13 Blessed are those who find wisdom, those who gain understanding, Proverbs 3:13
• the quality of having experience, knowledge, and good judgment; the quality of being wise.
• the soundness of an action or decision with regard to the application of experience, knowledge, and good judgment.
• the body of knowledge and principles that develops within a specified society or period.
We are living in a time of high volatility. Every click on the computer and swipe on the phone, causes a reaction, a feeling of threat or defense; anger or fear; frustration or confusion. People are on high alert and they take their reactivity with them into every day life, at checkout counters, the doctor's office, parent-teacher conferences, and on the highway. Events that would have been looked over, now cause a reaction. People feel free to say unfair, unkind, and untrue statements that create a toxic fume that permeates the atmosphere. All someone needs to do is a light a match.
This season of unpredictability makes us jumpy and we often find ourselves in a state of reactivity. It would behoove the world, to move away from being right and into a place of being wise.
Think for a second: When was the last time you sought wisdom?
Wisdom is different from knowledge. One can be intelligent and not wise. Wisdom is not seeking answers, it is seeking understanding. Wisdom comes from experience. It comes from suffering. It comes from observing. It comes from a place of humility. Wisdom begins by being more connected to God and less connected to the world. – Not that we forget about the world, but rather, we spend less time being driven by it.
We seek wisdom, by finding solitude. Henri Nouwen wrote:
“Solitude is the furnace of transformation. Without solitude we remain victims of our society and continue to be entangled in the illusions of the false self. Jesus himself entered into this furnace. There he was tempted with the three compulsions of the world: to be relevant ('turn stones into loaves'), to be spectacular ('throw yourself down'), and to be powerful ('I will give you all these kingdoms'). There he affirmed God as the only source of his identity ('You must worship the Lord your God and serve him alone'). Solitude is the place of the great struggle and the great encounter - the struggle against the compulsions of the false self, and the encounter with the loving God who offers himself as the substance of the new self.”
― Henri J.M. Nouwen, The Way of the Heart: The Spirituality of the Desert Fathers and Mothers
The season of Lent is here. The wild month of February has ended, and the liturgical calendar beckons us to come into the wilderness, into a season of solitude.
Solitude is not found at the spa or on the beach, it’s found within yourself. It’s found when you quiet your mind, go deeper into yourself, so that you may come out wiser, more self-aware, less reactive, more compassionate. Solitude is found when we fast from that which keeps us from God, and when we feast on that which draws us to him.
Fast from judgment, Feast on compassion
Fast from greed, Feast on sharing
Fast from scarcity, Feast on abundance
Fast from fear, Feast on peace
Fast from lies, Feast on truth
Fast from gossip, Feast on praise
Fast from anxiety, Feast on patience
Fast from evil, Feast on kindness
Fast from apathy, Feast on engagement
Fast from discontent, Feast on gratitude
Fast from noise, Feast on silence
Fast from discouragement, Feast on hope
Fast from hatred, Feast on love
What does solitude look like?
“In order to understand the world, one has to turn away from it on occasion."
― Albert Camus, The Myth of Sisyphus and Other Essays
If you want to understand the world, step away from it.
Turn off Facebook for 40 Days.
Limit your access to whatever your news choice is and allow yourself only the headlines. If you watch one news station that is more to your ilk, read another news choice that is not of your liking. Read enough to understand, but not so much as to be consumed.
Take a screen Sabbath.
Spend more time creating, get a bird feeder, bake, give, read, and be kind to strangers.
Take all of the time that you spend worrying, annoyed, frustrated, angry, or sad and turn your energy to your soul and connecting with God and thinking about God’s love, God’s grace, and God’s forgiveness.
Be in a more intimate relationship with God than you are with your phone.
Every time your mind is triggered with worry or frustration, stop, say a word, and reconnect with the God of all human history.
Spend more time thinking about what you for, than what you are against. Spend more energy on love than on hate. Think on these things.
Once we have spent time in solitude, finding ourselves closer to God, then we are to the world – then and only then, can we respond to the world.
Take that time in solitude to pray. Pray for your enemies. Pray for the liberal. Pray for the conservative. Pray for the immigrant. Pray for the teacher. Pray for the leader. Pray for your neighbor. Pray for the employer. Pray for the picker. Pray for the reporter. Pray for the parent. Pray for the child. Pray for the water. Pray for the air. Pray for the trees. Pray for the wealthy. Pray for the poor. Pray for the greedy. Pray for the generous. Pray for the church. Pray for the mosque. Pray for the temple. Pray for the Native American. Pray for the Latino. Pray for the African-American. Pray for the Asian. Pray for the White. Pray for the Gay. Pray for the Straight. Pray for the married. Pray for the single. Pray for the lonely. Pray for the homeless. Pray for the hungry. Pray for your enemies. Pray for those you love. Pray for people you do not understand. Pray to be understood.
“We live, in fact, in a world starved for solitude, silence, and private: and therefore starved for meditation and true friendship.”
― C.S. Lewis, The Weight of Glory
If we can find a way to solitude, we will gain wisdom. If we can gain wisdom, we will know God. If we know God, we will speak the truth not be afraid. There is a time to be brave. Bravery will come when wisdom is discerned.
You are wiser than you give yourself credit. After all, God abides in you and you in him. Seek God and you will know peace.
Next week I will write about finding wisdom in the hardest moments.