What is wisdom? Where do you find it? How do you keep it?
King Solomon spoke of wisdom being present before the very foundation of all creation. Before God creating anything, wisdom was there, dancing and rejoicing (Proverbs 8:1,30).
For me, wisdom can show up in some odd places. So . . . a story.
My friend, Bobby, invited me to a costume party at Hip Pocket Theater a number of years ago. We were both in Seminary and had just finished midterm exams. And honestly, a party was the last thing on my mind at the time. I was exhausted and not too confident about how the papers and tests all went. I was also still reeling a little emotionally from not getting a job I’d worked really hard at landing.
The idea of a costume party at a quirky, outdoor theater sounded like the last thing I’d want to gear up for that evening. And there was the added fact that neither of us had costumes as such. But he somehow convinced me and I figured I could come up with something that would get me through the gate. So, I donned an old military grade, green field jacket and stuffed the right arm sleeve with foam and newspaper and pinned a stuffed glove into the sleeve at the end. I put on some old khaki pants, a military cap, and a glove on my left hand. The idea was that as people reached out to shake my hand, my real right hand and arm would burst out from the middle of my jacket as I screamed. And then, theoretically, they’d jump and scream and it would all be great fun (and it’d be a big hit and people would love me, etc., etc.).
I drove over to my buddy’s house and Bobby came out dressed in a large, black plastic trash bag, stuffed with newspapers, legs in black tights sticking out from the bottom of the bag, wearing cowboy boots and a 10-gallon cowboy hat! He looked ridiculous.
“What are you supposed to be?”
“A Texas raisin! Fastest prune in the West!” He smiled back. “It’s the only thing I could come up with on short notice.”
I laughed, “Umm, you look really . . . I dunno. Maybe it’s the tights.”
He just smiled and said, “It’ll be fine. Love the army jacket. Let’s go — the party’s been going on for over an hour!”
When we got to the outdoor theater, I could see the stage entrance across the field, the theater space shrouded by trees. It was dark and lights illuminated the open field between. Though we couldn’t see any of the crowd who were apparently already inside the theater fence, we could hear the music and laughter.
Crossing that illuminated field, the full strangeness of our appearance came into focus for me — the three-armed man and his Texas Prune! I was having second thoughts, which turned to a sudden desire to run when we could see from the entrance that what we thought was a casual costume party was, in fact, an elaborate Renaissance Festival!
Bobby said, “Awesome! This’ll be great!”
I reminded him that he was dressed in a black trash bag and we should leave with as much dignity intact as possible. Also, we weren’t wearing masks and might be recognized by someone.
I quickly threw off my coat, reasoning that I’d be better off casually dressed and without a costume than in one so completely out of character. But Bobby paid his money and walked into the party, standing out like . . . like a giant Texas prune in the middle of a Renaissance Ball. A beautiful woman in an ornate gown and mask suddenly approached him and asked in her most high-toned, parodied Elizabethan voice, “Oh dear! And what in heaven’s name are you?” The timing couldn’t have been more awkward, as the music had stopped before playing the next song, and everyone, so it seemed, turned to see the Giant Raisin.
Without missing a beat, Bobby tipped his cowboy hat, bowed, and replied, in a West Texas/Cockney dialect, “I’m the Sherriff of Prune Shire, Me Lady! Fastest Prune west of the Thames. And I’m here to make sure things ‘move along,’ so to speak, in a smooth and orderly fashion.”
And that’s pretty much all he had to say the rest of the evening, as people cracked up laughing with every introduction and the word of the Sherriff got around! He danced with court ladies, while knaves and knights offered to buy his “mead and wine!”
This Sunday, and for the next few Sundays, I want to think with you about wisdom . . . in all its divine connotations and earthly foolishness as we look at Solomon’s Proverbs and wisdom as a way of life.
Sunday, May 22
Crazy Wisdom —
“when it’s true, it’s true”
featuring cellist Dace Sultanov on Korsakov’s “Flight of the Bumblebee”
with eleven:eleven revolution and the music of
Ruthie Foster and Michael Kiwanuka
Hope to see you Sunday!