On a flight from Minneapolis to Portland earlier this year, I sat next to an airline pilot who was making his way home to Alaska. We struck-up a conversation and, after the usual pleasantries and small talk, began talking about our families. We spent a lot of time discussing the joys and tribulations of marriage and family life. Since my wife Colleen and I are entering the teenage years with our oldest daughter, I was particularly interested in hearing about any challenges he and his wife faced with their daughter when she was in high school.
My new friend smiled and related the following story. “Thankfully, we only had one incident during her freshman year in high school. She called us after school one Friday and asked permission to stay at a friend’s house for the night. We trusted our daughter and we knew the girl she would be staying with and her parents, so my wife and I consented to her request.
“Later that evening, we realized that we never made arrangements to pick her up, so I called the parents of the friend she was staying with. The dad on the other line sounded surprised and said that my daughter wasn’t there and, in fact, that his daughter asked permission to stay at our house for the night! I was very disappointed and knew exactly what was going on: there was a party somewhere and both girls were at it.
“Taking advantage of social networking, it didn’t take me long to find the party house. I drove there and waited on the sidewalk near the walkway leading to the front door. I stopped someone going into the party and asked them to tell my daughter to come outside. Less than a minute later, she poked her head out the door and saw me standing there. With a look of shock, surprise and fear on her face, she slowly came over to me. I said to her, ‘You have two minutes to say goodbye to your friends, get your coat, and come back outside. If you are not here in two minutes, I’m coming in after you.’
“Two minutes later, my daughter was out of the house and in the car. I didn’t say a word to her the entire drive home. When we arrived at the house, I told her to go to her room and that I would be there in a minute. After debriefing my wife, I went to speak with my daughter. I spoke to her in a calm and measured tone, not in anger, but with all seriousness. I told her how much I loved her and what upset me more than anything was not my worrying about her doing drugs or having sex or drinking alcohol (which I knew she wouldn’t do), but that she violated my trust in her by lying to me and her mother. It felt like she stabbed me in the heart. When I told her that, she cried and hugged me, said she was sorry and told me that she would never do anything to destroy my trust in her again. And you know what … she kept her promise!”
This man’s daughter was at an age where teenagers think they know more than their parents, and some teens may even think that their parents are stupid. Needless to say, these years can be a very anxious and stressful time in the family. But this father was not stupid at all! He showed true wisdom in dealing with his daughter’s situation—a spiritual wisdom that came from a lifetime of love, experience and maturity rooted within an ever-deepening relationship with the living God in union with the Father’s will for his life.
He showed wisdom by not going directly into the party house and embarrassing his daughter in front of her friends. He showed wisdom by not speaking to his daughter on the ride home so she could have time to process the seriousness of the situation. He showed wisdom by not yelling and screaming at his daughter in anger but reinforcing his love for her and emphasizing the hurt that she caused to their relationship.
When the Lord God appeared to Solomon—the teenage son of the great King David—in a dream by night, God said, “Ask what I shall give you” (1 Kings 3:5). By baptism we are adopted sons and daughters of Our Heavenly Father and, therefore, brothers and sisters of Jesus, the Son of David. Now imagine if the Lord visited you and said that He would grant your heart’s desire … what would you ask for? My guess is that many of us—if we are honest—would respond like the airline pilot’s daughter; our thoughts would turn inward toward the self, towards the gratification of some passing desire or material possession that we think will bring us happiness. We convince ourselves that the possessions we are asking for from the Lord are the result of an intelligent decision and not concupiscence, which is the sinful inclination toward sin and evil that fulfill the desires of the flesh over the spirit.
We should learn from the example of Solomon, who was mature enough to admit that he didn’t know all the answers (cf. 1 Kings 3:7) and humble enough to ask the Lord to help him distinguish right from wrong (“Give thy servant therefore an understanding heart to govern thy people, that I may discern between good and evil …” 1 Kings 3:9). In this context, the “heart” is not to be understood as the organ in your chest but the center of the human person where the conscience, intellect and emotions are found. It is the seat of the will: the “heart” is the place where the desire for God resides. Solomon knew that he should ask for wisdom because of the example of his father, David, who prayed to God, saying, “Teach me discernment and knowledge, for I trust in your commands […] The law from your mouth means more to me than silver and gold […] I take delight in your promise like one who finds a treasure. The lovers of your law have great peace; they never stumble” (cf. Psalm 119:66, 72, 162, 165).
In Matthew’s gospel (see Matthew 13:44-52), our Lord Jesus, a descendent of Solomon and David, shows the people of Israel that genuine wisdom and knowledge, true happiness, and lasting peace comes when we seek God first above all else! David taught Solomon the same lesson that the pilot tried to teach his daughter and that Christ is trying to teach us every day of our lives: (1) that eternal life forever in heaven is the fruit of faithfulness to God and not to the world, (2) that wisdom is a gift of God and He bestows it on those who pray for it, (3) that the Lord God of Israel protects those who are faithful to Him, and (4) that the Lord alone is God and that we must “go and sell all that we have” and “throw away what is bad”—we must rid ourselves of everything that is not of and for God so that, at the end of our life, we may be counted among the righteous who possess the treasure, the pearl of great price and not among the wicked who worship of idols of this world, where we children of God act like recalcitrant teenagers who think our Father in heaven is foolish and stupid. When we act in this way, we violate God’s trust in us and stab Him in the heart with our sins. If we persist in our sinful arrogance, without discerning the Spirit of Wisdom, we will end up exactly where we deserve: in the “fiery furnace, where there will be wailing and grinding of teeth” (cf. Matthew 13:42).
My brothers and sisters in Christ, because Solomon sought Wisdom above all else, God not only granted his desire but also bestowed riches and honor upon him (cf. 1 Kings 3:11-13). God will always give us more than what we ask for if we live in communion with His life and holy will. Satan will try to destroy our relationship with God and we must use Wisdom to discern the devil’s tactics, to recognize his presence and to ignore his temptations to be hateful, unforgiving, jealous, greedy, ambitious for worldly things, hard-hearted, and proud. It is the gift of Wisdom that strengthens our faith, fortifies hope, perfects love, and promotes the practice of virtue to the highest degree. We must stay very close to the Holy Spirit, in order to have both light and strength to discern good from evil, right from wrong, the human spirit from the Holy Spirit. We need to be detached from our old way of thinking in order to be open to the quiet inspirations of the Holy Spirit. Only then will we, like Solomon, be able to recognize what God is saying to us and what He desires of us so that we can keep our promises to Him. “He who has ears, let him hear” (Matthew 13:43).
©2011 Aurem Cordis and Deacon Harold Burke-Sivers