by Rev. Jeff Gannon, Senior Pastor
Every day I pray for wisdom. I learned from the Psalms the importance of praying for wisdom. The Psalms are a perspective I embrace. I can do everything such as study, research, listen, and learn and the byproduct will be knowledge. The Psalms are individually and corporately adamant that wisdom is a gift from God. God can give us wisdom in our seeking of knowledge but the Psalmists have come to the conclusion that only God ultimately gives wisdom. I have known very wise persons who do not have a lot of knowledge and I have known a lot of persons who have a lot of knowledge and not much wisdom. There are very few who have an abundance of both. It is not that wisdom and knowledge are mutually exclusive. They are, in fact, two sides to the same coin, if you will. Wisdom, if you and I listen well to the Psalms, is a gift of the Holy Spirit for those who take the spiritual life seriously.
I want to share wisdom with you. I know it is presumptuous for me to name something as wise. But wisdom is like the color green. You know it when you see it. It is like the taste of chocolate ice cream. Very difficult to describe but you know it when you experience it.
A pastor, for whom I have tremendous respect, Jim Jackson, recently retired. He has begun to take Scripture, life experience, professional perspective, and a whole lot of pondering to create a set of “laws.” These are not legalistic practices but principles upon which God has created this earth. Just like the law of gravity, there are spiritual laws at work in this universe and Jesus was always speaking about them using the language of the Kingdom of God. This is how God has arranged this world to work at its best, and reality is, as Dallas Willard says, what happens when you discover you are going upstream, so to speak.
“The Antidote for Loneliness”
The law of loneliness: Lonely people build relational walls instead of bridges.
My earliest conscious memory involved feeling alone. Loneliness haunted me like a schoolyard bully during my growing up years. It told me I was different, underdeveloped, and inadequate. It reminded me over and over that if people knew me they would not like me. As a result, I unconsciously built relational walls instead of bridges.
Loneliness urged me to hide behind two masks – a “better than I am” mask, and a “worse than I am” mask. The result was a deep sense of alienation and aloneness, even in groups.
My struggle with loneliness did not vanish with age, though it did take different shapes. Today, for example, loneliness involves the sobering recognition of mortality – that loved ones go away and do not return – and that I too am terminal. Added to loneliness is the shame of knowing that after all these years as a Christian I’m still not “fixed” – that I continue to be a struggler. Shame makes us want to remain in hiding – to build relational walls instead of bridges.
The antidote for loneliness is intimacy. Intimacy requires self-disclosure – exposing the rawness of our soul to God and other people.
“Speaking When You Have Nothing to Say”
The law of speaking first: Those who speak first invariably have the least to say.
Have you ever noticed that those who speak first in meetings have the least to add to the discussion? Test out my thesis. See if it doesn’t prove to be correct.
By contrast, notice the person who hangs back, listens, and says nothing. Usually when he or she does speak, they have something to say and their voice carries the day.
When you are in a meeting, pay attention to the folks who are quiet but attentive. Find a way to draw them out. Chances are they have something important to say.
The law on using therapists: Therapists are tools we use to accomplish our mission.
The best therapist I ever knew made the same speech to all new clients. After hearing them talk about their problem, she would say, “You have a lot of dung in your life. The good news is that I have a shovel. My professional expertise is like a shovel. I will rent it to you, but you have to shovel your own dung.”
My therapist friend was right. If we go to a counselor without a clear mission and the determination to use the therapist’s tools to resolve the issue, we will waste a lot of time and money.
Many therapists have tools that are worth their weight in gold to us. But we have to use the tools or our goals are unaccomplished. We are responsible for doing the work necessary to bring about own healing.