A Voice that Resembles the Lord’s
“Listen closely, for what I say is worth hearing, and I will tell you what is right…” (Prov. 8:6).
Wisdom shows up as a woman in Proverbs 1-9 and other wisdom literature. In the Hebrew, she is Chochma. Scholar Roland E. Murphy writes of this unusual personification: “Justice and peace may kiss, and alcohol may be a rowdy, but only wisdom is given a voice that resembles the Lord’s (Prov. 8:35, ‘whoever finds me finds life’)” (italics mine).
I briefly explore the mystery of her female identity in this other blog post. (Though, since reading Virginia Ramey Mollenkott’s chapter on “Dame Wisdom” I have changed my mind about who Wisdom is. I now believe Biblical writers equate her with God, as Jesus did, which you’ll see below.)
But now I want to talk about having a relationship with Wisdom. How do we get to know her? I’m going to center in Proverbs 8 and draw on other sources as well, focusing on four ways to have a relationship with Wisdom.
1. Show Up and Listen. Proverbs 8:1 talks about the omnipresence and ubiquitous voice of Wisdom: “Does not wisdom call, and understanding raise her voice? On the heights, beside the way, on the crossroads she takes her stand; beside the gates in front of the town, at the entrance of the portals she cries out….” It’s easy to find Wisdom. One only has to stop ignoring her.
Rabbi Rami Shapiro writes that despite the personification of Wisdom, she is not someone we can objectify and know that way. We know her through doing what she says, and this is why Wisdom is not often enough sought out. She requires our time, our internal hospitality, to hear what she is telling us to do. Come on over Wisdom, and let’s have tea and cranberry scones. Let me listen to you a while. (Wisdom offers bread and wine in Proverbs 9:5, which sounds good too).
We can make an internal silence in our hearts daily or repeatedly through the day, as we pause to read Scripture, quiet ourselves after speaking or writing our heart to Mother God, or ponder after seeing a pointed quote on Facebook. Then we go toward that nudge and don’t reconsider. It’s easy to talk ourselves out of Wisdom’s ways.
In fact, I’m going to stop and listen now. I’m going to stop writing and pause to hear the Wisdom that was with Mother God at the birth of creation (Prov. 8:22).
2. Value People over Performance.
“I was…rejoicing in the whole world and delighting in humankind” (Prov. 8:30b, 31).
Is Wisdom the Creator Herself? you might be asking yourself by now. Yes, Wisdom is Mother God as she is at work in our world, illuminating and re-creating it. Wisdom is, as Jesus said, vindicated by all her children, her actions in and for the world. Wisdom is the feminine image of God.
But that’s for another post. This one is about how to get closer to Wisdom.
After I took time to listen today, as I was preparing to write again, my husband came up the stairs to my desk, carrying our two-year-old son who wants to see me about every ten minutes. That was Wisdom calling, again, to get me to see people as more important than the finish line and the deadline and the line of the written word.
Beyond just people, children head the list of valuable people in Jesus’ eyes. There is no following Christ or Wisdom without respecting and loving kids. So, I stopped that urgent, there-is-no-time feeling within me and played with my son. (Not that it’s always easy; I also turn on my son’s favorite DVDs sometimes).
It may have been the supposed lack of time that caused the two religious people to pass by the wounded man, before the good Samaritan stopped to help. Or why we, too often, pass up the email telling us about Syrians and Haitians who need our help more than we need the next month’s worth of lattes.
That feeling of “I won’t have enough” “I will never get this done” “I will never be successful” “I will never live my Best Life” is an obstacle to Wisdom, who is always going to make time for people and the rest of creation.
3. Focus on Facts Not Fear. In the new age of Trump, it is easy to stop delighting in humankind and take up lip biting. What I heard from Wisdom was: make life decisions based on facts, not fear. It’s like a parenting mantra I use, “What you focus on, you get more of” (Becky Baily).
Proverbs 2:10 agrees with this message: “When Wisdom enters your heart and knowledge delights you, good judgment will protect you, and understanding will guard you.” Knowledge, good judgment and understanding protect, not fear.
Rabbi Shapiro writes, “The Way of Wisdom is study, observation, and clear perception…She is the way of God manifest in the world….” She will not tell you the whys of life, he writes, only the whats.
And we obtain knowledge through the study of Scripture by what Rabbi Shapiro says is the Jewish notion of “open mind” (mochin d’gadlut) vs. “narrow mind” (mochin d’katnut). We read the Bible through the lens of open mind where people and their needs come first, not our own need to be right.
It is “narrow mind” that causes us to distort Scripture into a set of rules. This was Jesus’ point in the gospels when he spoke against the pinching mindset of the religious leaders that resulted in injustice to the poor. And “open mind” is how we will continue to see clearly, if our laws and our society start to crumble over the next four years.
4. Play and Create. We’ll need to keep our joy and wonder, too, which is also Wisdom’s way. Her work is play, resulting in the beauty and diversity in nature. “When the foundation of the earth was laid out, I was the skilled artisan standing next to the Almighty.” (Prov. 8:30). Job, another wisdom book, goes on for three chapters (Job 39-41) about the wonders in each wild animal, from crocodile to hippopotamus. The wild is Wisdom’s work, who has birthed all of nature (Job 38:8).
Humans can’t create a hummingbird on the first go, however. We have to allow ourselves to make mistakes in the messy work of growing up into the self that has found its most joyful task in life. Child development educator, Joseph Chilton Pearce, said, “To live a creative life, we must lose our fear of being wrong.” Ridding ourselves of fear means we will leave our narrow mindset of perfectionism and move into the spacious place where love and creativity go hand in hand.
Happy Plowing in 2017. I leave you with this quote from Wisdom of Jesus ben Sirach 6:18-19:
“Come to her as a farmer comes to the soil: Plow and sow and wait for Her to arise. Do not try too hard, for there is a naturalness to Her coming and you will eat of Her fruit at the right time.”