Wholehearted Wisdom

By Sherry Black

A Reading from Proverbs 3:11-20

11 My child, do not despise the Lord’s discipline
or be weary of his reproof,
12 for the Lord reproves the one he loves,
as a father the son in whom he delights.

13 Happy are those who find wisdom,
and those who get understanding,
14 for her income is better than silver,
and her revenue better than gold.
15 She is more precious than jewels,
and nothing you desire can compare with her.
16 Long life is in her right hand;
in her left hand are riches and honor.
17 Her ways are ways of pleasantness,
and all her paths are peace.
18 She is a tree of life to those who lay hold of her;
those who hold her fast are called happy.

19 The Lord by wisdom founded the earth;
by understanding he established the heavens;
20 by his knowledge the deeps broke open,
and the clouds drop down the dew.


What is wisdom? What is it to seek her? Whatever it is, it’s better than material riches, it’s more desirable than rich food and drink; it’s life, long life, but it’s greater than life. It is LIFE in all caps, it is fullness, it is the enjoyment of life. It is the better, the best path!

An important theme of the Jewish tradition is wrestling with God and with faith in order to faithfully apply them to the individual person. They don’t throw out tradition, of course; much of the Jewish tradition is found in midrash, where teachers discuss and wrestle with their faith and meaning. It is an engaged, wholehearted faith.

I would go on to suggest that the pursuit of wisdom is wholehearted faith. Brene Brown defines wholeheartedness as “a way of engaging with the world from a place of worthiness.” And as Christians, created in the very image and likeness of God, we too can wrestle with faith and meaning and God from a place of God-given worth and worthiness as divine children.

In her book, Wholehearted Faith, Rachel Held Evens wrote,

My desire is that you face all your questions, all your conundrums, all your contradictions, boldly. I cannot guarantee you will retain the faith you inherited — I know that mine is not exactly the faith that my parents helped to instill in me — and honestly, a static faith or an unchanging one isn’t and shouldn’t be my prayer for you, because as we learn and as we grow, faith should evolve. 

As we will hear Paul advise Timothy later this week, part of our task is to “hold… the sound teaching” and “guard the good treasure” of the faith that we’ve received. At the same time, the Lord will make our faith grow and play out differently as life changes and challenges us. And I believe facing and wrestling with these life questions and with God, in the tenacity of faith, are what it means to seek wisdom.

The Very Rev. Sherry Black is a second-career Episcopal priest, and has been a full-time hospital chaplain for ten years. She also serves a small mission church as priest-in-charge, and is dean of her deanery.

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