Wisdom Calling

Does not wisdom call, and does not understanding raise her voice? 

“To you, O people, I call, and my cry is to all that live. …

The LORD created me at the beginning of his work, the first of his acts of long ago. …

When he established the heavens, I was there,

when he drew a circle on the face of the deep, when he made firm the skies above, …

then I was beside him, like a master worker;

and I was daily his delight, rejoicing before him always, 

rejoicing in his inhabited world and delighting in the human race.”

Prov 8:1, 4, 22, 27, 30-31; from the text for Trinity Sunday, June 16, 2019;

for full text see: https://www.biblegateway.com/passage/?search=Prov+8%3A1-4%2C+22-31&version=NRSV

Wisdom calling.  Wisdom standing at the crossroads and raising her voice. 

I have a crush on this woman.  I don’t aspire to be her — such attainment is ‘too high for me’ (as the psalmist might say).  I want to be near her, to spend time with her.  Sit at an outdoor cafe and chat as we watch the passers-by.  Then find ourselves occupied by our own conversation — leaning in, bodies turned towards each other, intent on our communion.  Laughing aloud together for the very humor of being alive.  

I want to be friends with her.

I imagine Wisdom so strongly.  She calls to all, here and now. She stands at the crossing — that one, just there, where they’ve shifted the lane-lines over to make room for the new transit line coming in, and the buses lumber crowded in the construction-narrowed road (picture the bus with its shoulders hunched in, like the passengers that stand crammed in its aisle).  Wisdom talks in high flights of poetry and with a well-grounded gumption.  Wisdom talks to me.

I am driving that very road, held by the red light, a bus just beside me.  The weather is drab and damp, not even poetically so, yet I am aware of delight rising with me.  I turn the feeling over and realize Oh, it is because I get to spend the week with Wisdom.  It is because I am headed to the library, where I will pull commentaries and lexicons off the shelves, and look up words and learn from others’ insights.  Pay attention to that joy.  It’s telling something.

Wisdom calls.  Heard or unheard — the very mention of crossroads suggests all the traffic that passes by without even pausing; now the light turns green, and I turn left — Wisdom cries out to all who live.  And for all the seeming playfulness of her proclamation, Wisdom’s delight is not ignorance or avoidance or petty weakness.  Wisdom knows creation.  She was there before its beginning and through every step of its coming to be.  Wisdom’s hymn trumpets deep awareness and full engagement and potent strength. 

Wisdom sings her birth from the LORD — not just created but gotten, in the old English sense, begotten; the verb in v.22 the same as in Gen 4:1, in Eve’s exultant joy at the birth of her first son.  The birth image echoes again in v.25:  ‘brought forth’ is a verb suggestive of the writhing and travail of childbirth.  The LORD in labor, bearing and bringing forth Wisdom, keeping her near, delighting in her daily delight.  Wisdom hymns her identity as joy; joy before the LORD, joy in the world, delight in humanity.  She is entirely herself, and the self that she so freely rejoices in is not solitary but relational.  

I come home from my library delving and pick up the ‘Outlook’ section from Sunday’s Washington Post (a day late) and see the cover article, ‘Changing Channels,’ about women after 50, stories from eight women who’ve reinvented their lives, themselves.  The article opens with the line, ‘When women turn 50, the world starts to tune them out ….’  Woman Wisdom! I think, standing on that street corner, calling to the passers by.  As the article continues, the women describe an ‘energy shift,’ a new sense of freedom to be themselves, to discover anew who those selves are.  This is me, I realize as I read.  Second calling (or third, depending on how you count).  Wandering and wondering and recognizing again and again that I myself (and at my age too!) am in-process.  And the freedom to claim that becoming, is that not also Wisdom?

I am in-process, still being created, still being born.  As Wisdom — way back before the beginning of it all — once was.  And as Wisdom even now delights in the joy of that eternal and daily newness, so might I.

Wisdom stands on the corner, and she looks me full in the face and smiles warmly and stretches out a hand and says, ‘Come and see…’ (John 1:39).  She shows me wonders vast and tiny.  She shows me how to see and how to hear.  How to laugh.  And — please God — how to tell.

I am being born into friendship with Woman Wisdom.  A laughing thought, indeed!  Yet that is the promise.  ‘I love those who love me; those who seek diligently will find me’ (Prov 8:17).  The promise is plural — not just to me, but for each of us, all of us. Be attuned to the delight that signs the encounter.

Birth involves writhing and travail.  But — oh! — then comes the light, and the shuddering gasp and intake of breath, and the life.  

And ‘the morning stars sang together and all the heavenly beings shouted for joy’ (Job 38:7).

Drone Tones

The LORD is my light and my salvation;

whom shall I fear?

The LORD is the stronghold of my life;

of whom shall I be afraid?

Psalm 27:1

Sunday March 17, 2019; Psalm 27 full text linked below:

https://www.biblegateway.com/passage/?search=psalm+27&version=NRSV

I am reading Iris Origo’s Italian War Diary** this week.  On July 11, 1943, she woke to the sound of booming.   Her diary records the noise of naval bombardment, the reports of allied landings in Sicily, and the  ‘little festa’ celebrating her newborn daughter’s christening.  ‘A day of strange contrasts,’ Origo wrote, adding, ’The introit [for the Mass] is appropriate:  The Lord is my light and my salvation; whom shall I fear? … Though an army encamp against me, my heart shall not fear; though war rise up against me, yet I will be confident…’ I read Origo’s journal and wonder how people are able to live, when dailiness itself is warped by being woven with the weft of war.

I do not suffer the shudder of bombardment punctuating the introit to Mass, nor — as Origo heard through the waves of her own labor pain — the groaning of an injured airman in the next room.  But I read the news.  Last week’s Ethiopian airplane crash.  Yesterday’s massacre in the New Zealand mosque.  Other events, less traumatic, but closer to home. 

There are times I am overwhelmed with it all:  the scale of suffering, the number of needs, the amount of things that must be done, that I could and should do.  I am pulled askew, taut and thin, stretched as if to breaking.  The present pain of the world sounds a drone tone to my life — as the sounds of bombardment were to the sung introit of Origo’s daughter’s Christening Mass.  An untimely syncopation, pulling any sense of melody off-key.  Such days I cannot even recall hope, much less sense it.  If only I could fix myself towards some single point, I think, if only so, then at least I could claim it.

‘One thing I asked of the LORD, that will I seek after:  to live in the house of the LORD all the days of my life, to behold the beauty of the LORD, and to inquire in his temple’ (Psa 27:4).

One thing only.  One thing enough.

The psalmist knew the same trouble as I, as Origo, as any.  The psalmist is similarly pulled.  The psalm does not strike a single note but many, it is woven through with a whole gamut of emotion, of need, of desire.  The psalmist is battered by circumstance, aware of enemies, even, at times, feels forsaken by the LORD.   

‘Hear, O LORD, when I cry aloud … Do not hide your face from me. Do not turn your servant away in anger, you who have been my help. Do not cast me off, do not forsake me, O God of my salvation!’ (Psa 27:7a, 9).

Yet the drone-tone through the psalm is not, in fact, the world’s pain, nor even the psalmist’s.  Those are named, and truly, and held up to God.  Attention is paid, as it must be.  But the sustaining tone behind the noise is the singleness of the psalmist’s conviction of the LORD’s beauty, of the LORD’s succor:  ‘he will conceal me under the cover of his tent; he will set me high on a rock’ (Psa 27:5).  The warp is kept taut and true despite the varied weft by the singleness of the psalmist’s hope in the LORD’s hearing and the LORD’s goodness.

‘Wait for the LORD; be strong, and let your heart take courage; wait for the LORD’ (Psa 27:14).

Step to that beat.  Not because it is easy nor even obvious.  But because it is the only way to keep walking through the valley when hope cannot be felt nor recalled but only claimed.  One step.  The next.  Wait for the LORD.  Claim the LORD my light and my salvation.  Claim the LORD my goodness through all my days.  Claim the LORD claiming me.

May the days be woven straight, even when the path runs slantwise to sense, to justice, to grace.  May the days be woven true with and into love.  May the sum of all the weaving be the pains eased, the hurts healed, and the world returned to wholeness as all shout together with joy.

** quotes from Iris Origo, War in Val D’Orcia:  An Italian War Diary 1943-1044; London:  Pushkin Press (2017), pp. 63, 59.