Saturday, November 3, 2007

Harvesting Wisdom

"But, as respects the majority of my corps of veterans, there will be no wrong done, if I characterize them generally as a set of wearisome old souls, who had gathered nothing worth preservation from their varied experience of life. They seemed to have flung away all the golden grain of practical wisdom, which they had enjoyed so many opportunities of harvesting, and most carefully to have stored their memories with the husks." - Nathaniel Hawthorne

This is a tragic scene. Aged men, despite the benefit of many years and experiences, who never learned the value of wisdom. In his introduction to The Scarlet Letter, Nathaniel Hawthorne employs the metaphor of a harvest to describe, profoundly, the sad nature of the elderly men who ruled the town of Salem: "they enjoyed so many opportunities of harvesting [wisdom], and [yet they] most carefully [stored their memories with the husks]."

The real depth of this metaphor is in the motion of the words "practical wisdom," "harvesting," "stored," and "memories." In a wide-angle lens, the words themselves have a certain progress from seed to sowing to reaping: throughout our life experience, we will be given opportunities which are seeds of practical wisdom... we will either plant those seeds to bear fruit, or we will store them, where they will be tossed aside, wasted and forgotten with the husks... if we sow the seed, we will reap a proverbial bank of wisdom in our memory, where wisdom has been multiplied each day and distributed by the Holy Spirit, according to His most excellent use.

God doesn't tell us to manufacture wisdom, He tells us to "make [our ears] attentive to wisdom" and to "seek her as silver and search for her as for hidden treasures." (Prov. 2:2,4) That is, God provides the seed by His Word and by His work, but only the wise man will recognize its worth; a fool looks at his lot and sees something trite and insignificant, but a wise man sees the harvest that is to come. And this kind of wisdom, being far better than merely practical wisdom, can only be informed by the Holy Spirit.

When we become believers in Christ, whose outer shell was broken, whose body was planted in the ground, and whose resurrection fruit has sprung up to eternal life, we are given a new imagination- a new wisdom. Those who have been transformed by the radical work of Christ will no longer blindly hold that the experiences of life- whether wonderful or unbearable- are merely meaningless kernels of wheat in their hands. But those who have tasted the Fruit of the Spirit have eyes that have been opened to the Paradise before them; they are suddenly made aware of the shame of their own nakedness so that in all things they may see the glory of their Provider's covering. As a consequence, the Christian will not wallow in the misery of his misfortune because he knows that his present suffering is not worth comparing to the joy he will know on the day of the harvest (Rom. 8:18); the believer's hope is not in a painless sowing, but in the Lord of the Harvest who is making all things new. (Rev. 21:4-5)

As a Christian grows in the image of his Father, he becomes a harvester by nature. As such, he will continually discipline himself to plant every action, every fall, every victory, and every defeat of his life firmly in the hope of Christ's redemption. And when this man is old, his memory will be a storehouse of wisdom, full of countless treasures, that are readily dispensed by the Holy Spirit.

"He who gathers in summer is a son who acts wisely, but he who sleeps in the harvest is a son who acts shamefully." (Prov. 10:5)

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