Sunday, August 6, 2017

The Pursuit of Wisdom and Women

I’ve been spending a lot of time in the Proverbs over the last few weeks and while it has helped me in sharing its truths with someone I love, the Lord has a funny way of exposing His truths to the reader for their own life. While I was searching for wisdom and truth for someone else, the Lord used it to refine me. And it got me thinking about the pursuit of Wisdom in my life.

The Proverbs are chalked full of wisdom, literally, packed to the brim on the importance of wisdom, urging the reader to listen to, walk in, abide in and dwell in wisdom. The younger the person, the louder the call to listen – I'm sure that's because Solomon was hip to how a young person thinks - they don't care about wisdom and it's value. Youngins, from the beginning of time, are and have been, hard headed, know-it-alls that feel invincible (guilty as charged). It's their way or the highway. 

Wisdom in Proverbs is likened to a beautiful and intriguing woman. She is strong and demands a lot of care and attention to keep up with. She wants to be cherished and sought after and she's oh-so-valuable. "Do not forsake her and she will keep you." Yet so many run from wisdom’s calling.  People seek their own way and the warning against running from Lady Wisdom is loud and made crystal clear. Wisdom can be gained by reading the word, but all throughout the book, Solomon urges the reader to listen for it – literally listening to the counselors all around you to gain wisdom. "The way of the fool is right in his own eyes, but a wise man listens to advice" (Prov 12:15). "Listen to advice and accept instruction, that you may gain wisdom in the future" (19:20). These verses tell me that first, we need counselors. That means we need people in our lives that can and will be involved enough to share advice, biblical truths and wisdom and secondly, that we need to be open to listening to them. Proverbs tells us that gaining wisdom is better than having gold and understanding is better than choice silver (16:16), and it's far better than jewels or anything we could ever dream of having (8:11)!!! WOW! Yet, so many don't want any part of it. Their way is right in their own eyes and they don't want to hear anything other than what their hearts want and if you dig a little deeper into the Scriptures you'll find out what it tells us about our hearts...hint: They are desperately sick and beyond a cure (Jer. 17:9). Why do we insist on listening to our sickened hearts?

By the world’s standards I am no feminist, but when I think of all the amazing women God has put in my path to sharpen me as a wife, mother, sister, friend and daughter of the Most High, I am all “hear me roar!” The role that women and only women can play in the lives of other women make me want to parade down a street, hootin' and hollerin'-- kind of like Lady Wisdom does in the Proverbs--and I want to make sure this is a truth that is experienced for all womankind. Amen? Amen! I'll have shirts made up!
While I value and love the leading ladies in my life that the Lord has given me biologically, it is the women in the body of Christ that I wish to speak of. These ladies are not obligated to me. They don’t have to pour into me. They have children and husbands and friends, yet they give of their time and share their wisdom with me, and I don’t know why. When I think of the time that they spend on me, I fall to my humble puddle of tears. I literally did as I went around to share what I was writing about, hence the teary pictures below.

I have a lady I can go to when I am a discouraged parent and she offers advice, counsel and encouragement. She shares all of her tips and tricks as she has traveled a lot farther down the road than I have. Then there is a lady that has helped me think through important decisions in my life, like "should we have another baby???" (By the way, we did). There is a lady that had the courage to confront and lovingly rebuke me when she heard me as a young gal gossiping about someone I love, and the same lady has made a point to pour herself into my life and has served to prod my faith, asking how I'm growing in the Lord and has for years. I have cried on her shoulder during darker days of my marriage when I felt embarrassed and ashamed and she just loved me. There is one that listens to me as I talk through my irrational night time anxiety and she helps me to put off those untrue thoughts and put on Christ and sends me texts to check in. I have a lady I can run to and with one look or one word can send me to the Kleenex box and right into her arms. I call her and she speaks truth to me, whether it's about how to handle conflict in a relationship, or when my husband has changed jobs and I'm uneasy, or when I've been a discouraged homeschool mom. And there are ladies who just have God's word on their mouths at all times and it is sweet encouragement to the soul when I hear them speak. I have women that I can text and say "please pray for me," and they do. Some of these ladies have taken me on as their personal project, consistently and selflessly, making time for me. Others it has been for a time, but they have had an amazingly profound and meaningful impact on my life. And there are some who may not even know the impact they have made on my life. And ALL of them are there when I need it. If every woman could have just ONE woman like this in their life, they would be richer than Oprah. And Oprah doesn't count as your wise woman of choice.
What is something that all of these women have in common? They are all older than me, they’ve lived more, seen more, know more. And they all know the Lord. They have a faith that I envy and a walk that is deep. They have been given grace and share that grace with me. They are faithful and humble and...they are wise. They are Titus 2 women. I want to be like them.
 So why me? I have no clue apart from being it the Lord’s will for my life. BUT, I think it also takes some humility. They didn’t just walk up to me and start pouring into me. I think it takes a heart softening and a big piece of humble pie to make yourself vulnerable and let those walls come down and say, “Hey, I don’t know what I’m doing, but maybe they can help,” and to just talk and to be engaged, but more importantly, to just listen. Proverbs says that "with humility comes wisdom" (11:2) and that is truly what we should be striving for in this world. 1 Peter 3:3-4 says, "Your beauty should not come from outward adornment, such as elaborate hairstyles and the wearing of gold jewelry or fine clothes. Rather, it should be that of your inner self, the unfading beauty of a gentle and quiet spirit, which is of great worth in God’s sight." This should be our heart's desire.
So how? How does that happen? How on earth are these relationships formed? These ladies don’t just come up to me and I don’t just walk up to them and lay my garbage at their feet (although sometimes I do now. If my counselors are reading, they are smiling). The answer to HOW these relationships are forged is, I believe, through service in The Body. The more areas that I can serve in, the more opportunities that I have to be with these ladies. And these ladies, likewise, are servants in the church. Rocking babies in the nursery, cooking meals at kid’s camp, driving for two hours to decorate for a ladies retreat, opening my home for small group, working VBS, serving at luncheons, the list goes on. Serving requires a level of humility too. It's opening yourself up to the fact that you have something to offer the body and it's a surefire way to expose yourself to women in all peer groups. So Carpe Diem! Do it! Serve it up!

So what have I gained? I pray, some wisdom! A few months ago, one of my biggest mentors came to me at my house and told me that I am no longer a ‘younger’ and that it was time for me to start pouring into ladies that are younger than myself. And while she may be right, I certainly don’t feel ready! Just last week, I told another one of my greatest counselors my plan on how I was going to deal with a certain issue in my personal life and she graciously and tenderly told me that I was wrong. The Lord used her in that moment to turn a light bulb on in my head and literally changed my course and subsequently my relationship with this person that I was planning to execute an otherwise, unwise plan! I have sooooo much to learn still. I have also saved my husband a lot of money on counseling/therapy, but more importantly, I have safety. "Where there is no guidance, the people will fall, but in the multitude of counselors there is safety" (Prov 11:14). And if the scriptures are true, my safety net is quite large and secure.
Why do I share all of this? Because I want this for you, dear reader. If you are reading this, I want you to think, "Who is speaking truth into my life? Do I have an older person/people that I can glean from?" If you are not able answer this question, we need to ask "why?" Are you making yourself available to your Body of believers by way of service? Is there a wide variety of people in your midst? People who may not think just like you? People who are older than you? I have plenty of like minded friends that I can gab with, laugh with, mourn with, commiserate with, but I NEED the older women (and men) in my life, and I'd venture to say, you do too! Do you take the opportunity when you can to let your guard down and ask other women questions? Questions like "What was the best piece of marriage advice you've received?" or "How on earth did you discipline your kids when they did ____?" The more you talk and ask and LISTEN, the more you'll learn and then you'll be able to call them or pull them aside and say, "I don't know how to communicate _____ with my husband. I am feeling so discouraged and frustrated. Please HELP ME!" or "ACK!!! I'm drowning at home. It seems like all I do is yell! I can't keep up with all of the stuff on my plate. What did you do when you had little kids at home?" Oh, how I want this to be true for every woman I know. This is the healthy body at work! Iron sharpening iron. If you do not have any older women speaking truth into your life, you are missing out on the richness of Wisdom! Do not be wise in your own eyes, you don't have to be! And you're likely not! "Blessed is the one who finds wisdom and the one who gets understanding" (Prov 3:13). Be blessed, go find that wisdom. And know, I'm here. I don't know much, but I'm learning from the best...

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