Friday, March 15, 2013

Important Lessons

It was difficult to pick out the exact words from this proverb today - simply because all of them reveal just tremendous truth about our God - Wisdom exemplified.  I think the key passage which reflects so much about what God has to say to us in this chapter is really found much earlier in verse 6:  "Don’t miss a word of this—I’m telling you how to live well, I’m telling you how to live at your best."  It is a call to listen - to find wisdom, not in just the words, but in the person of Wisdom himself.  In so doing, we move from the place of just living to living well - at our very best.

I love those who love me; those who look for me find me.  Wealth and Glory accompany me—also substantial Honor and a Good Name.  My benefits are worth more than a big salary, even a very big salary; the returns on me exceed any imaginable bonus.  You can find me on Righteous Road—that’s where I walk—at the intersection of Justice Avenue, handing out life to those who love me, filling their arms with life—armloads of life!  (Proverbs 8:17-21 MSG)

As the chapter unfolds, God asks something of each of us as it applies to our "purpose" in life.  The idea of seeking him above all else comes through in passages such as: 

Prefer my life-disciplines over chasing after money, and God-knowledge over a lucrative career. (vs. 10)

My benefits are worth more than a big salary, even a very big salary; the returns on me exceed any imaginable bonus. (vs. 19)

Blessed the man, blessed the woman, who listens to me, awake and ready for me each morning, alert and responsive as I start my day’s work. (vs. 34)

So, why did I choose this particular section of the Proverb this morning?  I think it is because we have such a focus in society today to outdo each other in almost every imaginable way, except as it applies to our development of personal character.  We sometimes get focused on the "stuff" instead of the "person".  You see, Jesus asks something of us here - to open up our arms to him -  not to fill with "stuff", but with "life".  There is nothing more "real" than a change in character - it is the true "stuff" which defines us, is it not?  So, in learning to pursue God as he desires, we see there are some "shifts" in our thinking which must occur.

First, we make him the object of our attention.  In this passage, we see someone looking so as to find.  There are varying degrees of "looking", aren't there?  I have spent time just looking out windows as things pass by, and then there are times when I am looking intently because I am observing something specific, such as the lizard skittering across the block wall.  So, the first thing we are asked to do is to determine our focus.  If our focus is attentive, we place ourselves in a position of taking in what is revealed.  

Then there is the idea of desiring something.  When we are looking with intent, we are really desiring to see something.  As I walk with a friend at lunch, we pass a small open field with "signs" of life - little burrows.  For weeks on end, we see nothing from those little holes in the ground - but we never cease to look.  Why?  We desire to see these little ground hogs poking their little heads from those holes.  They don't skitter over to us and beg for food - they just reveal themselves to us on occasion.  If we weren't watching - we'd miss them!  The same is true in our spiritual lives - if we want to catch a glimpse of the things which would otherwise escape our view, we must be looking!

Second, we must be looking in the right places.  Character growth often takes places in the times and places we least think possible for them to occur.  I know for myself, some of the most "growth-provoking" places have been in times of being "knocked down a few notches" - giving me pause to consider just how much I was shutting out the stuff God wanted me to see.  It is like God took the "loppers" to my limbs and just pruned back those branches enough for me to be left a little "bare".  Ever been there?  What is your first reaction to being left bare?  Isn't it to try to cover up?  Yep, it probably is.  Here's the thing, though.  God is found only when we can see past ourselves! Sometimes we need our branches trimmed a little so we can see past "us" and see him!  

Our writer tells us we find God at some intersections in life - Righteous Road and Justice Avenue.  Now, these are not literal locations - but they represent two very important "places" in our lives.  Righteous Road - the place where our own deeds are almost "measured" against God's righteousness.  It is really a "reflective" road - one which reveals the true quality of our character.  Justice Avenue - the place where our actions come face-to-face with grace.  You see, God's justice is evident in his conduct - not ours!  His response to our lack of moral goodness and right-living is to judge our sinfulness in Christ!  The intersection might expose our sin, but it also provides the perfect "life-turn" right into Grace Way.

Last, we must maintain the right posture.  It is in emptying ourselves of all the "stuff" we carry around which we think is important in defining who we are that we come to a place where we can allow him to fill us with the stuff which really defines a child of God.  We cannot have it both ways - our own deeds of righteousness must be emptied out in order to fully embrace the only deed of righteousness which makes us able to be truly different!  Just sayin!