I have found that wisdom is generally not easy to come by without hard-earned vulnerability and dogged hope! I say this because I have learnt throughout my life that despite what many of us are taught from an early age, wisdom is not the accumulation of knowledge and title. Rather, wisdom is the result of courage, tenacity, brutal honesty, and rugged hope that dares to believe the richness of life is found not in easy answers but in truth and responsibility.
It’s not that knowledge isn’t important and necessary for making good decisions—it’s just that when it comes to making decisions that involve people and communities, we need a deeper understanding of the complexities of who we are and what other “stories” are going on for each of us, before we can make a decision that is “good” and not only “fit for purpose”.
As part of the Plenty team, I’ve had the privilege (and sometimes burden!) of helping to facilitate conversations with a diverse range of people from across the Synod around each of the Shared life, flourishing communities mission priorities. What I have found is that the overwhelming theme present across all conversations is the need for wisdom in understanding who we are, as the Uniting Church called by God to participate together in God’s mission of reconciliation for the world.
There is no example of compliance, organisational structure, risk, business model, governance, resourcing, innovation, process or policy, that doesn’t require honest reflection; naming out loud our self-interest, our misconceptions, our mistrust, our misunderstandings, our assumptions, our fears, our personal agendas and our competitive human nature. Wisdom means choosing to step into a level of vulnerability with one another that is at the heart of what called us into being as the Uniting Church in the first place.
As the writer of Proverbs tells us, “Wisdom shouts in the streets. She cries out in the public square.” This should describe the church’s presence in our communities, that we cry out on behalf of those in need in our streets. And we do, in so many ways.
Yet I can’t help but feel that maybe the world around us is crying out for wisdom to be expressed and heard within the church.
Where are we being honest with one another as we go about our business, as we go about our decision-making? Where are we refusing to resist one another as we interact with each other’s plans? Where are we choosing the benefit of the doubt, when a mistake is made or an issue arises without an obvious answer? Where are we more focused on “picking the log out of our own eye first”? Where are we reaching out seeking to understand and “know” one another as image-bearers of the divine, rather than as roles and titles and past experiences? Where are we choosing to love, to be humble, to be generous, to be gracious, to be hopeful, to be curious, to listen and not speak, to set aside, to take up?
This is the kind of wisdom Jesus loves!
As we continue on this plentiful journey, how will each of us seek the wisdom that we as God’s church need, to shout in the streets and cry out in the public square, and be heard and welcomed, for the sake of those in need?
Rev Kath Behan
Rev Kath Behan is the Director of Mission Implementation in the Synod Office.