The Beginning of Wisdom


How do we live with wisdom amidst the big, unanswered questions in life? When you find yourself confused about why certain things happen or what might happen next, how do you tend to yourself in the midst of everything that feels unresolved? Here, Becky Allender writes about the questions she doesn’t have answers for and how, in the exhaustion that comes after wrestling with those questions, her heart is open to a new experience of wisdom and life. This post originally appeared on Red Tent Living.

“The heart has its reasons, whereof reason knows nothing.”
–Blaise Pascal

There are many days in this season of life where I am at my wit’s end. But that doesn’t seem to keep me from pressing forward, expecting reason to catch up to my confusion. The Spirit seems to be prompting me to acknowledge that “wit’s end” may be the beginning of the heart’s greatest journey of all. The heart knows what, at times, the mind can’t comprehend.

I have a friend in hospice care, and I don’t want to chance visiting her with a cough that might be more than allergies. She is my friend and it is heartbreaking to stay away “just in case.” My friend’s impending death triggers again an awareness that I, too, am in the “dying years.” It doesn’t seem that long ago my parents would say the same phrase out loud.

The Spirit seems to be prompting me to acknowledge that “wit’s end” may be the beginning of the heart’s greatest journey of all. The heart knows what, at times, the mind can’t comprehend.

I have a friend whose ministry is thriving in her church. She is thrilled and surprised at the favor she is given. There are a number of men in her church who are not sure about this ministry to women who have been sexually abused. She is exposing indirectly the men who have hidden abuse in churches, schools, and families, and the women are finding freedom that challenges the failure of men in leadership. Who does she think she is? There are hints that she will be asked to limit her time with women and proceed only if a man is supervising her interactions with women.

I spoke with insistence at my husband about the cowardice of men in leadership. He reminded me that he too is a leader and has often cowardly failed, and at other times has risen to be courageous, in the midst of my hurt and forgiveness. I feel like thrashing those who fail to protect, while also crumbling in tears.

My heart feels tossed in the wind like chaff.

I have a friend who lost her dearest friend, her sister, a couple of months ago to cancer. She wholeheartedly entered the battle alongside her sister while accompanying her to countless doctor’s appointments and hopeful miraculous infusions. They both were alive and well this time last year, and now she plants a tree in memory of her sister. My heart aches for her living, for the first time in her life, without her sister nearby.

In Psalm 131:1-2 David proclaims, “Lord, my heart is meek before you. I don’t consider myself better than others. I’m content to not pursue matters that are over my head—such as your complex mysteries and wonders—that I’m not yet ready to understand. I am humbled and quieted in your presence.”

I do not know why my sister is still alive and my friend’s sister is not. I do not know why I am not in hospice care along with my friend. I do not know why success in a church does not bring rejoicing with the church staff and why a woman’s gifts are such a threat to men. I am at my wit’s end.

It is in that space that the noise in my mind grows into a crescendo and then collapses. It is as if the mania in each voice finally falls to the ground like a sobbing three-year-old and there is no energy left to complain. I am finally quiet, exhausted.

I can do no more than to say: “I give everything and everyone to you God. I give everything and everyone to you God.”

My confession doesn’t resolve the questions, though my heart knows that at least I am not at my end, but at a new beginning. A new turn has come and my heart is able to say: “Where else am I to go? Who else has words of life, like you?”

My wit’s end is the beginning not only of wisdom, but of opening my heart to the only One who can give life in the midst of madness.

For more on the nature of wisdom and what it looks like to cultivate it, here’s a three-part conversation between Dr. Dan Allender and his friend, Biblical scholar Dr. Tremper Longman, all about the nature of wisdom.