Monday, November 4, 2013

what I'm reading: the signal-box, the driver's seat ... and wisdom

Question: What's the difference between watching trains from a signal-box and learning to drive?
Answer: The difference between true and false wisdom.

I'm reading JI Packer's Knowing God, and loving it. Every chapter throws up tasty truths to feed on (that analogy didn't quite work - ugh!).

Here is what Packer has to say about true wisdom. Once again, it's a rebuke to those of us prone to unhealthy introspection, who always try to find the "why?" in everything that happens, who give way to bitterness when we can't understand.

Instead, true wisdom is realistic, sane and strong. It doesn't think too hard about the "why". It trusts God. It gets on with life. It does its work. It enjoys this world. So says Ecclesiastes - and JI Packer:
If you stand at the end of a platform on York station, you can watch a constant succession of engine and train movements. But you will only be able to form a very rough and general idea of the overall plan.

If, however, you are privileged enough to be taken by one of the high-ups into the signal-box, you will be able to look at the whole situation through the eyes of those who control it.

The mistake that is commonly made is to suppose that the gift of wisdom consists in a deepened insight into the providential meaning and purpose of events going on around us.

People feel that if they were really walking close to God, so that he could impart wisdom to them freely, then they would, so to speak, find themselves in the signal-box.

Such people spend much time poring over the book of providence, wondering why God should have allowed this or that to take place.

Christian suffering from depression, physical, mental or spiritual (note, these are three different things!) may drive themselves almost crazy with this kind of futile enquiry. For it is futile: make no mistake about that.

What does it mean for God to give us wisdom?

It is like being taught to drive. You do not ask yourself why the road should narrow or screw itself into a dog-leg wiggle, just where it does, not why that van should be parked where it is, nor why the river in front shoudl hug the crown of the road so lovingly; you simply try to see and do the right thing in the actual situation that presents itself.

To live wisely, you have to be clear-sighted and realistic - ruthlessly so - in looking at life as it is.

Among the seven deadly sins of medieval lore was sloth (acedia) - a state of hard-bitten, joyless apathy of spirit.

Live in the present, and enjoy it thoroughly; present pleasures are God's good gifts. Seek grace to work hard at whatever life calls you to do, and enjoy your work as you do it. Leave to God its issues; let him measure its ultimate worth.

We can trust him and rejoice in him, even when we cannot discern his path.

From chapter 10 of JI Packer Knowing God.

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