The Word in the Wings

The Word in the Wings  > Regina’s Journey: accept grace

Regina's Journey: accept grace

By: KAYA WEAVER

In Glorify Dance Theatre’s upcoming ballet, Regina’s Journey, the protagonist Regina learns that trust is a key element of wisdom. Proverbs 3 illustrates several dimensions of what it means to trust in God.

Hebrew Bible scholar Ellen Davis says that the sayings in Proverbs reflect “the sense the faith community has made of its cumulative experience” (12). Accordingly, Proverbs 3 opens with a parent or teacher addressing a “child,” passing the wisdom of their experience on to the next generation.

Proverbs 3:1 My child, do not forget my teaching

and my commandments let your heart keep

2 For length of days and years of life

and peace will be added to you

The wisdom the parent passes on consists not merely of suggestions, but of thorough, essential instruction. The child is exhorted not to let this teaching pass from their mind, but rather to incorporate it into their center and let it guide their reasoning.

Verse 2 gives a reason for respecting the parent’s instruction: it will yield abundant life and quality relationships.

3 Loyal love and faithfulness let not abandon you; 

bind them on your neck,

write them on the tablet of your heart

Verse 3 more specifically characterizes the teaching as leading the child to “loyal love and faithfulness.” Both of these qualities point to commitment and care in relationships. In keeping with the mention of “your heart” as the guardian of “my commandments,” the proverb continues pointing to core body parts as places for the safekeeping of wise qualities. This is a vivid, physical image: don’t let “loyal love and faithfulness” walk away from you; “bind them” so they stay near you. Imagine tying something around your neck like a necklace: it rests over your heart. But not only should it rest there: the next line says to “write” these qualities “on the tablet of your heart.” This is like taking notes so you don’t forget (see verse 1), but it’s more permanent than writing on a slip of paper that can flutter away in the breeze or even engraving on stone tablets that can be dropped and broken. Writing “loyal love and faithfulness” on your heart suggests making these qualities an indelible part of you. If the heart is considered the seat of reasoning, it also suggests placing them where they can govern your thoughts and actions.

4 And find grace and consider good

in the eyes of God and humanity

Along with keeping “loyal love and faithfulness,” nearby, the parent tells the child to “find grace and consider good.” “Grace” includes favor or generosity, when another person thinks well of you, gives you the benefit of the doubt, and is willing to support and help you. While “grace” may refer to the attitude of another person toward you, finding “grace” requires a certain attitude of the person being addressed. A person who receives grace from someone else acknowledges their own propensity to err or fall short and to require the generosity, aid, and forgiveness of others. 

Someone who knows their own need for grace should cultivate relationships of generosity by practicing the “loyal love and faithfulness” mentioned in verse 3. Verse 4 also says to “consider” what God and other people perceive as “good.” A wise person looks outside their limited, individual perspective to understand what is good, and this goes hand-in-hand with the attitude of humility that undergirds willingness to learn and to receive grace from others.

5 Trust in YHWH with your whole heart

and on your understanding don’t lean

This couplet contains two contrasting imperatives. “Don’t lean” provides a kinesthetic image for illustrating what “trust” does. If you’re feeling tired or weak, you might lean your weight on a person you trust who will stand firm and hold you up. Someone you don’t know or trust might walk away and let you fall and get hurt, so you don’t lean on them.

The contrasting verbs draw a contrast between their respective objects. “YHWH” is more trustworthy than “your understanding;” God is more reliably able to support you in a moment of need.

6 With all your paths acknowledge him

and he will straighten your pathways

“Acknowledge” strikes me as an expression of trust. Having nothing to hide from God, the wise person doesn’t try to ignore or distance themselves from God’s presence but instead confirms the relational connection and welcomes God’s involvement in their life.

The second line describes the reciprocity of that relationship. When you trust God, acknowledging God’s presence and perfect wisdom to guide the way you walk through life, God will confirm your trust by making your path “straight.” This could indicate that it is a correct/righteous path; God will not lead you down a path where you have to make unjust or unkind choices. It could also indicate the ease of travel on this path. When you trust YHWH, God won’t add twists and turns to confuse you or cause you to stumble. 

Yet the verb “straighten” has an active, causative sense; the path might not seem straight to begin with, but God intervenes to make it straight. Trusting God means that when we encounter difficulties, God has the power and willingness to help us journey through them.

7 Don’t be wise in your eyes

fear YHWH and turn aside from bad

Departing from the visual and kinaesthetic image of leaning on someone trustworthy and sturdy, this verse offers another contrast between “your” perspective and YHWH’s. To “fear” or reverence YHWH entails turning away from wrong and evil choices. By contrast, to “be wise in your eyes” doesn’t always lead down the path of good. In the garden of Eden, the woman takes the fruit that seems good in her eyes:

“So when the woman saw that the tree was good for food and that it was a delight to the eyes and that the tree was to be desired to make one wise, she took of its fruit and ate, and she also gave some to her husband, who was with her, and he ate.”

Genesis 3:6 (NRSVUE)

The woman’s own understanding leads her and the man away from the tree of life (Genesis 3:22-23); her judgment in disregard of YHWH’s instruction is not an act of turning aside from bad. Therefore this proverb exhorts the listener to give preference to YHWH over what seems good in our own perception.

8 Health will be for your navel

and marrow for your bones

“Health” for the body is connected to long life. This description suggests that to “fear YHWH” brings life, as mentioned in verse 2–the opposite of the death that results from disregarding God.

9 Honor YHWH out of your wealth

and out of the firstfruits of all your revenue

10 Then your barns will be filled plentifully

and the new wine of your presses will burst forth

A concrete demonstration of trusting YHWH is giving out of the provisions you have. Confirming that trust, YHWH straightens or eases the path by providing abundantly so that no lack is felt because of having shared.

11 YHWH’s discipline, my child, don’t despise

and don’t weary of his correction

12 For the one whom YHWH loves he corrects

and as a father with a child, he is pleased

As the previous verses show, Proverbs 3 looks at trusting God from several angles: lean on God when you’re uncertain which way is good, and give of what you have to God even before you see the abundance God will provide. Verses 11-12 view trust in terms of accepting discipline.

When God shows you the path you’ve taken isn’t good, accept the correction. Rather than growing frustrated with being shown we went wrong, we can look for clarity and new understanding from God as a gift and a learning opportunity.

Verse 12 gives the reason why God’s correction is good: YHWH corrects out of love, not out of an unjust or authoritarian need for control. A micromanaging boss might give arbitrary corrections because they want things done according to their personal preferences, but God is not compared to a micromanager. Rather, God is compared to a father who wants life to go well for his child. Because of that love and desire for good outcomes, the father corrects and disciplines the child when they do wrong so they can learn what is right and grow in their ability to cultivate good in their life and for others.

***

In Regina’s Journey, the aspiring village leader learns to accept grace when she errs. Deep in the forest, Regina finds that her path is not clear. Succumbing to the temptation for food and shelter, Regina departs from the path to enter the cave-home of a supposed young maiden, but the maiden is soon revealed to be the gremlin Alea who is trying to trick and thwart Regina on her journey. 

The choice that seems good in Regina’s eyes turns out to be a terrible mistake; it is not only a navigational error, but it comes from disregarding her mother’s firm instruction. Even so, once she makes it out of the cave, a gust of wind reveals the path, suggesting divine intervention to lead her back in the right direction. Regina learns that she can’t always trust her own judgment, especially when it contradicts the instruction her mother gave to stay on the path. But her error isn’t the end of her journey; she is set back on the path and has a chance to continue in her newfound wisdom.

In Proverbs 3, the “child” is exhorted to remember their parent’s teaching, and several verses express the positive outcomes of living wisely in contrast with the consequences of folly and evil. These exhortations and their implications are also balanced with the assurances that learning wisdom is a journey, and YHWH is a source of help. Part of seeking wisdom is accepting the gift of grace as well as taking correction as a sign that most importantly reveals not God’s displeasure but the extent of God’s love and desire for our good.

***

Scripture quotations in this post are my own translation, except where otherwise noted.

Secondary reference:

Proverbs, Ecclesiastes, and the Song of Songs, by Ellen F. Davis (Westminster John Knox Press, 2000).

Sign up for our mailing list

Receive updates about Glorify Performing Arts, including upcoming events and ways to get involved.

© Glorify Performing Arts is a registered 501(c)(3).
Glorify Performing Arts, Inc. © Copyright 2021. All Rights Reserved.

css.php