Do you remember those little “Instruction Books” that all of our friends parents had in their bathroom or on a coffee table when we were in Jr. High? Probably stacked next to a Chicken Soup for the Soul?
That’s how I feel about Proverbs. Ehh, I can take a flip through if I’m bored, but it feels like a compilation of fortune cookie fortunes.
Solomon is the predominant (though probably not sole) author of Proverbs, and he is the biblical king most lauded for his wisdom! That probably should encourage my eyes to take a gander at Proverbs more often, eh?
In fact, in 1 Kings we see that after making a sacrifice to God, God then appeared to Solomon in a dream. God Himself asked Solomon what He desired (all I can envision is a big blue genie with the voice of Robin Williams singing a song about wishes, but I’m positive it was much holier than that), and of all the anythings that Solomon could request from the gracious God willing to bequeath it, he asked for wisdom.
That alone gave me a bit of a push to crack open his long list of parables and instructions.
Many had to do with folly. Many rebuke the fool, the lazy, the rich, the evildoer… in fact the structure is often a comparison of something that is right vs. something that is wrong. But this morning, that’s not inflating my spirit.
This weekend I left a bar in tears after finding out that a dear friend’s dad had died unexpectedly. In a few days I fly out to my younger brother’s wedding – anxiety wrecking my insides as insecurity reigns, hoping that strangers don’t ask me why I’m not married, like they did at the wedding of my other younger brother. The bills from a frustrating bout of doctor’s visits are piling up, while the answer still eludes us. Frankly Solomon, I’m not really interested this morning in how a wise man sows his fields vs. a fool who doesn’t.
So I read and I read and I read, I read sixteen chapters of Proverbs until I land on this little verse:
“Gracious words are a honeycomb,
sweet to the soul and healing to the bones.”
How true indeed.
Not kind words, though they are. Not encouraging words, though they are. Not advice-filled words, though they can be… but what is sweet to the soul and healing to the bones are gracious words.
I forget how often I need grace until it’s shown to me.
And last night, I sat in a booth at a diner, baseball cap bill shadowing my face so that the waiters and waitresses didn’t see the tears racing to my chin. The pal across from me listened without condemnation as I shared the sins I feel stuck in, and the season that’s left me screaming (that’s not dramatic words for dramatic effect, I literally lay screaming at the ceiling yesterday) at God in desperation for His help, and feeling none.
She has been transparent with her own feelings in the stretch of our friendship. She’s fought for faith even when it’s been a fight indeed. And having never said out loud before some of the stories I shared with her last night, even my skin quivered with fear of condemnation. And she spoke grace.
And it was exactly as Solomon described – sweet and healing.
More often than not my penchant is to speak too many words and to include in those words some equation of ‘how to fix’ whatever it is the person on the receiving end is battling. And that has had moments of helpfulness, but not always. It’s hard to see someone’s hurt and not want to jump in with our sleeves rolled up – ready to do the work necessary to take it away. But there are some hurts to big for our fixing, and while we might not see HOW gracious words heal, oh how they do.
“You are normal.”
“You are doing your best.”
“I’ve been there too.”
“I’m so sorry.”
“Thank you for telling me.”
The gift of being shown grace instead of being walloped with judgement, sweet and healing. I pray that in moments where my ugly sin shows through, God Himself shows me how much I need grace, shows me how I can better offer grace, and shows me that, in the words of my friend Eve “In the currency of grace, there is no debt.”
I don’t owe the pal who sat with me in that booth and in my hurt, she’s not writing me a bill for friendship. Out of a heart of love she offered grace, may I do the same. ‘Tis sweet indeed.