Foolish, Foolish Lamb That I Am

Women’s Bible studies started up again a couple weeks ago, and I am co-leading a study of the Book of Proverbs called Pursuing Wisdom. (Ironic, huh?) We’ve barely begun the study and while I prepared myself for the likelihood that I would identify more often with the traits of the fool described in this book over the traits of a wise woman, I am truly humbled by how much idiocy I am already identifying in my life.

Going into the study, the historic foolishness in my own life seemed fairly obvious to me. I did not pursue what anyone would have called a remotely godly life until the last few years, so the sinful choices and selfish decisions stacked up pretty high in my teens, 20’s and 30’s.

Even in the last six or seven years, while I have learned a lot about what the Bible has to say about living a godly life, I have been inconsistent at best in actually applying that wisdom to my day-to-day choices.

So I started out this study of biblical wisdom knowing that I had much to learn. To begin, we spent an entire week studying a single key verse, Proverbs 1:7.

The fear of the LORD is the beginning of knowledge.
Fools despise wisdom and instruction.

You might think that a whole week on one little verse would drain the life out of you, but it didn’t me. I’m finding that I agree with the author’s assertion that it is foundational to really intimately know this one verse before moving forward and trying to understand what else Proverbs has to say.

Early in the study that week, I read about how we (humankind) are like sheep, and without a shepherd’s constant watch, we will wander. Some of us are more prone to wander than others, and we are often easily led astray. As it’s a familiar Christian theme, I’m sure you get the analogy.

Then one early morning as I propped my eyelids open with a cup of coffee and settled in to my study, I read about the four kinds of fools described in Proverbs, each worse than the prior one. One of the worst kinds of fools is one that “despises wisdom and instruction.” This fool is not just naïve. She is not just ignorant and without common sense, or even a desire for knowledge. This fool actively resists the knowledge of God.

And let’s just say I had a sudden insight into myself that was piercing in its clarity…and ugliness.

Now, to one degree or another, all of us are fools at different points in our lives, or even at different points in our days! All of us sometimes resist God’s way or ignore His instruction, because we think we know better how to handle the situation we’re confronted with. Or maybe we just really don’t appreciate God’s methods for refining us, and so, rather than submitting to His will, we get angry; when Warren sees me fighting God on what He is doing in my life, he will tell me that I’m kicking against the goads, and I am unlikely to win the battle. (And I have to say I so appreciate that friendly reminder in the moment.)

What struck me as I read about fools and how they are foolish is that right in those moments when I am fighting God’s discipline in my life, I am rejecting God’s merciful love for me. God disciplines those He loves (Proverbs 3:12), and though it is painful, it is always for our good. Kenneth Boa, one of the authors of Pursuing Wisdom, says it this way:

When Scripture speaks of God’s “refining His people as silver,” it speaks of the fiery circumstances God may permit for the purpose of removing our moral imperfections, great and small.

Refining is for our good and Christlikeness. Remember when we talked about people being like sheep? If a lamb is prone to wander, the shepherd will break the lamb’s leg and then carry it until the lamb’s leg heals. This is the only way the shepherd can keep the foolish lamb from straying toward its certain death. Having “bonded” to the shepherd during its brokenness, the restored lamb will henceforth remain close to the shepherd. God’s refining is sometimes painful, but it drives us toward the good Shepherd for healing. Christians who would reflect God’s image must willingly submit to the refining process.

I don’t know about you, but I’m not really comfortable with the idea that I’m such a stupid animal (lamb) that I might need my leg deliberately broken in order to prevent me from walking headlong into destruction. But I think this defines more of us than we might care to admit. Dumb sheep, who think we’re smart. I know it defines me. While I understood I didn’t submit to God’s will for my life in all circumstances, I am getting greater insight into just how deeply sinful – and foolish! – that lack of submission is. I have a hard time consistently depending on the One who created me. The finite struggles to trust and depend on the Infinite. The clay questions the Potter. How much more foolish can you get? And even worse, when I fail to appreciate God’s loving discipline, I’m not only being foolish, but stupid (Proverbs 12:1).

Thankfully, God is far more patient with me than I would be. He describes Himself, in fact, as merciful and gracious, slow to anger and abounding in steadfast love (Exodus 34:6-7). Some of the ways God continues to call me to Himself are more painful than others. I often wondered why He chooses painful ways of reaching me. Now I’m beginning to wonder how often He calls to me and I refuse to listen, because I think I’m so capable and have things under control when – foolish, foolish lamb that I am – I am wandering into the wolves’ den yet again.

I knew that one of the changes I wanted to see in my life by the end of the study would be a more and more consistent application, in particular, of Proverbs 3:5-7. I just don’t think I realized, even a few weeks ago, how desperately I need God to change my heart and allow these verses to become true in my life.

Trust in the LORD with all your heart,
And do not lean on your own understanding.
In all your ways acknowledge him,
And he will make straight your paths.
Be not wise in your own eyes;
Fear the LORD, and turn away from evil.

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