Wisdom is the pursuit of a lifetime, and it entails both gathering and giving. According to the wisdom literature of the Old Testament, the gathering process might include any or all of the following:
- Honing the ability to listen and hear wise things (some don't recognize wisdom when they hear it!)
- Acquiring wise counsel from elders or mentors
- Embracing the teaching of parents
- Treasuring wise words
- Engaging more life energy to the pursuit of wisdom than to the pursuit of wealth
- Tenacity in holding on to the good instruction that has been received
- Training the mind to think deeply and reflectively on the wisdom that has been gathered and gained, so as to add even more to the cache.
- Developing the habit of gathering wisdom each and every day
No one can be truly wise who gathers but fails to give. Like breathing, wisdom requires intake and exhalation. The giving or exhaling might look something like this:
- Speaking only at the right time and in measured words
- Actively transferring wisdom to worthy student(s) via informal or formal relationships
- Writing or making permanent the specific wisdom-work that has become your own
- Inviting others to partake of your bounty
- Carefully guarding a lifestyle that models wisdom without words
I can trace seasons of my life where I have gathered, often followed by seasons of giving. I suppose a little of both happen in the course of most days, but sometimes there are longer and more pronounced seasons of one or the other.
It seems like I am in a "giving" season right now. I've prepared a dozen messages for public speaking all to be delivered within a seven-week period. It's both exhilarating and draining! It's also very, very humbling.
I remember the first time I spoke to a group of 100 ladies, about 17 years ago. I was used to speaking, but on a much smaller scale. This larger, unfamiliar setting caused acute nervousness and I had the typical stage fright symptoms of sweaty palms and dry mouth.
Shortly after that, I had my first baby and I stepped out of public ministry. Period. For ten years.
A funny thing happened when I returned to teaching and speaking: I lost the stage fright. Rather than feeling rusty or timid, I felt a new sense of confidence and enjoyment in the process of giving. After "losing" ten years of practice, how could it be possible to advance in my ability to share truth?
I attribute it to the fact that those ten years added incredible, maturing life experiences to the mental knowledge I had been tucking away. I now had living examples of both success and failure to add breadth and credibility to the things I was saying. I had grown, not just by studying but by LIVING.
My husband, who is a pastor and who often speaks 3 or more times weekly, was discussing this with me the other day. He has come to similar conclusions that I have. Studying for a particular speaking engagement is very important, but there is something beyond that discipline that enables us to truly benefit those who will listen to us. It's a lifestyle of wisdom: gleaning it day in and day out, here a little and there a little. It's a lifestyle of reading and praying and crying and laughing and eating and drinking and working. There are many people who do these things every day, but the one who gleans those experiences for wisdom will have a fully loaded treasury from which to draw, to benefit himself as well as others.
"Spread the wealth around" may not be good advice for the economic health of a nation, but it is very good advice for those who are dealing with a commodity more precious than money--wisdom.
How have you gained or given wisdom this week?
"Happy is the man who finds wisdom, And the man who gains understanding;
For her proceeds are better than the profits of silver,
And her gain than fine gold.
She is more precious than rubies,
And all the things you may desire cannot compare with her.
Length of days is in her right hand, In her left hand riches and honor.
Her ways are ways of pleasantness,
And all her paths are peace.
She is a tree of life to those who take hold of her,
And happy are all who retain her."
Proverbs 3:13-18 (NKJV)