Looking for wisdom

Psalms 93, 96 (Morning)

Psalm 34 (Evening)

Ecclesiasticus 51:13-22

1 Corinthians 14:1-12

Matthew 20:1-16

Ecclesiasticus 51:13-22: While I was still young, before I went on my travels, I sought wisdom openly in my prayer. Before the temple I asked for her, and I will search for her until the end. From the first blossom to the ripening grape my heart delighted in her; my foot walked on the straight path; from my youth I followed her steps. I inclined my ear a little and received her, and I found for myself much instruction. I made progress in her; to him who gives wisdom I will give glory. For I resolved to live according to wisdom, and I was zealous for the good, and I shall never be disappointed. My soul grappled with wisdom, and in my conduct I was strict; I spread out my hands to the heavens, and lamented my ignorance of her. I directed my soul to her, and in purity I found her. With her I gained understanding from the first; therefore I will never be forsaken. My heart was stirred to seek her; therefore I have gained a prize possession. The Lord gave me my tongue as a reward, and I will praise him with it.

The one thing that is crystal clear in our passage today is that wisdom is a “she.” That in itself creates an interesting proposition. Some commentaries suggest this is a nod to Hellenic influences (Sophia, the Greek goddess of wisdom;) but the fact remains we are being shown a female side of the divine persona of God. Elsewhere in Ecclesiasticus, the implication is that all wisdom comes through God; making wisdom a female entity hints that God has both male and female qualities. It’s also clear that the imagery is of the author pursuing, and hopefully interacting with, a painfully distant lover.Well, who wouldn’t want more of what Lady Wisdom has to offer?

The problem, of course, is that we certainly aren’t born with wisdom, nor can we buy it. We can chase after it, as this passage illustrates, but “looking good to catch Wisdom’s eye” doesn’t work, either. She only appears when we “direct her soul to her.”

We gain it, paradoxically, by being open and vulnerable to making mistakes.

When I think about the most difficult surgical pathology cases I’ve had in my life, the most important thing I ever did in them was to admit they were over my head and send them to a consultant. I’ve been grateful that most of them, I at least knew what it was in a general sense, but each time, the consultant added to that understanding of that particular diagnosis. In a few of them, I was smashingly wrong, but again, the humility of being wrong made me an apt and willing pupil, and I was always grateful that I made the choice to get assistance before putting a final diagnosis on the case.

One of the difficult facts of life in the practice of medicine is the specter of malpractice. No physician, no matter how skilled and bright, is immune to it, because all physicians are human. But the fear of malpractice can ruin good physicians and paradoxically, contribute to physician impairment. I’ve known an awful lot of doctors over the years who drank too much and drugged too much and developed emotional problems because they were so afraid of screwing up, it poisoned their life. Some compensate by use of over-control in many aspects of their lives. In emotionally healthy physicians, the one thing they seem to have in common is an acceptance that they cannot control these things–they arrive at a place of wisdom where they know they can only do the best they can and have trust that their life is proceeding as planned.

God’s female side–wisdom–doesn’t show up because we clean up and put on our best face and woo her; wisdom shows up when we are sitting dejectedly in our feelings of broken-ness. How willing are we to trust that she knows how to find us when we need her and stop looking for her?

Maria Evans, a surgical pathologist from Kirksville, MO, writes about the obscurities of life, medicine, faith, and the Episcopal Church on her blog, Kirkepiscatoid

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