Sirach 24:1-12 / Wisdom of Solomon 10:15-21
If only we would give her glory
If only we would humble ourselves before her
If only her power was measured equally with others
If only we held her in highest esteem
She is more precious than gems and the finest gold
She speaks so soft it reaches down to the core
She is modest under the banner she waves
She is the truth we seek yet often ignore
I do not know where this day’s devotion will find the reader. Many of us have come through the year 2020 with bruises and broken hearts. No one was left unscathed. However, Black and Brown bodies, Black women in particular are still left to bear the brunt of America’s newfound revelations of injustice and trauma. What I pray for the reader of today’s devotion is that you sit again with yourself, with wisdom. Acknowledge her presence. Accept her into your space. Wisdom has been made the silent partner in the Holy Trinity. Her works are mentioned in passing, but her ways of being are rarely studied outside academic spaces. Wisdom waits patiently for patience comes from her. In these devotional readings, we get to learn from Wisdom. We get to hear her voice alone. Wisdom’s works and strength are on full display for us to see.
As I read these passages, I see the faces of the women in my family. I feel the presence of matriarchs who died long before I was conceived. Wisdom is their mother. Wisdom is the teacher of how to survive in a “nation of oppressors” (Wisdom of Solomon 10:15). I am, because they held onto her. They believed her words and gave heed to her correction. They shared the stories Wisdom told them directly or in passing. From the gathering circles, to the cotton fields of slavery and in the kitchen or while doing hair, they retold the works of Wisdom and “of her glory” (Sirach 24:1). They praised her strength and thanked God that Wisdom was there in their own weakness. It is the relationship with Mother Wisdom that has allowed Black and Brown female bodies to withstand the assaults on our bodies. Wisdom gathers us together and opens “the mouths of those who were mute” (Wisdom of Solomon 10:21) to lament and speak our truths when the world silences our cries.
2020 was not the first time a Black woman was murdered. The physical death of Breonna Taylor received a lot of media attention, however, Black and Brown women’s bodies have often experienced a type of death or taking away innocence long before their physical death. Slavery and the rape culture that characterized Black women’s enslavement was a “rite of passage” experienced by both young and old. The murder of their bodily autonomy for economic gain and male pleasure is a death that has perpetually shaped the world’s narrative of Black womanhood. Our sexuality was made shameful and a threat to be subdued. What drew our oppressors to rape and attack us, is now a commodity that white women idealize and recreate using modern surgery. The physical features that have brought Black women shame and violence have allowed white women to receive praise. For too long the male gaze fractured women’s unity, but Mother Wisdom reminds us that in the death of our collective nakedness, she was rooted, and she was constant. Wisdom gave us songs to sing through our tears and balm to heal our scars. Wisdom did not leave us but took root inside of us for we are the personification of her resilience.
Now that white America has had a taste of the trauma that is our constant reality, Black and Brown women offer to you a chance to sit at the feet of Mother Wisdom. You have an opportunity to learn from her experiences and to let her guide your actions. We invite you to lament and to cry out for justice as Wisdom comforts you.
2021 is time to join the fight for justice. Learn the history of Africans, Afro-Caribbeans, African-Americans and other Brown hued people. Listen and believe their stories of assault and survival. Hear how Wisdom guided them and “became a shelter to them” (Wisdom of Solomon 10:17). Join with us as we practice our faith and belief in a Triune God. Wisdom will guide you with empathy. She will direct you to the places you should go. And just as she has been “before the ages, in the beginning,” so Wisdom will be “for all the ages” to come (Sirach 24:9).
Creator of wisdom, you called her to dwell within us and yet, we close our hearts and ears to your words. We pray to you for wisdom but seek only what seems right and feels good to our bodies. We have denied wisdom for too long by ignoring her power to calm our internal raging storms. We have allowed the imagery of her femininity to judge her worth in our life, instead of following the works she has done throughout history. We pray now for forgiveness. We have experienced a year without Wisdom. We have seen the destruction caused when we ignore Wisdom. Merciful God return Mother Wisdom to our hearts. Allow us to humble ourselves before her. Allow us to rebuild her throne in our souls where she can rest once more.
Creator of all humankind, you shaped us and colored us to be a vibrant pallet of beauty, but we have hated the diversity you set before us. We have chosen to feel threatened and uneasy by those you called to be our neighbors and siblings. Mother Wisdom guide us back to unity. Remind us that the color of our collective skin is to be celebrated and not demeaned. Teach us to honor the vessels in which you dwell and to fight for all bodies to be protected and appreciated. Where our gaze caused us to do harm, we seek wisdom’s direction towards restoration. Where we shamed one’s identity and co-opted it for our own good, we seek wisdom’s patience as we relearn how to uplift ourselves and others.
Wisdom you stand in honor in the high places with God, and yet we tear you down and overlook the might of your works. Return us to the foot of your throne, reminding us that you were ordained to dwell within us. Speak loudly to us so we can no longer ignore your teachings. Correct our evil ways so we can no longer do harm to ourselves and others. Ase and Amen.
Let the mist of Wisdom fall upon you
May Wisdom saturate your total being
Let Wisdom, the co-creator with God free you
May she lead you into righteousness and freedom
Mother Wisdom, we honor you and lift you up!
Melva Lowry is a candidate for ordination in the PC(USA). She’s a ruling elder in the Greater Atlanta Presbytery at Rice Memorial. Mel holds 3 Masters from 2 PCUSA affiliated seminaries. She recently served as one of the Hands and Feet Fellows for the 224th General Assembly.