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Monday, December 12, 2016

Proverbs 4: Fatherhood and the Two Ways

The fourth chapter of Proverbs picks up with the structure of a father's advice to sons, inflected with "discipline" as the last chapter before it. In this chapter Solomon begins by addressing his own sons, beseeching them to hold the instructions close just as he listened to King David's advice in his own youth.

This chapter is relatively short and breaks quickly into a contrast, a juxtaposition of two paths. On one path, the one to be avoided, travel the evil ones. The path of the wicked is both dark and sleepless, a place where wine is laced with violence and people cannot rest peacefully. The way of the righteous, by contrast, is lit by the light of dawn.

The imagery of paths reminds me that it matters where we place ourselves. Even when we are simply in transit between two places, we need to avoid passing, even transiently, through places that bring us anxiety, stress, or doom. The resonance with the man struggling to overcome a sexually degenerate past seems to dovetail with this fable of the two paths. How many times do men set out to leave the gay lifestyle, and then fall back into it, even though they wanted more than anything else not to? I suspect that often such a man does not schedule a visit to a gay club ahead of time, but rather arrives at Friday night, perhaps sleepless, and finds himself with nothing to do and a vague restlessness. He gets up, throws on jeans and a black t-shirt, and then decides to drive around. He passes the gay club and tells himself he will just get a quick drink.

And then he goes in, and he falls, and he feels the crushing pain of lost years of chastity.

Paths are not merely physical but also in an abstract sense, our routine. In particular, the symbolize the way we bridge different parts of our day. Yes, during business hours you will be busy and untempted, most likely, and perhaps you can arrange to work out with a friend from church each night in the evening. But unfortunately there will be hours in between when nobody but God can keep you safe from drifting into danger zones.

The key is to link Proverbs 4 with Proverbs 3. During all the hours when you cannot count on others to keep you busy and accounted for, do not be fooled to think you can manage yourself for those hours on your own. Only Jesus can get you from place to place. When you are between appointments, or having down time, pray. This is why, I assume, some religions call for prayer several times a day, so there might be no idle time at all during which the slacking hours leave a person open to Satan's tricks.

I keep busy with my daily devotional. Now I have come to get good at talking to Jesus whenever there is nobody to talk to, and praying whenever there is nothing to do. When I find myself mulling and stressing, ruing over things I've done wrong and imagining worst-case scenarios, I remind myself that such is a sinful path. It is sinful to worry because one is traveling a path far from God. God can be trusted, he must be trusted. To worry and rue is to question the sovereignty of our Lord Jesus Christ.