Seeing the Obvious
It doesn’t take the hermeneutical genius of Don Carson to realize that the first several chapters of Proverbs emphasize wisdom. That much even I can pick up on. But in the past, I’ve always read these chapters as the ‘son’ who is called to gain wisdom.
And, to be sure, that is what I need to hear:
Get wisdom; get insight;
do not forget, and do not turn away from the words of my mouth.
Do not forsake her, and she will keep you;
love her, and she will guard you.
The beginning of wisdom is this: Get wisdom,
and whatever you get, get insight.
Prize her highly, and she will exalt you;
she will honour you if you embrace her.
She will place on your head a graceful garland;
she will bestow on you a beautiful crown.”
(Proverbs 4:5-9 ESV)
But now that my kids are getting older and approaching the age when they will go to school and need to begin making decisions on their own, I’m seeing these passages through a new lens. I’m beginning to see myself as the ‘father’ in Proverbs 1-9 as well as the son.
But Wait, There’s More…
The other night as I was reading through the same chapter (Proverbs 4), I began to contemplate my parenting. I read this and got reflective:
Hear, my son, and accept my words,
that the years of your life may be many.
I have taught you the way of wisdom;
I have led you in the paths of uprightness.
When you walk, your step will not be hampered,
and if you run, you will not stumble.
Keep hold of instruction; do not let go;
guard her, for she is your life.
(Proverbs 4:10-13 ESV)
I got to asking myself, can I really say this to my daughters? As I look back on the years that I’ve had with them so far and say, ‘Just do what I’ve told you, stick to my words, and they will give you life… I have taught you the way of wisdom’?
All of a sudden, this text became not just a challenge for me to seek wisdom for myself, but now, through this lens, this text became a call to acquire wisdom for the sake of passing it on. I cannot just ‘hope against hope’ that my kids will learn wisdom on their own. The end goal of my parenting must be that I can say to them, ‘I have learned wisdom, and I have passed it on; heed my words and they will give you life.’
Immediately, when I begin to think like this I feel overwhelmed and guilty. How many times in how many ways have I failed my children? How much more wisdom should I have acquired by now? How many conversations have I blown? How many ways have I imparted my foolishness to my kids in ways that won’t serve them well long-term?
But then I must think about the true wisdom that I do already have — the real wisdom that gives life — the gospel of Jesus Christ. When I consider that wisdom, I remember that it’s the wisdom of God and not of men. It’s the wisdom that shows itself in lavish grace, rescuing dead and hardened sinners from the foolishness of their ways.
That, then, turns my heart to God’s amazing grace. It’s the grace that overcomes all the mistakes of lousy parents and helps children to grow in righteousness beyond the example and teaching of their father. I remember that grace because it is the grace that saved me.
I must be diligent to teach my children, yes. But even when I fail, I must always remember that if my children are to have any hope of walking in the way of life, it will only be because of that all-glorious, guilt-relieving, prayer-answering, child-saving gospel-grace.