Insight & understanding from the mundane
I remember back in my early teens when I was just beginning to really take note of the things of God, I was watching a movie in the living room with my elder sister who was more seasoned christian than myself, at some point in the movie she turns to me and begins to point out (while the movie was still playing) how certain scenes expressed certain truths, how the hero stood like this, and how an action scene depicted this spiritual truth, and how that part of the movie was analogous to this area of life, and how what the villain said revealed that and on and on she went, getting more visibly excited as she spoke, so excited she was that she started bubbling in tongues here and there like the latest drunken Pentecostal on the street. I remember looking at her agape, my eyes oscillating between her and the action movie on the television and wondering how on earth is she seeing all this from this movie? It’s not even a Christian movie!
I went by the field of the slothful, and by the vineyard of the man void of understanding;
And, lo, it was all grown over with thorns, and nettles had covered the face thereof, and the stone wall thereof was broken down.
Then I saw, and considered it well: I looked upon it, and received instruction.
Yet a little sleep, a little slumber, a little folding of the hands to sleep:
So shall thy poverty come as one that travelleth; and thy want as an armed man.
The ability to gain instruction from every day happenings is a mark of one trained in wisdom, the bible says “The heavens declare the glory of God; and the firmament sheweth his handywork, Day unto day uttereth speech, and night unto night sheweth knowledge (Psalms 19:1-4)” i.e each day says something, each night shows something, scripture further says “For the invisible things of him from the creation of the world are clearly seen, being understood by the things that are made (Rom 1:20)”, i.e. the invisible nature of God’s wisdom, power, ability and nature is clearly seen and is understood by created everyday things, remember scriptures says “It is the glory of God to conceal a thing: but the honour of kings is to search out a matter (Prov 25:2)”. God has packaged ‘ordinary’ everyday things which we encounter with enough wisdom, insight and instruction, such that, the one who can see and hear these things, will live life richly and fully.
Solomon was the wisest man who lived in his time, his wisdom is till today still being pondered on, but we see how he got his instruction in wisdom, he looked at the ant and the wisdom of hard work came to him (prov 6:10), he looked at the house overgrown with weeds and the wisdom against laziness came to him (prov 24:30-34), he looked at the whorish woman and the wisdom of chastity came to him (prov 6:26), he looked at the virtuous woman and the wisdom of family came to him (prov 31), he looked at water and was instructed on the nature of a man’s heart (prov 27:19) and on it goes, the wisest people of the ages have been those who have been able to receive instruction from the ordinary, they have learnt to draw deep waters from shallow wells.
Many people come across same situations and walk right by it, these ones come across it, and firstly recognize that there is a lesson to learn here, they then begin to ponder on it and think on it and then like lightning it hits them instruction from the ordinary, lessons from the mundane. It is the accumulation of these instructions that makes such a one a person of insight, it is also an art that can be learnt by the wise to grow in their wisdom, because the more you learn to be instructed by the ordinary, the more you recognize insight from the ordinary.
Many have sought wisdom in great institutions of learning, in expensive courses from scholars, in voluminous books and research, and all this is good and has it’s place, but wisdom, true wisdom not just intellectual brawniness, is given by God, it truly cannot be dug out by much study, for the wise man, much study is a fruit of the wisdom in him. Wisdom gives you the ability to draw deep waters but it is your exercise of it that causes you to grow in it. Sitting under a wise teacher to learn from him is attempting to draw deep waters from a deep well and rightly so, reading an insightful book is attempting to draw deep waters from a deep well and rightly so, but I would point out that one can draw deep waters from the eyes of a baby, from the windmill that keeps rolling, from the pool that reflects your face, from the t-shirt of your neighbor, in the quiet (or noisy) sleep of a spouse, in the rowdy lecture hall of a class, in the dripping from the bathroom tap, in the overcooked meal on your table, in the greetings and well wishes on your birthday, in the ever surviving bug of your house, in the quickly fleeting trees as you travel, in the course of everyday life. This wisdom is not a replacement to the deep wells but a much needed addition. One of the reason being, you will spend most of your life in mundane situations, in the ordinary course of events, you likely wont be reading the most insightful book of your life everyday, or speaking one on one with Gandhi, Mandela, Lincoln and Steve Jobs every other day, or attending Ted talks every hour or listening to your favorite bible teacher every minute, but you will eat a meal or so every day, you will take your bath everyday, you will go to work or school most of the days, you will wake up from bed, brush your teeth, call your mum, prepare a meal, see other people, breathe in air, talk with someone, you will do these every day or at least every other day, imagine if you learn to draw deep waters from these ‘shallow’ wells, your eyes will become opened to the wisdom of God, the beauty of God, the principles of life and the tools for success like it never has been before.
So how does one draw deep waters from shallow wells, how does one gain deep insight into life and God from the mundane things of life, whether it’s a boring 9 hours cubed office, or a monotonous mothering schedule or a fast paced fast food waitress, instruction can always be gained. The bible says Christ is made unto us wisdom, and like I earlier pointed that wisdom will cause you to recognize instructions in the mundane, you must realize that there is always something to learn in anything you do and anywhere you find yourself, there always is, it may not seem so but it’s always there.
Simply realizing that there is a lesson to be learnt is often the first major step.
The story is told of the shoe salesman who was sent to a primitive tribe, on reaching there and seeing that everyone was barefooted and that nobody used shoes, he quickly went back to base and told his company that there is no need, they don’t wear shoes. A second shoe salesman from another company also happened to be sent the same primitive tribe on reaching there and seeing the situation he excitedly called back his company and reported ‘send more shoes, nobody has any shoe’.
The story while it shows the difference of perspective also shows that the ability to recognize a matter correctly is critical, once you know there is always deep waters in every shallow well, you’re set up to begin to draw it out.
Then like Solomon at the house of the slothful you must consider well what is before you (the word ‘considered’ in prov 24:32 in the Hebrews literally means ‘set my heart’), you have to think and meditate on it, you must set your heart on the issue. Everything has a story to tell, and everything tells a story, give it your attention and you’ll soon hear it’s story and learn it’s lesson. The lessons of life is like food, some like the watermelon are so easy to eat that once it enters your mouth with minimal effort it’s already in your system, others are like what the youroba people of Nigeria call ‘pomo’ (pronounced “por-mor”), the (toughest) skin on the cow, which sometimes even though boiled for several hours will still require several minutes of chewing and re-chewing before it can be soft enough to be swallowed. Point is; as you meditate on the mundane things around you some lessons you will learn quickly without too much effort, some will come to you without you even giving it much thought just by you noticing it but there are others that will take hours and days and months and sometimes years before you draw it’s deep waters. This is also same with the study of God’s Word, the wisdom of this is to be patient and persistent, meditatively asking what meanest this?.
On a final note on how you may draw deep waters from shallow wells; go to the deeper wells, I have noticed that it is those who consistently draw from the deeper wells that are able to draw from the shallow wells the deep waters, the one who meditates and receives light from God’s Word and knows the mysteries of the kingdom of God is far easier able to receive light from God’s work and decipher mysteries from man’s kingdom, many times (like my sister) instruction will come to such a one without consciously trying (and even while film watching). So study to show yourself approved, meditate on the Word of God day and night, expose yourself to insightful materials, sit under deep teachers, pray the prayer of Paul for the Ephesians ‘that the eyes of your understanding be opened’, draw and drink of the deep waters and you will be able to draw from the shallow wells and realize most importantly that for you the Christian, the Holy Spirit is the revealer, He is the one who brings light in dark areas and opens your eyes to hidden truths, rely on Him, ask of Him and expect His revelations. No well as deep as the Word, no teacher as deep as the Spirit.
But the wisdom that is from above is first pure, then peaceable, gentle, and easy to be intreated, full of mercy and good fruits, without partiality, and without hypocrisy.
[photo credits: http://michaelckw.blogspot.com.ng/2014/03/we-are-thirsty-but-well-is-deep.html]