The message of Proverbs features two leading ladies: Lady Wisdom and Lady Folly. One gives life, the other brings death. One is a faithful guide, the other a treacherous adulteress. It's no surprise that Proverbs tells us to embrace Wisdom and avoid Folly. Sounds simple enough.
Still, we know that "simple enough" has never been simple enough for us. Humans have been wandering away from Wisdom and into the arms of Folly from the very beginning, and we are no different. Both women are calling out to us all the time, their messages ringing out from their doorways and from the gates of the city. In, fact, if you read 9:4 and 9:16, you'll see that their messages get off to the same start: "Let all who are simple come in here!"
What's a disciple to do? How, I have been asking the Lord, do I cling to Lady Wisdom and avoid that adulterous Folly--how can I distinguish her voice? My own tendency to wander Folly's way, to either mix up their voices or just plain make a bad choice, scares me sometimes; the question is a crucial one. And as I ask that question and take a good long look at Proverbs, I do learn one thing: it's all about side streets and doorsteps.
When warning against Folly, Solomon offers this advice: "Keep to a path far from her, and do not go near the door of her house, lest you give your best strength to others and your years to one who is cruel." (5:8-9) Later, a poor youth falls right into the adulteress' trap because he "was going down the street near her corner, walking along in the direction of her house, at twilight, as the day was fading, as the dark of night set in." (7:8-9)
But Wisdom also calls out: "Blessed is the man who listens to me, watching daily at my doors, waiting at my doorway." (8:34) Blessed are those who walk in her direction.
Living a life of wisdom, finding life instead of death, is not just about momentary repsonses to the call of Wisdom or Folly. It's about where we walk, the front porches we spend time on, the doorways at which we sit and wait. It's about knowing better than to walk through Folly's neighborhood at dusk, knowing that we are all a little more susceptible to her message when we do. It's a lifestyle of finding out where Wisdom lives and hanging out on that street.
I still don't know exactly what that looks like, but I do know this: it seems that much of my life as a disciple will be all about the side streets and doorsteps I choose.