The Tooth of Wisdom

“Wisdom teeth usually come in around age 18—the age of wisdom” the Oral Surgeon said. This is an age of wisdom, of thought, and of fear. It’s the age of wisdom—and yet, our wisdom teeth get extracted. They are cut out with a sharp knife and other fancy tools.

I have become rather fascinated with wisdom teeth. Almost everyone has a story to tell about their experience getting these teeth removed. If they don’t tell the story, they at least nod and give you the look. The look is the same one I sometimes find myself giving to a middle school student talking about the school cafeteria. Yep, I’ve been there. Times are painful. But it’s part of life.

I’m that horrible sort of person who should never hear warnings. I would be better off, and probably safer, not knowing. And though I know this about myself, I seek out the warnings. Whether it is the flight safety pamphlet in an airplane’s seat or the nutrition warnings on the Flintstones’ vitamins bottles, I court the cautions. So when the oral surgeon’s assistant at my wisdom tooth consultation provided more details than I presume he usually tells patients, I was as attuned as a four-year-old is to Dora the Explorer. I came away equally disturbed and intrigued.

They use a shovel to go get out the small pieces of the teeth that stick around after they cut out the larger part. As with any surgery, however minor, there are side effects. If not allowed to properly heal—the clots come out and the dreaded dry socket is (allegedly) worse than any previous pain produced by the surgery.  There’s swelling, bleeding, and bruising. It is potentially fatal. They put you to sleep and numb the pain—or so they say.

But the small surgery is also necessary. With the absence of the wisdom teeth, the mouth is no longer in danger. Teeth will not shift, the jaw will not deform, the nerves will not be impacted, and the sinuses will no longer be interrupted. They sew the hole together, and eventually the place where the tooth lived is filled with other stuff. Things grow.

In many ways, I think this is a good depiction of the process of finding wisdom. Many think they have wisdom, especially in the so called “age of wisdom.” We are limitless. We are infinite. We are wise. But we are none of these things. This sort of wisdom is proud; it is not based on love. If left unattended long term, this sort of “wisdom” puts a person in danger of deformity and of impacted nerves. There are side effects to this surgery of the mind. Some pieces don’t come out all at once. Sometimes, both the shovel and the sharp knife are needed. But they are worth it. I think.

Though I wrote most of this in October, right after I went to the consultation appointment, I didn’t feel qualified to write it. How could I, when I am so clearly still in the “age of wisdom” stage? But my surgery is tomorrow, and I found myself searching my computer for what I was too timid to post before. As I reread, “We are limitless. We are infinite. We are wise. But we are none of these things” I thought about how lonely a place this is. These false securities that the perception of wisdom offers seem great in the light of laughter, but in the night, they leave you cold and questioning. What if there is more? What if I am going down the wrong path? What if I don’t fill this seemingly limitless potential? What if I am a disappointment? What if I miss out? The “age of wisdom” can be incredibly painful.

Instead of readying the pillows for my soon to be bloody face, I searched for a wisdom quote. I looked for some wise thought on wisdom to add to this little story. I came across some brilliant morsels, but 1 Corinthians 1:30 (and the rest of the section, 1:19-20) made me pause in wonder.

For it is written:

“I will destroy the wisdom of the wise;

    the intelligence of the intelligent I will frustrate.”

Where is the wise person? Where is the teacher of the law? Where is the philosopher of this age? Has not God made foolish the wisdom of the world? For since in the wisdom of God the world through its wisdom did not know him, God was pleased through the foolishness of what was preached to save those who believe. Jews demand signs and Greeks look for wisdom, but we preach Christ crucified: a stumbling block to Jews and foolishness to Gentiles, but to those whom God has called, both Jews and Greeks, Christ the power of God and the wisdom of God. For the foolishness of God is wiser than human wisdom, and the weakness of God is stronger than human strength.

 

Brothers and sisters, think of what you were when you were called. Not many of you were wise by human standards; not many were influential; not many were of noble birth. But God chose the foolish things of the world to shame the wise; God chose the weak things of the world to shame the strong. God chose the lowly things of this world and the despised things—and the things that are not—to nullify the things that are, so that no one may boast before him. It is because of him that you are in Christ Jesus, who has become for us wisdom from God—that is, our righteousness, holiness and redemption.

Christ Jesus became for us wisdom from God! This surgery that replaces false wisdom with true wisdom is not something we can accomplish on our own. But that’s exactly why Christmas is so full of joy. Christ Jesus became for us wisdom from God—that is our righteousness, holiness, and redemption. The pride of perceived wisdom is dangerous, but by becoming wisdom for us—God allowed us to become His righteous ones. The power of perceived wisdom is wicked, but by becoming wisdom for us—God gave us His holiness. The pit of perceived wisdom is lonely, but by becoming wisdom for us—God redeemed us!

Early tomorrow morning, four small bones that have been giving me extreme pain for the last few months will be carefully cut away by a skilled surgeon. But right now, a little bit of pain causing false wisdom that I’ve held on to for so long, is being carefully cut away by the most skilled Surgeon. And all that seems fit to say is “Praise God!” 

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