A sixth grade classroom would seem an unlikely place to have a discussion about the source of wisdom. Even more unlikely in my classroom, where I teach compound commas with the "but crack" test, where we answer multiple choice question like chainsaw murderers, or where I have taken 15 seconds of class time to ensure the proper spelling of "turd". Now I promise each of those things have a teaching context, but they all were pretty silly nonetheless. In stark contrast, I am equally deliberate about the not-so-silly features of my classroom, as I really want my students to walk away with moral-shaping, life-altering truth.
One of the ways we consider the serious things is a weekly quote that is placed on the board for us to discuss as a warm-up; it is called "Wednesday Wise Words" (alliteration anyone?). We consider the words of authors, presidents, social activists, religious leaders, athletes, and more, and simply state what they mean, explain if we agree or not, and then talk about what it means in our life. Many times these discussions hit deep understandings that are worthy of discussion in the Agora, seminaries, and synagogues. This was never more truth than this past week when we considered a quote by Socrates, "True wisdom comes to each of us when we realize how little we understand about life, ourselves, and the world around us."
As we discussed, we danced around the emotional implications of not knowing what others are going through, the role of a student and the nature of learning, but at some point in our discussion we entered (albeit ironically and undeliberately) the Socratic method relating to astronomy - "How much do we know about the Earth? The moon relative to Earth? The solar system relative to the moon? Our galaxy relative to the solar system? Other galaxies and the universe as a whole compared to our own galaxy?" In a strange resemblance to Horton Hears a Who and Psalms 103:14-16, the students concluded that we are floating on a speck in the infinitely greater world around us, therefore our wisdom is simply "garbage" (their word).
To expound on collective thinking of my students (and Socrates), the smartest people realize that simply cannot understand it all, so all conjecture or "garbage" understandings, scientific or religious, must be steeped in an element of faith. Additionally, what seemingly is chaos, may very well be a construction by such an elaborate order than our minds cannot even begin to fathom it (see: chaos theory). As I sat in my chair at the end of the day, rubbing my temples and staring off into space, (like many of my students at the end of the discussion, as some screamed, "STOP! Our brains hurts!") I couldn't help but think my God, the Creator of the heavens and the earth.
Just when we think we have built a mighty tower, acquired a powerful technology, or unlocked a great understanding or discovery, we only need to wait for the sun to set. On constant display from our "speck" is His majesty; the night sky holds our humility. It is a landscape so vast that we cannot see it with the naked eye nor do we really know how far it extends. Almost every bit of it is untouched by anyone except God, our creator (Psalm 19:1-4). He has set order and motion in the infinite heavens with a logarithm that passes beyond our comprehension, so we might know Him. Yet even this elaborate scheme is subordinate to an even higher order: the salvation plan of Jesus Christ.
Colossians 1:17-18 states everything is made through Jesus Christ, he is before all things, and hold all things together. This is not simply speaking of the heavens and earth (if we can do such things), but of time, relationship, and the interaction of all of these things simultaneously. When we look at the advent of Jesus Christ we can see a glimpse into the deep, ordained will of God that is guiding, directing, and even physically shaping the universe. The alignment of heaven - a star in the sky (Num 24:17; Matt 2:7), time - to fulfill prophecies in their fullness (Galatians 4:4), and relationship - genealogies, shepherds, magi, John the Baptist, Simeon, and even us. Jesus Christ was born, lived, died, and was raised back to life as our example, actively mediating, interceding, and realigning us back to the driving will of God (Rom 8:34, 1 Tim 2:5). The heavens, so vast and incomprehensible that we really have no context to understand them, share not the single message there is a great and awesome God (Rom 1:20), but the he has planned for us (Gen 15:5) and loved in the same vast and incomprehensible way (Psalm 35:5).
So what is true wisdom? Realizing that most of the time we will never see, comprehend, or know the cataclysmic effects of the choices we make, but knowing they are indeed tied to the orchestration of God's ultimate will for us all - that none should perish, but all have everlasting life (2 Peter 3:9). He has given us a way to be a part of this plan, principles to live by in order to be aligned to the plan, and a hope that spawned the entirety of the plan to exist. Do we have to know everything? No. We have to believe. The assurance comes from the Creator, through His heavens, His word, prayer, and sometimes in the most direct forms. The irony of it all - when we let go of the "garbage" understandings we have about life and believe in something that we cannot fully comprehend, we will never make a wiser choice.