Bev and Bruce were a couple of years apart in age, but grew up as neighbors. They had similar families in that each were blue collar, hard working, and generally, families who took responsibility for themselves. Around the ages of 10-12 some of those things changed. Bruce’s dad contracted hepatitis B and later died at 33, leaving his mom as bread winner and mother, not an easy feat to perform in the mid to late 60’s. Eventually, his mom completed her GED, got training as a hairstylist and went into a successful business for herself. All along this time God and church were essential regular priorities in her family’s life.
On the other side of the fence, the scenario was different. Bev’s mom continued to work the same job that required a lot of hours, little pay, and less time at home to monitor Bev. As tired as she was, she had little to no time for God or church. The other problem was that her husband had begun to regularly drink, get drunk, and abuse anyone in sight. Once, he tied his son to the wall for hours inside an outer storage building.
As the two boys became young men, the paths chosen varied greatly. Bev, having had no direction for his life, nor having any wise fatherly influence eventually drank himself into a stupor. The worst part was that he attempted to drive in this condition and ended his life in an auto accident, while still in his early thirties.
Bruce, on the other hand, followed the example of his mom’s faith and initiative. There was a few years of confusion, pain, and family disconnection that came after the death of his father and his mom’s remarriage. The new “father image” was not, and in addition, conflict ruled the home until Bruce moved out and into the home of his welcoming grandparents. Here, he had the consistent model of an elderly committed believer in his grandmother. Eventually, he became a Christian, married a godly wife, graduated from Liberty University and Seminary, started a church in NYC, experienced years of spiritual, emotional, and relational wilderness, graduated from Richmont Graduate University, and now, at 65, continues to practice Marriage and Family Therapy since then.
In Hebrew poetry, of which Proverbs is one form, one device used as a teaching tool is that of contrasts in one verse. Here are some examples: Verse 1- A wise son makes a glad father, but a foolish son is a sorrow to his mother. Verse 9- Whoever walks in integrity walks securely, but he who makes his ways crooked will be found out. Verse 16 - The wage of the righteous leads to life, the gain of the wicked to sin. From beginning to end, this chapter is ripe with these contrasts, from how we speak, think, behavior, value, interact, respond, receive, the contrast is about those who follow a wise path versus those who follow their own foolish self generated path. The results of each are summed up in verse 27. The fear of the Lord lengthens one’s life, but the years of the wicked are cut short. When we follow the models of those who are self destructive, is it any wonder that we become self and other destructive. The path of wisdom leads to a rich, satisfying, connected with others, enjoyable life. The path of an unharnessed self oriented life leads to destruction.
Prayer: Lord, I choose to follow your path of wisdom and not my own, self-seeking, selfish oriented Life. Grant me grace to see when I begin to veer off your path and gently nudge me back on it.