Backcountry Wisdom

By Dane Neufeld

A Reading from Wisdom 6:12-23 

12 Wisdom is radiant and unfading,
and she is easily discerned by those who love her,
and is found by those who seek her.
13 She hastens to make herself known to those who desire her.
14 One who rises early to seek her will have no difficulty,
for she will be found sitting at the gate.
15 To fix one’s thought on her is perfect understanding,
and one who is vigilant on her account will soon be free from care,
16 because she goes about seeking those worthy of her,
and she graciously appears to them in their paths,
and meets them in every thought.

17 The beginning of wisdom is the most sincere desire for instruction,
and concern for instruction is love of her,
18 and love of her is the keeping of her laws,
and giving heed to her laws is assurance of immortality,
19 and immortality brings one near to God;
20 so the desire for wisdom leads to a kingdom.

21 Therefore if you delight in thrones and sceptres, O monarchs over the peoples,
honor wisdom, so that you may reign for ever.
22 I will tell you what wisdom is and how she came to be,
and I will hide no secrets from you,
but I will trace her course from the beginning of creation,
and make knowledge of her clear,
and I will not pass by the truth;
23 nor will I travel in the company of sickly envy,
for envy does not associate with wisdom.


I took my kids backpacking recently, deep in the foothills of the Rocky Mountains, in the backcountry. I packed two canisters of bear spray and a bear banger in the event that a hungry grizzly ambled into our camp. At night I hung all the food and utensils high up in the poplar tree on the far side of the valley. Backcountry wisdom is not a disputed or controversial topic. Those who wish to survive tend to follow it without question.

It is not so with many other aspects of wisdom. I am often confused and overwhelmed by the sheer volume of opinion that seems to shroud every possible corner of our lives: eating, relationships, health, politics and of course, religion. It would seem that true wisdom is hard to come by, though the Book of Wisdom would disagree: “[S]he is easily discerned by those who love her, and is found by those who seek her. She hastens to make herself known…”

The wisdom spoken of here may not give us answers on every possible matter, but it does give us the means to navigate a complex and deceptive world. To have a “sincere desire for instruction” and to love wisdom by keeping her laws “brings one near to God.” Wisdom is a figure that is external to our own inner convolutions and provides a pathway beyond ourselves and our “sickly” inner workings. Wise decisions are often simple once we have cleared away the junk and clutter that accumulate within our hearts.

Jesus was the embodiment of this divine wisdom, and he lived his life with clarity and decisiveness. He knew where he was going and he knew which decisions to make and when. Because we are sinners, the clarity of Jesus’ life will appear and disappear throughout the course of our lives. Our calling is to constantly seek it, especially when our vision grows cloudy and confused. The wisdom of Jesus is always there and it hastens to make itself known to those who love him and seek him with a clear and sincere heart.

The Rev. Dane Neufeld currently serves as the incumbent of St. James, Calgary, after serving 7 years in Fort McMurray in Northern Alberta.

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Today we pray for:

St. Paul’s Episcopal Church, New Orleans
The Diocese of Bristol (Church of England) 


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