Wednesday, April 29, 2009

My Least Favorite Part of Wisdom

I’ll begin this post with a confession: I’m not nearly as diligent as I should be with my devotional life. Over the past several years my dedication in this regard has waxed and waned, and this last year I really began to feel the need to re-dedicate myself to consistent time in Scripture, and so far this year has been a modest success in this regard. Anyway, the first book I read this year was the book of Proverbs, and as I read it I encountered many of the themes that I expected – avoid adulterous women (and men), fear God and seek wisdom, work hard and live honestly, etc. All of it was really good stuff and things that I needed to be reminded of. However, pretty early on in my reading I noticed a theme kept popping up that I had not expected, and it was on the importance of correction. That’s right…correction. I admire those of you who read the last sentence without the urge to roll your eyes. Unfortunately, I did have the urge to roll my eyes, which goes to show why this lesson is one that I needed (still need).

I suppose the reason for my reticence in this regard of Proverbs is obvious. Correction is not a fun experience, and for me it is especially difficult. There is a sense of self-sufficiency that I often feel I’m entitled to, and the crucial nature of correction clearly has to battle this in me. Fortunately, the book of Proverbs doesn’t stop at “accept correction”. It demonstrates that correction is foundational in the pursuit of something greater – wisdom.

That is what got my attention. No matter how I feel about being corrected, I sincerely yearn for wisdom. That’s why I decided to dive right in to Proverbs, I wanted to grow in that area. What struck me is how unambiguous the book of Proverbs is – correction is a crucial part of the search for wisdom (Prov. 13:18). Not only that, correction is seen as being a lifelong need, not something that can ever be outgrown (Prov. 9:9). It seems that not matter how greatly God blesses a person with wisdom, they still require correction from others. Of course, this makes sense when one takes into account the doctrine of human depravity. Even those who hold to the doctrine of holiness can acknowledge the need for correction. This is why John Wesley repeatedly emphasized his belief that, even those who had reached a level of “perfection” still were capable of making mistakes, and always had room to grow (see A Plain Account of Christian Perfection, chapter 12). In fact, as I read Proverbs I see the need to utterly re-define correction. Instead of accepting correction as a necessary drudgery on the path to wisdom, I need to see it as an actual blessing from those who care (Prov. 15:31-33). So there, correction is a bigger deal than I thought it was. So what?

All this reminded me of C.S. Lewis’ assertion that pride is the most dangerous sin that we are capable of committing, because at its heart pride thrives on competition, the assertion that we are inherently superior to the people, expectations or morals around us. Reading Proverbs inspired me to meditate more on the subtle ways that pride (and therefore a resistance to correction) creeps into my life. It also caused me to look at many of the churches I have observed (fortunately none of my recent church homes) in which there seems to be an inability for the body to correct those in authority until it is too late. This is a shame because it not only harms the congregation, it also harms those in authority by taking away the opportunity to be constructively corrected until it is too late. So, I guess my question for you is this: how can our churches better embody a willingness to be corrected often? I am interested in practical ways that the whole body can take on an attitude of genuine humility. Your thoughts are greatly appreciated. I’ll leave you with this final thought, from Hebrews 12:9-11. I hope it sums things up for you like it did for me.

"Moreover, we have all had human fathers who disciplined us and we respected them for it. How much more should we submit to the Father of our spirits and live! Our fathers disciplined us for a little while as they thought best; but God disciplines us for our good, that we may share in his holiness. No discipline seems pleasant at the time, but painful. Later on, however, it produces a harvest of righteousness and peace for those who have been trained by it."


By the way, I’m currently reading The Rebirth of Orthodoxy by Thomas Oden. Even though it is aimed at mainline churches, I’m finding it a to be a fascinating take on the necessity for responsible, orthodox (small “o”) ecumenism. I recommend it.


David&Sarah said...

Hi Collie,
I was reading the Velveteen Rabbit to Emily this afternoon and it struck me as somewhat similar to what you're describing here...

"The Rabbit sighed. He thought it would be a long time before this magic called Real happened to him. He longed to become Real, to know what it felt like; and yet the idea of growing shabby and losing his eyes and whiskers was rather sad. He wished that he could become it without these uncomfortable things happening to him."

Wouldn't it be great if we could gain the wisdom without the uncomfortable correction that it comes with? I think that too many churches are all about pride and not Christ. When we decide as individuals and together as the body of Christ to make His likeness our passion, the discomfort of correction melts away and is replaced with peace of mind and an ability to remain humble before the Lord...

"'Does it hurt?' asked the Rabbit. 'Sometimes', said the Skin Horse, for he was always truthful. 'When you are Real you don't mind being hurt."

Okay. Maybe I'm reading too much into a kids story? Anyway, thanks for your thoughts. =o)


Collie said...

I love it! I think some of the most profound truths are found in Children's stories.