrity will remain in it, but the wicked will be cut off from the land, and the treacherous will be rooted out of it.”
In Proverbs chapter 2 we are able to hear the exchange between a father, who had failed, and his young son. From this we see that wisdom is derived from (1) Parents, (2) Instruction, (3) Experience – which is often painful, and (4) the gift of God. You may need wisdom right now. You may even be praying for it. But, are you open to it coming from your parents, your instructors, or from the experience of the failed? May God grant us wisdom and the wisdom to recognise its sometimes surprising source.