It’s never too late to listen to wisdom

Wisdom, Jesus once said, “is proved right by all her children.”

In its context (Luke 7:35), Jesus was responding to some criticism he and John the Baptizer had been taking from the local Rule Monitors.

But it hit me today. It takes a long time for a child to grow up. Like watching a child grow up, Wisdom arrives in an agonizingly slow process.

Think about it. It’s a full year before that brand-new little girl of yours will know just a word or two. Give her one more year and she’ll have all the vocabulary she needs to throw a tantrum worthy of the US Senate. It’s still another few years before she can finally shut the bathroom door, lock it securely, drain every last drop of hot water through a shower head and take care of whatever else needs to be done before emerging with an announcement that she doesn’t like her hair.

It’s forever before he learns to drive, and according to research, somewhere around 24 before his mind matures enough that a thinking society would actually give him the keys to a vehicle.

In the meantime, peer pressure reigns supreme. “I need advice on life,” thinks the teenaged brain. “I know! I’ll ask someone who got wasted last weekend! He must be brilliant!”

As the Supreme Court confirmation hearings have dominated the news in the last few weeks, all of us have been thinking about choices we made when we were teenagers or young adults. Personally, I am so glad none of my churches sent the FBI out asking my high-school or college classmates about my character during the worst decade of my life. With the stories those agents would have jotted down in their notebooks, no church would have ever let me become their pastor. They might not have even let me eat at the local Chick-fil-A.

My high school peer group was completely stoked on stupid. There were drugs, fights, drinking, class-skipping and streaking. If you don’t know what it is, please don’t Google “streaking.” Especially if you’re going to put my name in the search engine at the same time.

I’m sure there was also a lot of illicit sexual activity, though thankfully, there were only hints of it in broad daylight. Personally, lust dominated my thoughts. It led me down some really wrong paths, and I’ve grieved over some of those decisions for a lifetime.

Through all of that incredibly intense peer pressure, however, there was a constant, internal struggle going on inside of me. I’m sure I wasn’t alone. As is the case today, a lot of high school students back then showed up in church every Sunday.

And there, despite all the shortcomings of whatever church we grew up in, we heard the call of Wisdom.

Preachers sometimes shouted out the truth. Sunday School teachers patiently tried to make the Bible interesting. Youth pastors rode the wave of all that adolescent energy until they finally got a chance to give us the Truth. There were revivals, retreats and occasionally, some personal quiet times.

In short, Wisdom was securely planted deep inside of me. No matter how strong the peer pressure, I just couldn’t ignore her.

And thank you, God … my brain finally turned 25 one day and most of the nonsense went away like the last clouds of a Category 5 hurricane. Looking back, it’s a wonder I survived.

Actually, some of us didn’t survive.

In the classroom of Wisdom, a field trip to a funeral will leave an indelible mark. Prison sentences for friends or even a little time behind bars for yourself will help you write a brand-new essay on maturity. Short-lived marriages, unexpected pregnancies, perfectly good jobs going up in the smoke of irresponsibility … all of it creates a real-life sensibility that can only come with the passing of time and a whole lot of heartbreak.

My wife and I have decided – after years of listening to local news broadcasters tell us each evening’s tragic news – that almost nothing good happens after midnight. And mixing alcohol with all that young-adult adrenaline? Did anyone think something positive would be coming out of that mixture?

Hey, are you listening, Brett Kavanaugh?

“Wisdom,” Jesus said, “is proved right by her children.” Only in the passing of time will we know how vitally important it is to have Wisdom as our mother.

The good news?

Wisdom can be gained anywhere, anytime by anyone. Some of the wisest people I know are in prison, waiting for a second chance. Some of the best people I’ve ever known are the ones who took time to apologize for choices they wished they’d never made when they were just learning how to choose. Some of the best choices I’ve made have come only because I made the wrong choice first.

It might take a long time, but anyone can find Wisdom.

Do I wish I could do it all again, and maybe make it better this time? No way! There’s not enough money in the world to make me do high school again. Besides, geometry and algebra haven’t gotten any easier.

I’d rather be where I am. That’s another lesson Wisdom taught me. You can’t go back. You can only go forward.

Ready to take a positive step forward with me? Open your Bible and read the first chapter of Proverbs. You can read Chapter 2 tomorrow. And the third chapter the day after that. When Jesus said that thing about Wisdom? He was referring to the incredible teaching in Proverbs, which gave Wisdom its capital-W personification.

She calls us, Proverbs says.

Listening to Wisdom… is up to you.