A wise man once said “You only get out of life what you put into it. Don’t expect more until you do more.” Wow. That’s something to let echo in your head a bit and see what kind of insights it produces in your own life.
Of course, that’s the purpose of wisdom. Not to be just a pithy phrase on a bumper sticker, but a light to illumine “dark” places in my own life.
Look at our lesson today in Proverbs 3:34-4:22:
Toward the scorners he is scornful, but to the humble he shows favor. The wise will inherit honor, but fools get disgrace.
Hear, O sons, a father’s instruction, and be attentive, that you may gain insight; for I give you good precepts: do not forsake my teaching. When I was a son with my father, tender, the only one in the sight of my mother, he taught me, and said to me, “Let your heart hold fast my words; keep my commandments, and live; do not forget, and do not turn away from the words of my mouth. Get wisdom; get insight. Do not forsake her, and she will keep you; love her, and she will guard you. The beginning of wisdom is this: Get wisdom, and whatever you get, get insight. Prize her highly, and she will exalt you; she will honor you if you embrace her. She will place on your head a fair garland; she will bestow on you a beautiful crown.”
Hear, my son, and accept my words, that the years of your life may be many. I have taught you the way of wisdom; I have led you in the paths of uprightness. When you walk, your step will not be hampered; and if you run, you will not stumble. Keep hold of instruction, do not let go; guard her, for she is your life. Do not enter the path of the wicked, and do not walk in the way of evil men. Avoid it; do not go on it; turn away from it and pass on. For they cannot sleep unless they have done wrong; they are robbed of sleep unless they have made some one stumble. For they eat the bread of wickedness and drink the wine of violence. But the path of the righteous is like the light of dawn, which shines brighter and brighter until full day. The way of the wicked is like deep darkness; they do not know over what they stumble.
My son, be attentive to my words; incline your ear to my sayings. Let them not escape from your sight; keep them within your heart.
Proverbs is one of the books in the Bible called “Wisdom literature.” These books like Ecclesiastes and Proverbs, are meant to be ways to convey the hard won lessons of trial and error to the next generation SO THAT they don’t repeat the same mistakes and have to learn these lessons the “hard way.”
Alas, often we learn too late to listen and avoid those very hard lessons.
The writer today speaks to us as a father would speak to his son, and the lessons he offers us are necessary for us to avoid falling into the pit of our own destruction.
And it is in three powerful and proactive acts we will learn this wisdom:
- Be Attentive – A central virtue that our Orthodox Faith insists upon is the virtue of Attentiveness. This is both internal attentiveness and external attentiveness. In fact, I would insist to you that internal attentiveness makes external attentiveness possible. If I am asleep to my own soul, where I’m most vulnerable to stumble, I’ll never see the pothole coming in my life externally! So, Be Attentive!
- Do Not Forget – On the heels of Attentiveness is “anamnesis” or remembering. But this is so much more than the mere recalling of old facts. It is a remembering that actually puts me in the very act of the event I recall. Orthodox remembering is all about the intimacy of being connected to God in His eternal “moment.” I don’t just receive the Eucharist, I am actually with Christ and the disciples in that room!
- Walk Well – If I’m attentive; if I stay intimately connected with Christ by remembering Him in all of life, I won’t walk in darkness. I won’t stumble. I’ll avoid the pits that derail my joy and my peace!
Today, the key to embracing these three powerful and proactive acts is loving God first. All the Faith is designed to get me beyond the dead end of self-centered ways and onto the path of wisdom in being Orthodox on Purpose!