Wednesday, August 28, 2019

"The In-Between Thing"

Proverbs 4.7 NRSV

The beginning of wisdom is this: Get wisdom
and whatever else you get, get insight.”

“Miss Jenkins, how you do spell _______________?”

“There’s a dictionary on my desk. Go look it up!”

The logic of my 5th grade teacher escaped me in those days. If I couldn’t spell it, how could I look it up?

In reality, Miss Jenkins was doing me a favor. There is something between not knowing and knowing, in this case, between not knowing how to spell a word and finding the word in the dictionary. That in-between thing is called learning

My elementary schoolboy logic argued, “If I knew how to spell the word I wouldn’t need a dictionary. If I can’t spell the word, a dictionary is of no use!” Miss Jenkins, on the other hand, must have known about the in-between thing. She expected me to learn. Learning apparently entailed struggle. The journey from not knowing to knowing would not be easy. 

I would have learned nothing if Miss Jenkins granted my request. Ignorance is easy, but knowledge comes with a price. Digging into the dictionary, flipping through its pages, trying to sound out the word, using the alphabet, making and testing assumptions, reviewing pronunciation symbols, reading definitions, making a final selection, and wa-la… I could learn to spell!

I did it all by myself and discovered that the real learning did not come from the answer. It came from the hard journey on the way to the answer. Learning was not my destination; it was my path. You could say I learned by learning. Learning was that challenging thing in-between not knowing and knowing. 

I am met again this morning with Miss Jenkins’ challenge in my pursuit of wisdom…

“The beginning of wisdom is this: Get wisdom.”

Huh? How can I get what I need to get it? The logic escapes my six-and-a-half decade old brain. Apparently wisdom, like spelling, is not an end in itself. Wisdom resides in-between having none and getting some. Like everything else good in life, wisdom is not easy to procure, nor is it supposed to be. Gaining wisdom probably involves making and correcting assumptions, reversing bad decisions, testing theories, trying and failing and trying again, asking for advise, asking for forgiveness, granting forgiveness, careful listening, bumping up against difficulties, loss and grief, keeping a positive attitude, not quitting, a few happy successes, some painful regrets, learning from mistakes, accepting our humanity, stopping to reflect, softening my heart, crying out to Jesus, and choosing to fear God.

Wisdom, like learning, is the reward you get for sincerely trying to find it.

The lower right graphic is the Chinese symbol for wisdom.


nitewrit said...


It amazed me how many people have knowledge, but lack wisdom. But then I decided it was because what they knew had come easy, been given to them or they only learned what they needed for the moment and stopped. They wanted to know enough to succeed at a job or impress. They were interested in a narrow range of "how" and not "why", and nothing outside the box they selected to be in.

I guess I never grew up from that four year old asking daddy, "why? Why? Why?" That's a good thing. I think I have a little wisdom, at least enough to know how much I don't have and I struggle on for more.

Yes, wisdom is that in-between.

Larry E.

davescriven said...

Thanks Larry for your comment. We are kindred spirits.