In Ephesians 5.15-17 we see that living carefully is equated with wisdom.
No surprises here. The dumbest thing I can do is waste my precious, God-given life on things that don’t matter, right?
Today, as I was thinking about wisdom, I read verse 17 in the Amplified Bible and this phrase jumped out at me, ‘do not be vague and thoughtless and foolish’.
In verse 15 we see the opposite of this when it says, ‘Live purposefully and worthily and accurately’.
If I want real wisdom, the ability to know what is the right thing to do and how to do it, then I have to overcome the barriers to wisdom, one of which is thoughtlessness.
I have written about thoughtlessness before and how a busy and fast-paced life can often cause it. But I think there is another more subtle contributor to my thoughtlessness and it is a strongly held opinion.
The problem is that if I have a strong opinion about something, I don’t feel the need to revisit it. I just re-enforce my idea, occasionally sharing it on Facebook with others who agree with me. There is no room for listening to another point of view or gaining fresh input or even recognizing when I am wrong.
Now, when I talk about opinions, I don’t mean Biblical beliefs. I am not talking about something I have studied in the Bible and wrestled with and prayed about and then made part of my belief system.
I am talking about all the other stuff.
I am talking about the ‘I just really think…..’ stuff.
I am talking about my politics, denominational preferences, parenting style, cultural bias and personal choices.
I am talking about the way I live my life and the way I think everyone else should live theirs.
I don’t think there is anything more humbling than actually doing something that you have theorized about for a long time.
Like for instance, parenting.
Or church ministry.
Or really anything that is hard.
It is so much easier to be an armchair pundit than to actually play in the game.
Honestly, I feel like my forties have been one long journey of replacing my not-so-great ideas with God’s loving wisdom. It has been humbling, embarrassing and very painful.
And it has been so very freeing.
You see the danger is that when I form opinions about what I will never do or what I will always do, I run the risk of thoughtless behaviour.
I risk automatically living life in a certain way, without ever questioning it.
Being thoughtful means lifting my opinions to God and letting God’s Holy Spirit breathe on them. Then the useless, papery chaff just blows away and the wheat remains.
God, in His great mercy and love, if I let Him, gently removes anything that has no value to my life and He leaves what does. He blows away my foolish assumptions so that only truth remains.
And actually, I can’t have both anyway. I can’t hold onto my opinions and also seek God’s way of doing things. That’s why the Bible tells me that the beginning of wisdom is the fear of the Lord. I can’t ever really be wise unless I value God’s perspective above my own.
I cannot ask for wisdom with a closed hand or a closed heart or a closed mind.
Here is a small example from my real life today. I am planning a wedding for my daughter. It has been exciting, fun, and hard. And as I look back over the last 8 months I can see that my biggest problem has been my strong opinions about how weddings should be done.
I dread to think how many times over the years I have voiced my wedding theories, saying how things should be done, what I like and don’t like, how the day should go, how the service should be, etc.
Those words haunt me now because it just isn’t that simple. Weddings are complicated and there are many people to please as well as budget limitations and practical considerations.
So, one by one, my ‘non-negotiables’ have gone out the window and compromises have been made. And one by one my silly opinions, my judgements, my ideas have been replaced by God’s perfect wisdom for this wedding for this family on October 6, 2018.
And that is so much better, isn’t it?
Because I can’t have both. I can’t have my way and God’s way. I can’t have God’s answers if I worship my own. There is no space for the whispers of the Holy Spirit in life that has it all figured out already.
Living life carefully means even my strongly held opinions must not be off-limits to my loving God who sifts and divides and replaces what is useless for what is true and good.
So I choose to let Him in today. I will let Him walk around my life and touch and restore and replace all that is not of Him. I will let my wonderful God show me how to raise kids, spend my money, love my spouse, plan a wedding and how He has uniquely designed me to change the world. I will learn to let God guide my politics, my doctrines and my decisions.
And then, most powerfully of all, I will learn to give others the freedom to do the same.
Instead of opinions, I want only the voice of the Shepherd saying, ‘Here is the way.’