A few theologians leave me breathless, and Sam Wells is one of them. In his latest, Learning to Dream Again: Rediscovering the Heart of God , he discusses the aspects of wisdom that are his theme. One is humility, another joy, but stuck between them is suffering shame.

This is different from seeking wisdom from suffering. It’s different from trying “to suppress [suffering] and defeat it,” different too from letting it “make my soul grow and give me wisdom.”

Wisdom comes from the shame of suffering: “we avoid and fear shame maybe even more than we do suffering. Shame strips us of our defenses against our fragile mortality. We have no justice to call on, no public esteem to hope for, no leg to stand on. Just feel that blush that engulfs your whole body. Shame is nakedness in the face of ridicule, vulnerability in the face of blame, and guilt without excuse. If wisdom is going to speak from the depths, it must pierce our pride and reach our shame” (8).

More on: Theology

Articles by Peter J. Leithart

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