Without having to dig too deeply, we find wisdom in the various sayings of Proverbs, not to mention beautiful images, as in Proverbs 27.19. We find a beautiful image of a person's reflection in still waters and the image of faces locked towards one another, looking into each other's eyes and into each other's hearts. We also find a lack of clarity in how to understand these images, but there is depth found in the ambiguity.
The various translations of Proverbs 27.19 move in different directions. On the one hand, the New International Version reads, "As water reflects a face, so a man's heart reflects the man." It calls for self-reflection, listening introspectively to discover the condition of our hearts. We discover our character by listening in silence and stillness to the beatings of our own hearts.
On the other hand, the New Revised Standard Version reads, "Just as water reflects the face, so one human heart reflects another." As opposed to the first translation, this understanding calls us to reflect with others. We are to listen to the counsel and advice of others, while also observing the lives of those we trust and respect, as we develop the character of our hearts.
Of course, we will not solve the ambiguity between these translations, comparing one of them to the other, but we can discover a depth of wisdom within the ambiguity. First, it says the heart of a person reflects the character of that person. Second, it says the heart reflects the heart of another. We need both.
The question is not necessarily which translation should we choose, but which one do we gravitate towards. Do I normally gravitate towards self-reflection, and if so, how might I discover new insights in reflection with others. If I normally look in the water at my own reflection, what might happen if I look in the faces of others for the sake of my own heart? How can I look in conversations, counsel, or observation to strengthen my heart and my soul?
We are blessed and taught by others. We can listen for how our hearts are changed, bolstered, or hurt by the people with whom we share our lives. These interactions can be instrumental in our faith and in how we understand the heart of our lives.
We might also gravitate towards reflection with others, and need to ask, "How might I discover new insights in self-reflection?" We might not be accustomed to looking in the still waters at our own reflection, so we need to embrace stillness and prayerful silence. Listening to our inner life can reveal the condition of our hearts, knowing that there are certain sounds that we can only hear when it is quiet and we are alone. In stillness, we listen for how we are worn down, passionate, grieving, or joyful.
Every morning when I go to the church, I stand in front of two double doors. I always enter in the door on the right side, even though the doors are side-by-side. During a season when the weather was fluctuating from hot to cold, I struggled to open the door because it swelled. One morning, I put my key in the lock, started to open the door, and when it resisted, I pulled as hard as I could and the entire lock came out of the door along with the key.
I walked into the office with my bag on my shoulder and the lock from the door in my hand. Fortunately, one staff member, who takes care of the buildings, is patient, kind, and handy with such jobs. Later that day, he knocked on the door of my office to show me that the outside door to the church had been fixed. We walked outside, looking at both doors side-by-side, and he said, "You might want to use the door on the left." The door on the left never swelled, and he should me how easy the door opened.
It was obvious, use the door on the left. Both doors were right next to one another, and they had the same purpose, but I did not think about using the door on the left. I was accustomed to only using the door on the right.
We need to walk through both doors, listening in stillness through self-reflection as well as listening through reflection with others, for they both strengthen our hearts. We are wise to walk through both of them.
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