Growing up, I remember that older people continually urged me to enjoy my childhood and youth. Like many of you, I longed for a time when I could chart my own destiny and engage the world independently. Marrying young allowed that to happen much faster than I thought.
When you are young, it seems like everyone feels a need to offer-intentioned advice that never quite seems to fit. Those same adults that counseled patience and presence at the moment said something that I always found confusing. Time passes quickly, and because of that, life passes quickly.
Approaching sixty means coming to terms with an unavoidable fact of life. Sands in the hourglass of life pass steadily from top to bottom, and almost before we know it, the bottom is filling up as the top wanes. Time waits for no one.
Another piece of advice often offered in my youth was, "With age comes wisdom." Wisdom is a combination of knowledge, experience, and well-developed intuition. It is something we learn and earn. Often wisdom is only acquired as we navigate the convoluted, often complex problems that life throws at us.
Solomon was purported to be one of the wisest men of his day, perhaps even the wisest person of all time. He studied widely, associated with the educated elite, and took Israel's kingdom to its zenith in the process. Solomon was a prolific writer credited with authoring Proverbs, Ecclesiastes, and the Song of Solomon.
Ecclesiastes was written toward the end of his life. Recently I read this short biblical book and was somewhat taken aback by the overwhelming sense of futility Solomon displays looking back on life. Solomon was a shrewd politician, handling domestic affairs and forging political alliances with other countries by strategic marriages. He had it all by all accounts, so one has to wonder why his writing conveys a sense of being world-weary.
This man had a profound divine encounter upon the completion and dedication of the Temple in Jerusalem. God offered him anything that he would ask for, and Solomon chose the wisdom to govern well. God's response was to give him wealth, possessions, and honor as well. God's only caveat was that Solomon and Israel remain faithful to worship God alone. But politically expedient marriages soon diluted the king's resolve to worship God alone. I can't help but wonder if this was the source of disillusionment in Ecclesiastes.
Solomon wrote, "The fear of the Lord is the beginning of wisdom, and the knowledge of the Holy One is insight." Proverbs 9:10. The author mentions wisdom fifty times in Proverbs. As a young man and a new king, he had a profound experience with God and even sees fire come down from heaven at the Temple's dedication. Yet somewhere along the way, those marriages to foreign wives led to the worship of foreign gods.
There is a difference between knowing what is right and doing the right thing. All of us seem like we are wandering in the wilderness for the last eight months. Our everyday lives have been affected by a pandemic that continues to color so much of life. Every day another expert touts yet another set of newly compiled facts about a disease running rampant worldwide. As more and more people contract the virus statewide, the possibility of an infection escalates. One of my peers said something very sobering in a meeting a couple of weeks ago. This virus doesn't care about the holidays.
As the holidays approach, we are tired of COVID-19, and we all want our lives back. The holiday season creates a conundrum for us, and we are facing some hard choices. None of us can choose for anyone else; we all have to assess the risks and decide how best to respond. Will we travel or stay at home? Will we wear a mask or take a chance? Limit our exposure or take the chance to move more freely? Wash our hands or blow it off? Likely your response will be a combination of good choices and mitigated risk. We need wisdom like never before. Choose wisely for the sake of your health, your family, and your community.
Who is wise and understanding among you? Show by your good life that your works are done with gentleness born of wisdom James 3:13