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The Channel and the Source

Listen, my son, to your father’s instruction
    and do not forsake your mother’s teaching.
They are a garland to grace your head
    and a chain to adorn your neck.

- Proverbs 1:8-9

What do you do if your father’s instruction and your mother’s teaching don’t feel like a garland to grace your head or a chain to adorn your neck?

One of the challenges that comes with reading the Proverbs is that they exist in a much larger context. We live in a world that’s broken by selfishness, where foolishness abounds, and where our best advice doesn’t always lead to the best outcomes. Instruction and teaching can’t always be trusted

For those of us who are parents, we know this from a unique angle. We’ve given our kids well-intentioned but bad guidance. We’ve said things we’ve tried to take back (or have wanted to!). We’ve seen them struggle under our flawed leadership. How would we want them to apply this passage when it comes to us?

One helpful trick is to differentiate between the source of wisdom and the channel of wisdom. Parents (as well as counselors, friends, neighbors, people from church) pass wisdom along to us as it becomes available to them and as they’re able. They may pass some other junk along too. They’re just the channel.

The Lord himself is the source of wisdom. And wisdom pursues us actively, lifting her voice and calling out to us, shining her light into our darkness, holding her hands out to us to lead us into a healthier future.

The word of wisdom here is not that you should blindly follow every bit of advice given to you by an older relative but rather that they too – the old ones, the ones who have lived a long time, the ones who have gone before us – they have something to offer us that can help us. Show them what respect you can and learn from them.

What difference do you think it would make in our society for us to grow in respect for the seniors in our families and communities? Do you have an older relative that you can spend some time with or call today? What about a younger relative who you can reach out to with a word of encouragement or wisdom?

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