Wiser than Solomon

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You know how grey days in Lent can be, as if replaying in Nature the events leading up to the Crucifixion. On just such a day, I was standing in an empty hospital room with the parents of a dying child. For eleven months, they had run from one medical school to another searching for a cure. Although 13-year-old Scotty knew his cancer could be fatal, the family had never talked directly with him about dying. His father stared out the window, focusing on raindrops as his mother wept and spoke for both of them.

“We provided for his religious education. We sent him to Sunday School—even to parochial school. But we have no idea how that influenced his faith.” Odd, but perhaps typical of our times, that when they had such a dilemma, they didn’t call their parish priest or the hospital chaplain. They asked to speak to an oncologist.

I joined his father at the window of this room next to where their son struggled to breathe. I, too, began to measure the raindrops, struggling for the right thing to say.

“If I had one wish in this world,” I said, “I wouldn’t ask for beauty. I wouldn’t be interested in power or wealth—not even in intelligence. If I had just one wish, I’d ask for wisdom.”

His father turned tear-stained eyes to meet mine. “Exactly,” he whispered. “Wisdom.”

Wisdom is the type of smarts that doesn’t come from school, even the school of hard knocks. “Give instruction to a wise man and he will be still wiser” (Proverbs 9:9). True wisdom is a gift from God that combines with our human talents to produce a God-worthy end result. Wisdom “takes her stand on the top of the high hill . . . where the paths meet.”

It’s not a bad deal when wisdom meets intelligence. When Solomon dealt with two women claiming to be mother to the same child, he brought his knowledge of the law and knowledge of human nature to the situation. Wisdom gave him the way to effect a proper outcome. His words were wise. But does wisdom ever team up with other virtues and use few words? I turned back to Scotty’s Mom and Dad.

“We always want to find the perfect words to say.” They nodded their agreement. No one was looking out the window anymore. “And until we find the perfect words, we say nothing for fear we’ll say the wrong thing. We want to be compassionate.” Again they nodded. I started moving towards the door. “Sometimes that wisdom we’re seeking doesn’t need words at all. And that compassion we want is ours for the taking. All we have to do is listen. Listen to your son.”

We moved together to Scotty’s room and sat down on his bed. We didn’t get to say much. Scotty had a lot to tell us about a world in which he saw a divine plan. We sat there in awe and listened.

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