The holy wonder of the Lord is the beginning of wisdom, and knowing the Holy One is understanding. Proverbs 9:10
The great thing about Hebraic Poetry is that it does not depend on rhythm or rime, and has therefore been very successfully translated into virtually every language. Biblical Proverbs of this sort depends on parallelism – in which half the verse corresponds with the other. Thus, in this verse, the holy wonder of the Lord that is the beginning of wisdom – corresponds to what it means to know the Holy One as true understanding.
I like how Derek Kidner puts it in his little commentary on Proverbs:
Yet while all go to God’s school, few learn wisdom there, for the knowledge He aims to instil is the knowledge of Himself…
This amazing invitation to be brought into His confidence (Proverbs 3:32) is awe inspiring – it is a holy wonder, and has set me in the trajectory of seeking Him in worshipful awe. As I go to God’s school to get to know Him, in the process I have increasingly become aware of gratitude. I am not talking about merely becoming thankful for what I have and have experienced (as good as that is alone). It is becoming aware of the ecosystem of gratitude that manages to integrate the larger life story God has brought me through so far.
From my vantage point, I can see a landscape full of gratitude; how did I get here? As I read and re-read the Scriptures, I become more aware of the repeated encouragements to be thankful. Though the nudge to gratitude is everywhere, not everyone sees it. Not everyone is thankful. It takes only a few moments into any given conversation to find that out. There is something about being thankful that is simply wise – and this kind of wisdom colours every perspective.
Recently Dr. Sue Slaughter, Associate Professor in the Faculty of Nursing at the U of A, gave me her copy of The Journal of Gerontology: Psychology Sciences, in order to read a study by two Austrian researchers: “‘Gratitude is with me all the time'”: How Gratitude Relates to Wisdom.” The researchers proposed that personal wisdom is related to gratitude for three reasons:
Reflection and integration of negative experiences characterizes both wisdom and gratitude. Specifically the realization that a negative event led to a positive outcome…
One important feature of many negative events is that they are unexpected and uncontrollable, shattering the individual’s control illusions. If someone is able to find meaning in them and integrate them in his or her life story, such experiences can contribute to an increased appreciation of life.
These “good things” include personal relationships. Wise individuals are probably more aware than others of their embeddedness and connectedness to others and the world at large.
We may pray, “Lord give me the wisdom to be thankful.” But I think it is more the case of praying, “Lord give me the wisdom to know and worship You..” for it is inside this relationship where our lives are integrated, where we recognize how we are embedded and connected to God and His creation; it is where gratitude lives.
This is more enigma than dogma. Isn’t it almost comical that we need serious scientific research on the topic of Gratitude and Wisdom, only to hint at what Scripture already revealed millennia ago?