It’s not that I grew up as a bird and somehow claimed my humanity later on. I’m thinking instead of this passage in the Hebrew Bible, from the book of Job:
"The wings of the ostrich flap joyfully,
but they cannot compare with the pinions and feathers of the stork.
She lays her eggs on the ground
and lets them warm in the sand,
unmindful that a foot may crush them,
that some wild animal may trample them.
She treats her young harshly, as if they were not hers;
she cares not that her labor was in vain,
for God did not endow her with wisdom
or give her a share of good sense.
Yet when she spreads her feathers to run,
she laughs at horse and rider.
– Job 39:13-18
Chapter 39 is the Animal Planet of the Book of Job, a paean to wildlife. More particularly, it is a paean to the Creator of wildlife, with whom Job cannot hope to compare. As the poem paints the portrait of one animal after another, we come upon the passage about the ostrich. The New Bible Dictionary sums up these verses:
Some animals are wild and free and untameable; others, like the ostrich, are simply ridiculous. It is the popular view of the ostrich as a cruel and careless parent that is used here. In fact, it is only during the day that its eggs are abandoned; at night both cock and hen take turns at keeping the nest warm. God has even created animals whose behaviour makes no sense – not by human standards, at any rate.
Some animals symbolize great things: the lion is majestic, the beaver is industrious, the eagle is unfettered freedom. The ostrich, though, is an ungainly creature whose behavior suggests, at least for the book of Job, a spaced-out, ditzy mother who can’t properly care for her young and then runs off giggling hysterically. And we laugh at her.
Or maybe with her. Wisdom in the Bible is not what Groucho Marx once made it out to be. "I’m wise to you," someone tells Groucho. "So you’re wise?" he replies. "Then what’s the capital of Nebraska?" Biblical wisdom (Hebrew, chochmah) is not about accumulating factoids. My rough-and-ready definition is "living a successful life according to God’s standards." The key phrase is "according to God’s standards." It is navigating life, with all its ups and downs, pains and pleasures, according to the way God has created us to be.
Sometimes biblical wisdom equates to common sense. The sluggard doesn’t get very much out of life, according to the book of Proverbs. As a rule, that’s true for everyone. But in the final analysis, "the fear of the Lord is the beginning of wisdom," Proverbs 9:10. You can’t have real success without him.
And that is why I confess that I once was an ostrich. "For God did not endow her with wisdom or give her a share of good sense." Before I entered a relationship with Yeshua, I didn’t know God, I didn’t know myself, and I didn’t know the purpose of existence. I did not have the wisdom that comes from "the fear of the Lord."
Wisdom is a life-long learning curve, and I’m certainly not at the final goalpost. The fear of the Lord is the beginning of wisdom. It takes a lifetime and beyond to get to the end.
Read the story of Rich’s journey to Yeshua here.