Familiar with Wisdom

“My feet kept to the level path because from earliest youth I was familiar with wisdom.”

— Sirach 51:15

LORD, to know what You would have me to think or say at any given moment would be perfection. To know just how to weigh life circumstances on Your scale of justice–love and mercy–would be supremely satisfying. To discern lies from truth even when they are packed in shiny wrapping paper, well, that would be out-of-this-world! I do believe people would name me God! That’s not going to happen.

You prescribe for me what should be a simple method to gain wisdom; a perfect method for learning wisdom is to nurture familiarity with Your ways. It really isn’t a simple method because it’s pretty hard for me to transfer my gaze to You when I’m attached to MY ways. Becoming better acquainted with anything requires familiarity before it can become second-nature. Learning to walk requires falling down. Learning to cook requires burning some things. Learning to play the piano requires some discord. Learning to live in what You envision for me requires some failures, actually, a lot of failures.

The Books of Wisdom in Sacred Scripture are a tutorial for me as I become familiar with what You desire to foster in me. It seems that at one point in my life a passage will arrest my attention so that Your holy Spirit may teach me what I need to learn from the life-circumstance of that particular point on the path of Faith. Years, even decades later, You will lead me back over similar territory and You will once again reveal a little more to me in order to correct my gaze. It’s taking a lifetime to become familiar enough with Your ways that they become second-nature (my true nature?) to me. The path may appear different to me each time, but little by little You are leveling out the rough places in my spirit and filling in the pocks that trip me up. Pitfalls and pratfalls of my own making eventually becoming the holy ground for You, the Father of Light to pour into me Your luminous virtues.

Happy are those who meditate on Wisdom, and fix their gaze on knowledge; who ponder her ways in their heart and understand her paths.” -Sirach 14:20-21

Pondering begets familiarity. I can slip into pondering and meditating on resentment and self-protection, but that makes me more familiar with the human condition than with Your heart. Forgive me, LORD. I recall the first time I got glasses. The optometrist made a wise decision to take me to the window before he placed my new glasses on my head. I was familiar with our town’s downtown, I knew where places were and what the landscape looked like, yet, when the optometrist placed those glasses on my head, my 11 year-old brain was stunned by what I was seeing that I had never seen before. Oh, I had seen it, but my perception was blurred by my impairment. I looked down the street that day from the 5th floor of the building and what I saw was faceted with precise edges. Where once the autumn trees looked like a watercolor of reds and burnt orange, I saw the distinction of every leaf. Where once the S&H Green Stamp store sign was a hanging green rectangle, it now revealed a neatly detailed sign.

The largest obstacle for me in knowing Wisdom is the fix of my vision and when I allow you to correct it with Your counsel I’m almost always stunned by what I never perceived before. Whatever I am seeing, the temptation is to look at it the same way I’ve always seen it, yet when I choose to allow you to increase my faith in You through obedience to the counsel of Your Word, you correct my vision to Your reality. You fix my gaze! It’s mind-blowing to me that where once I saw in another person only frustration and fault, You illuminate to me their heart. Where once I thought the people in the room were judging me, I see now that it was I judging me, they didn’t have a second thought about me. Isn’t that the height of pride–thinking that life is all about me! An insightful friend told me once when I was fearful of being misunderstood that no one thinks about me as much as I think about me! That was Your Spirit using another in the process of fixing my gaze on You, and I’ll never forget it.

Oh, Father,

When I am skewing my focus to me, myself, and I, I’m straining against Your desire for me in my walk toward You, fix my gaze.

When I’m more concerned about what I am saying to myself than what you are saying to me, fix my ears.

When my words dominate our conversations, fix my tongue.

When my feet stubbornly walk akimbo from Your path, fix my step.

And when I am tempted to ignore Your wisdom, whip me on the backside!

The Potter’s House

“The word that came to [me] from the Lord: ‘Come, go down to the potter’s house, and there I will let you hear my words.’ So I went down to the potter’s house, and there he was working at his wheel…

The vessel he was making of clay was spoiled in the potter’s hand, and he reworked it into another vessel, as seemed good to him. Then the word of the Lord came to me: ‘Can I not do with you, [Lois] just as this potter has done?’ says the Lord. ‘Just like the clay in the potter’s hand, so are you in my hand, [Lois].'”

I was your Jeremiah, LORD, a disconsolate servant biding her time, waiting for justice in the land between nowhere and now here. My soul waited for a good word from you, my Creator. I was spoiled in your Potter’s hand… It was you, Creator, that allowed my body to lose its equilibrium, to fall away from a lifetime of mind over matter? You were aware! So it must be your purpose! You don’t waste clay.  I am clay in repair….clay in restoration….clay in transformation.

Your lump of clay on the wheel, keen to be mended from injury that reduced me to spoil on your wheel. I felt the gentle pressure of your potters rib at once wringing out the nonsense of my despair and defining contours that demanded my submission if I was to rest in the providence of your Divine Will. What was beautiful to you took my soul’s abandonment to your hand before I would see the beauty of being thrown about upon your wheel.

Round and round my thoughts travelled as your hand reworked me for your intended purpose. I heard your word to me, “Can I not do with you just as the potter has done?…. you are still safe in my hands.” Am I? I am! Chastened for doubting your goodness. Humbled, not broken. Weak being made strong. My clay and my soul, my desire and my will, flattened against the wheel by the weight of glory in your hand. Gently, relentlessly you shape me as you lift me from the wheel to become the vessel that seems good to you!

I’m your lump of clay slowly giving way to the tools of transformation in the Master Potter’s hand; my humanity giving way to your image. What is this rise in my spirit? Submission, anticipation, acceptance? You are working all the disparate fragments of a life past. The loss with its thousand disappointments, the anxiety that handicaps my body, the uncertainties of ability folding in on themselves as you knead hope into my soul. A vessel marred by struggle, strengthened by hope in you. Gently, relentlessly you shape me as you lift me from the wheel and I become the vessel that seems good to you!  The wheel slows, your hand hovers over me….you whisper to me “you are beautiful,” and I finally listen.

I see now that as the wheel turns, your wounded hands steady in purpose, dissolve the hard edges of pride. Your wounded hands are at once pouring your blood out upon me and absorbing my suffering into your Passion as you mend and  sculpt a chalice…. a vessel worthy for worship.

Ascending

“Lifting up his eyes to heaven..” Sacred Scripture often makes a point of this physical posture you took in Your interaction with your followers; they, like me, probably were transfixed on the world around them when their eyes should have been fixed on You. They faced the distractions of the culture–the constant yammering that arrests man’s imagination; it’s no different now. The culture’s navel-gazing fear, pride and anger is the reality of this earthly kingdom from time and memorial.

When I take the time to consider the movement of Your eyes, it stops me in my pell-mell stumbling through my everyday life. It keeps me from being caught up in the current events in the world that do nothing to console my spirit or feed my soul. I sense You patiently waiting for me to take my gaze off fears, pride and anger, just as You drew Your disciples out of their fears and their prideful posturing. You beckon me to listen to your Word and contemplate the eternal. You allow me to eavesdrop on the mystery of praying without ceasing by the epiphany of you Trinity shown at Your baptism, and then you turn to me and say, “You are my beloved child.”  You direct me in my prayer to pray without ceasing for Your Kingdom to come in me as it is in heaven. The scrim of heaven and this world is immediately lifted by Your words, “Holy Father…..I speak this in the world so that they may share my joy completely…I do not ask that you take them out of the world but that you keep them…..” I am as slow as your disciples to learn that as I lean into praying without ceasing I am somehow learning to “lift my eyes to heaven” where you display my chief end, where joy is made complete!

Man becomes the image of God not so much in the moment of solitude as in the moment of communion.” (St. John Paul II) I know this to be true, but sometimes I don’t want to be in communion with “my trinity;” my neighbors, my family and the anonymous “they” that I coexist with in this earthly kingdom. It would be easier to keep my face in a cloud rather than live out the truth that my transformation often comes with the difficult relationships that tax my capacity to love my neighbor.

“Become what you behold,” you tell me. If this is true, then I do become one with you in a heaven of love, grace and mercy as I fix my eyes on You from my corner of the world. Pope Benedict XVI wrote: “The meaning of Christ’s Ascension expresses our belief that in Christ the humanity that we all share has entered into the inner life of God in a new and hitherto unheard of way. It means that man has found an everlasting place in God. [It would be a mistake to interpret the Ascension as] the temporary absence of Christ from the world. [Rather] we go to heaven to the extent that we go to Jesus Christ and enter into him. Heaven is a person: Jesus himself is what we call ‘heaven.’”

LORD, the fix of my gaze so often is on me, myself and I. Forgive me. Train me to lift my eyes to heaven, to you the True God.

LORD, may the posture I take always be as your beloved daughter: still as a child at rest in her Father’s arms. Eyes fixed on your beautiful face.

LORD, the Psalms proclaim, “All my being bless your Holy Name.” May every breath of my being fixate on your Word to me so that my every thought, action and deed blesses You, my Heaven.

Amen