Stolen Water is SweetFr. Barnabas Powell
Let’s face it; learning the lessons of life the “hard way” is our default position as humans. Oscar Wilde said that “Experience is merely the name men gave to their mistakes.”
And yet, we don’t seem to learn from our mistakes very often. Over and over again, we revisit some bad choice either until it kills us or we actually learn to stop doing that. I have a dear friend who grieves a loved one gripped by addiction to narcotics. He once confided in me he was steeling himself for the phone call that would tell him this dear one had died of an overdose or some accident caused by his addiction. And then he looked at me with some of the saddest eyes I’d ever seen and asked “Why doesn’t he learn?” Indeed, why?
Look at our lesson today in Proverbs 9:12-18:
If you are wise, you are wise for yourself; if you scoff, you alone will bear it. A foolish woman is noisy; she is wanton and knows no shame. She sits at the door of her house, she takes a seat on the high places of the town, calling to those who pass by, who are going straight on their way, “Whoever is simple, let him turn in here!” And to him who is without sense she says, “Stolen water is sweet, and bread eaten in secret is pleasant.” But he does not know that the dead are there, that her guests are in the depths of Sheol.
I love these lessons from Proverbs. We don’t read this treasure trove of wisdom nearly enough in our lives. And it is absolutely a treasure indeed. What if you were to read a portion of this book each night to your children before bed? Just a thought.
Look at what treasure we have today.
First notice that wisdom begins with yourself. A wise man once told me about the key to good preaching flows from a regular tending to your own soul to feed your soul with good things so that you aren’t dipping from an empty well when you are preaching to your congregation. Well, what’s true for preaching is true for living. If you aren’t regularly refreshing your soul with nutritious spiritual food, then you can’t be surprised when you “run out of gas” in your living well. You have to make sure your daily routine includes spiritual nourishment if you are going to stay spiritually healthy. There just isn’t a shortcut to this way, dear one.
But a rejection of wisdom and wise choices also begins individually as well. You see, the health or illness of a soul starts long before the actions show the symptoms of either. The inner workings of my heart are either tended to or ignored and that always leads to consequences that show up in my choices, behaviors, and actions. My priorities in life reveal my true self. But knowing that won’t help me if I don’t FIRST wake up to the inner workings of my heart and mind.
My internal life won’t be ignored. It will keep producing consequences until I either embrace the chaos of my heart or determine to finally begin the hard work of taming the “wild west” selfishness that drives my foolish mistakes.
And the good news is we have an absolutely perfect path to tame those passion in the lifestyle of Orthodoxy. The way of Orthodox Christianity is all encompassing. It’s the reason why so many look at Orthodoxy and say “Wow, that’s a lot to take in.” Yes, it is. But the reason for that is our modern society has conned us into believing that simple means “easy.” It isn’t. In fact, “simple” is profound and profoundly challenging. It means learning how to navigate the mysteries of your own heart and you are going to need a trustworthy guide for such an adventure!
If you are going to escape the gravitational pull of your bad choices, you need the added power of God’s grace to break the gravity of hell. And that’s where the Church comes in. The Church offers you the path to wisdom based on reality and not the fantasy of your own pride.
Today, are you ready to begin the journey of self control, taming the passions so that they serve you rather than the other way around? Then you are ready to start with the simple, yet profound, wisdom of the Orthodox Christian Faith. The Faith that gives you the guidance to navigate your own heart and teach you how to be Orthodox on Purpose!
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