Shortcuts to Wisdom

I would like to have a shortcut to wisdom. I'd like to have a ready answer for the child who asks why?, the friend who asks how?, the church that asks when?

shortcuts to wisdom

Whether it's a choice between several very good options, two equally unappealing choices, or when there are four or fourteen or forty thousand ideas to whittle down into one condensed version of The Best Option, wisdom is what we want. The right answer, every time.

Decisions are not my forte, and sometimes you just want one answer, no matter what it is.

Socrates had some witty things to say about wisdom:

The beginning of wisdom is the definition of terms.

The only true wisdom is in knowing you know nothing.

We can define the terms to say that nothing means not even God, and the wisdom we thought we could grab slips right out again and we're lost without this knowledge. Not just unwise, but utterly hopelessly cluelessly lost.

And in a sense, I don't know God. He's all mystery robed in light too bright to see clearly, something unknown but revealed in plain sight and plain people and plain living in a world that didn't create itself, but doesn't recognize its Creator. He's revealed to those who recognize they know nothing but long to know Everything—long badly enough to spend their whole life pursuing the shortcut.

The Beginning of Wisdom

There is a shortcut to wisdom: know God - which takes time and isn't so much a shortcut as a way, the life of the wise spent foolishly before the world; slowly reaching the starting blocks, slowly running a perpetual race, slowly reaching eternity.

It's not foolish to take things slowly. It's not foolish to pull your chin up from the toil of getting whatever it is you're getting out of life and point yourself back up, orient yourself again to the upwardness of life in Christ.

I am most unwise when I am busiest and when my eyes are filled with the smoke of the candle burning to an empty center. Wisdom requires time, and takes its time.

But there might be shortcuts.

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People make mistakes and this is kind of a shortcut to wisdom.

If we can look up from our life we will see other people running down the side roads, getting wisdom the hard way.

This is the option I hope for on behalf of my children, honestly. Every foolish thing you could want to do has already been done, the natural and supernatural consequences doled out, and lessons learned. Can you just form your hypothesis, make observations, and draw your conclusions like a scientist?

It's just not the way we live life, though. We live more like artists than scientists, and artists have to be unafraid to make mistakes, to have a rough draft.

And sometimes we take other people's mistakes as a challenge to do it better. We think we can be the ones to play with fire and not get burned.

We'll learn the hard way thank you very much.

Pain gives us the hindsight of wisdom.

In The Horse and His Boy, Aslan gives the impetus for speed with a lashing paw across Aravis' back. He spurs the children and their horses on to run faster, to get to safety, and to warn King Lune in time, but the children and horses only know the most immediate danger—the lion himself. They only know that a lion is chasing them and that lions have wreaked havoc on their whole journey.

Later in the story Shasta learns that every lion he has encountered has been One.

I was the lion who forced you to join with Aravis. I was the cat who comforted you among the houses of the dead. I was the lion who drove the jackals from you while you slept. I was the lion who gave the horses the new strength of fear for the last mile so that you should reach King Lune in time. And I was the lion you do not remember who pushed the boat in which you lay, a child near death, so that it came to shore where a man sat, wakeful at midnight, to receive you.

Pain is a hard master to drive us forward or steer us away, speed us up or slow us down; and if we will ever make it, it will be, in part, because pain taught us what not to do—which is a sort of wisdom-after-the-fact.

Counsel gives us the mistakes of others, compounded by the pain, and wraps it in the wisdom of God.

Counsel in the heart of man is like deep water, But a man of understanding will draw it out. {Proverbs 20:5 NKJV}

We don't always have to seek out counsel. So much of it is offered without asking and free of charge, whether we want it or not, and the real problem can be filtering out the good from the bad.

All the good counsel is found in God, and a good counselor is one who takes your everyday life and re-casts it in the light of Scripture. Counsel is never a demand. It's not a law laid down that must be followed. It's another set of eyes on your life and your decisions, and taking counsel or not taking it is still your decision to make.

We may not want to hear it, but it will do its work.

Good counsel, godly counsel, is the trifold plan of pain and mistakes and the unchanging word of God. It's a bitter gift to the hard heart but a sweet relief to the already-wise, the ones who know their own foolishness.

In the end there are no shortcuts but there is a sure path, and wisdom is not only for the old. It's for all who are fools for Christ.