The whole of the typical spiritual life may be boiled down to a continuum between faith and wisdom, and another competing continuum — fear and folly. The higher continuum is embellished of the Spirit; the lower, of the flesh. These two spiritual continuums of living are, of course, highly interactive with each other, and they’re also highly dynamic as they ebb and flow through life.
Imagine these two continua as lines spanning both good and evil as they’re experienced or felt by us spiritually. One we desire, the other we flee from.
Before we get into a study of these two continua, we need to understand a spiritual paradox.
A Spiritual Paradox
The goal of faith is to grow in strength to rely on God — a thing contingent upon weakness — and to realise, also, steady growth in wisdom.
Yet the experience and outcomes of faith and wisdom — as seen by the Faith-Wisdom Continua — seem diametrically opposed. One we draw on to get us through trials. The other we want to sustain — the place of Wisdom is the panacea of all volitional humanity.
The paradox becomes telling as we consider the vast disparity between difficulty at one end and comfort at the other. But both are spiritually disposed.
Likewise, fear is the activator of faith or anxiety; we choose for one or the other. Folly is a different ‘animal’ altogether; it has been tripped up — as a consequence — of poor decisions, usually based in a flawed morality.
Faith and fear are less to do with our will as they attend, at times vicariously, through circumstances; yet, what we do with them is due our will entirely. Wisdom and folly, conversely, are highly contingent in our will — we decide; we’re consequently found wise or foolish by these choices.
The Faith-Wisdom Continuum
This Faith-Wisdom Continuum is where we always want to be as believing persons.
We experience peace and joy here, whether via a vindicated faith in our leaning on God in difficulty, or through our enjoyment of blessed consequences for wise living. Wisdom is its own reward.
Faith is required at one end, in weakness. Wisdom is the product at the other end of, usually by virtue of long held faith.
The faithful eventually ‘arrive’ (however fleetingly it seems) at wisdom. Faith is the spiritual recipe for cooking the meal called Wisdom; one is the cause, the other, an effect.
But, in another paradox, wisdom is not an ultimate destination in itself — not in this life. We never truly ‘arrive’ — hell’s trick is the pride to believe we have or we can.
But these are also polar opposites — by virtue of our seasonal positions in life. We can neither afford to take times of relative comfort for granted, nor blame God for difficult moments.
Sometimes we’re blessed with growth spurts resplendent in the requirement for faith; other times we’re blessed with a relative ‘dry time’ with no major upsets; smooth sailing emotionally. Blessing, here, is characterised as wisdom.
The Fear-Folly Continuum
As fear juxtaposes faith, so does folly, wisdom.
We straddle this continuum at our avoidance. None of us wants to be fearful, and folly we know to result in embarrassment and shame; of itself presenting good reason to fear.
Fear presents that we might express faith to overcome the fear.
Similarly, folly is the opportunity to grow in wisdom — the later expression of it, through learning. It’s only when we continue to straddle this continuum — not climbing to a higher tightrope — that major issues persist and fester further, and plunge down the sinkhole do we.
Walking the High Tightrope
Could the overall goal of the spiritual life be to simply run — in a balanced fashion — along the high tightrope — on the Faith-Wisdom Continuum, repelling or countering the lower one — yes, by faith and wisdom?
Given an affirmative answer to this question, we need then accept that difficulties will inevitably intersperse times of comfort. But we have tools for coping with both fear and folly: faith and wisdom.
© 2011 S. J. Wickham.