Why is it I keep having to learn wisdom the hard way? I mean, it isn’t like I haven’t had wise men and women and friends who have offered wise counsel. I’ve seen how bad choices can really wreck a life and then I’ve watched myself make those SAME BAD CHOICES! What gives?
Well, what gives IS our common, human struggle. Our will, our “want to” is weakened by fear and death. We allow our fear of mortality to con us into believing that “he who dies with the most toys, wins” or any number of temporary delusions we tell ourselves to justify our choices. But, in the end, they all fall flat!
Look at our lesson today in Proverbs 19:16-25:
He who keeps the commandment keeps his life; he who despises the word will die. He who is kind to the poor lends to the LORD, and he will repay him for his deed. Discipline your son while there is hope; do not set your heart on his destruction. A man of great wrath will pay the penalty; for if you deliver him, you will only have to do it again. Listen to advice and accept instruction, that you may gain wisdom for the future. Many are the plans in the mind of a man, but it is the purpose of the LORD that will be established. What is desired in a man is loyalty, and a poor man is better than a liar. The fear of the LORD leads to life; and he who has it rests satisfied; he will not be visited by harm. The sluggard buries his hand in the dish, and will not even bring it back to his mouth. Strike a scoffer, and the simple will learn prudence; reprove a man of understanding, and he will gain knowledge.
What wisdom our writer of Proverbs offers us today as we enter into the homestretch of Great Lent. And this wisdom lies at the heart of our weakened will and how we will escape foolish living. Look at three insights into making your life secure, wise, and eternal.
- First, Know the Commandments – St. John Chrysostom declares that knowing the scriptures is absolutely necessary to know God. Of course, this means an active and diligent study of the scriptures and a love for the scriptures. But you and your children will never live the scriptures if you never know WHY they are so valuable to you. The scriptures aren’t an end in themselves. No. The scriptures are valuable because they teach you about God. And that, my angels, is your true home! If you know the scriptures, you’ll get to know God, and to know Him is to love Him!
- Next, Embrace Discipline – I know, I know, this doesn’t “feel” fun. But, hey, being a grown-up isn’t easy. It is, however, worth it. Discipline sets you free to be who you were made to be in the first place. When you embrace the hard work of actively practicing the disciplines of the faith – Prayer, Fasting, and Generosity – you enable your true self to be discovered, AND you avoid the pitfalls of being enslaved by your desires. Humbly accepting instruction to learn and grow makes you like Jesus, and being like Jesus enables you to enjoy eternal life with Jesus!
- Finally, Demand Truth from Yourself – When you insist on honesty from yourself, you escape the dead-end of constantly blaming all your troubles on everyone around you and even blaming God for your troubles! St. Isaac says that “this life was given to you for repentance. Do not waste it on vain pursuits.” Of course, repentance here doesn’t just mean “feeling” sorry for wrongdoing. No, it means an active and purposeful practice of the medicine of the Orthodox Faith SO THAT you are strong enough to participate with God in His dynamic and glorious eternal life!
Today, are you able to escape bad choices in your life? Looking back, do you see the pattern of short-sighted living that causes such grief? Don’t despair! There is the remedy in the wisdom of the Church! Just be brave enough to be Orthodox on Purpose!
P.S. O Lord of Mercy, I struggle with the consequences of my bad choices. Sometimes I know the consequences of my bad choice are coming and I make a bad choice anyway. Sometimes I am surprised by what happens after my bad choices. But most of the time, I am simply not paying attention to my choices. Please forgive me. I am not being attentive, and the fallout of that inattentiveness is the source of most of the weaknesses in my living. Please help me do that daily faithfulness that keeps me focused on You. Amen