Tuesday, March 29, 2011


I have been thinking a lot about wisdom lately, but not "wisdom" in the traditional sense, or at least the sense it usually seems to get talked about in our culture. We have this picture of wisdom as something you sort of magically get when you're older--as in the phrase "older and wiser"--or through lots of really hard and tragic experiences.

But "wisdom" is also a spiritual gift listed in 1 Corinthians and it shows up on all the spiritual gift inventories, described as (different from knowledge) knowing God's will and being able to see the connections between everyday life and spiritual matters/God-things.

I think there's also another kind of wisdom--the kind that allows us to see ourselves clearly, to see others clearly, and to make room in that clarity for the movement of the Spirit.

I don't think many people (myself included) have this kind of wisdom.

But this is the kind of wisdom that we need if we are going to stop saying things like "it's not my fault there aren't any women leaders at this conference--we were just looking for the best people." This is so arrogant/condescending (especially when talking to a woman), and it shows that the speaker has not seen clearly the gifts of others or made room for the Spirit to work through people the speaker doesn't see fitting the usual mold of leaders. (Because really? all the best people just happened to be white men? really? hmm.) It's also the kind of wisdom we need if we are going to stop meeting new ideas with "that won't work because ______." Because as soon as we utter those words, we have shut down our own vision of others, we have blocked their creativity, and we have closed the windows and kept the Spirit outside. This is the kind of wisdom at work when we choose to listen without fixing the problems of the other person, when we show compassion without needing to solve everything for them...because when we fix it, we not only give the impression that we believe we are better than the other person, we also close down room for the Spirit to work in that person's own creative solutions to what's going on in their life.

The trouble is, this kind of wisdom requires that we know ourselves really really well, and that we simultaneously allow others to know themselves (and show that self to us) and to know us. So few people in our culture are truly self-aware, and so few people seem interested in really knowing The Other, and so few people want the Holy Spirit blowing in and messing up their worldview and plans, that this kind of wisdom seems scarce. When we're around it, we know. But most of life (at least my life) is not lived in that wisdom atmosphere, and we barely notice its absence until we breathe that life-giving air for a few moments...and then it's awfully hard to go back to the way things were.

So today I'm working on making space, because I breathed that other atmosphere and now I want it back.

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