The beginning of wisdom is fear of the Lord,
And knowledge of the Holy One is understanding.
I remember how fearful I was of God as a child. I was afraid I would not measure up,would be found unworthy, or would fail at satisfying God’s checklist. Sometimes at night I would wake up in the middle of the night and confess another childhood “sin” just in case, you never know when you might die, or Jesus would come back, I did not want God to damn me to hell.
I’ve always been inquisitive and interested in learning. An avid reader since I learned how to read at age 5, I have always wanted to know more about the world, to know more about God. Sometimes my questions would get me in trouble in my conservative evangelical upbringing. We were not to questions anything, our parents, other people in authority, the bible, and certainly not God. If we were “wise” we were to fear God.
Now I obviously know that fear here does not mean frightened, but awe, reverence, respect. It means our acknowledgment that we do not always have it figured out, that there will always be questions, that mystery will always be a part of the created order.
I also know that wisdom is not the same as intellect or knowledge. We can know much and have little wisdom, we can also be extremely wise and not be intelligent. What matters here, again, is where we put our trust. Do we place it in our own power, knowledge, intellect, or do we begin with the one who’s the source of everything?
Proverbs is not an easy read. It communicates a simplistic understanding of the world and the human condition. It is not nuanced nor does it leave room for the possibility that we could follow all the wisdom found in it and still find ourselves in an unexpected place, a la Job.
In spite of its naive morality it still calls us to find a center. Time and time again it reminds of that the Lord is the beginning, that we are not the center of the universe, that we should be careful not to let other values become the guides for our lives.
I am no longer afraid, not because I am perfect but because I have found grace. I don’t loose sleep over my brokenness instead I remind myself time and time again of the one who can make me whole. I am no longer afraid to ask questions, instead I know that I honor God by my continued search for truth while acknowledging the limits of reason by leaning on mystery.