"We can only be truly instructed by the words which God speaks to us personally. No one grows in knowledge of God either by reading books or by curious historical research. These means give us but a vain and empty knowledge, which serves only to confuse us and inflate us with pride~ Father Jean-Pierre de Caussade, The Joy of Full Surrender
We only know perfectly that which we have learned by experience through suffering or action. This is the school of the Holy Spirit, who speaks the words of life to the heart; and all that we say to others should come from this source. Whatever we read, whatever we see, becomes divine knowledge only by the fruitfulness, the virtue the light which this experience gives. Without this experiential knowledge, all our learning is like unleavened dough, lacking the salt and the seasoning of experience. Without this experiential knowledge, we have only vague, untried ideas to act on, we are like the dreamer who, through knowing all the highways of the world, misses the road to his own house.
Therefore we have only to listen to God from moment to moment in order to become learned in the knowledge by which the saints lived, which is all practice and experience.
Set aside what is said to others, but listen to what is said to you and for you; you will find enough in that to exercise your faith, because this interior language of God, by its very obscurity, exercises, purifies and increases your faith."
Reading this just reminds me of the importance to live and experience life actively, thus experiencing all of its facets and becoming an actor on life's stage, not just an observer. It's hard sometimes to step out in faith and serve God through our actions but when we do we are exposed to experiences that, through guidance of the Spirit, can give us tremendous insights that wouldn't have been achieved by reading another's account of that same experience. We need to have our own experiences so that God can work uniquely through our hearts in the ways that will invoke a relationship between us and the Spirit, between student and teacher. To live out our faith and not just read about other's isn't always easy. The Spirit will train our hearts to conform our will to God's if we let it carve off our false attachments, illusions...if we let it mold our egos so that God is glorified more and we are glorified less in our minds. The Spirit will help teach our hearts purity, humility and deeper levels of love and compassion. The Spirit is our guide to becoming more and more like Jesus.
I think this passage also provides a healthy perspective when it comes to seeking knowledge about God. Words that I have chosen to read over and over again for I surely need to be continually reminded of them! I love to read books from writers and theologians of our faith. My heart and soul thirsts for God...I want to know all I can about Him and experience Him to the fullest. I have found times though when I have to stop and think about what I'm reading. Oftentimes, I find myself entering Scripture less and less as I dive more and more into the words written by man. In those times I find my mind wrestling with theological questions rather than entering into simple devotion for our God. I find my soul inattentive to the whispers of the Spirit and more attentive to my own desires. That's when I need to take a break from man's written words and return like a prodigal child back into God's.
I've found that when I go back to Scriptures, in repentance for seeking answers outside of His Word, that like an eternal spring of the most filtered and pure water, the Spirit rises up within me filling me with insight, peace, and yes-knowledge, far beyond what any book written by any theologian can supply.
Proverbs 1:7 says:
7 The fear of the LORD is the beginning of knowledge,
but fools despise wisdom and instruction.
It's my belief that when we go back to the simple and pure reverence of God, the fear of the Lord, that that begins an active relationship between our souls and the Spirit, providing spiritual manna and true knowledge of God.
Help us lean not on our own knowledge but help us to continually seek Yours, inclining our ears towards understanding and living each moment attentive to the teachings and whisperings of Your holy Spirit. Give us the courage to be participants in the world, not just observers of it and may the meditations of our heart and the outward expressions of them be pleasing to You.
We give You all honor, glory and praise.
In Jesus' name,