Friday, June 25, 2010

In Search of Wisdom

Posted by Leona Bergstrom

I’ve said it many times: Midlife and older people should be involved in all areas of ministry in the church because it needs their wisdom.

While it is true we yearn for sage insights, wisdom doesn’t come automatically with the passing of years alone. American comedian Tom Wilson is quoted as saying, “Wisdom doesn’t necessarily come with age. Sometimes age just shows up by itself.”

Almost synonymous with the word “wisdom” is the name Solomon. After all, he was not only a great king who governed his people with integrity and renowned good judgment, he was an esteemed philosopher, writer and teacher. Scholars widely agree that many of the words recorded in the Book of Proverbs are those of a reflective statesman and father writing counsel to the next generations. “My Son,” is often the prelude to words of exhortation pointing toward artful living and godly choices.

I often wonder how Solomon got so wise. The opening words of the book of Proverbs say the “fear of the Lord is the beginning of knowledge” (1:7), but where is the starting point for wisdom?

It seems that wisdom comes through the difficult work of analytically processing life. Solomon had the writings of his father, the great King David, who through his years had lived in the finest of palaces but also in the darkest of caves. His poetry, psalms and songs reflected a level of introspection rare in most of our personal experience. Solomon must have thought long and hard about this heritage, even as he examined life around him. His confidence that God could be trusted was seared by his own disconnect between faith and reality. His personal wrestling match with knowledge, experience, faith and life are public record in Ecclesiastes. Some of his conclusions are rather dire and almost depressing, but his quest for wisdom will forever be inspiring. The final statements in Ecclesiastes say of the writer, “He pondered and searched out... and what he wrote was upright and true.” A final admonition? “Fear God and keep his commandments,” (Ecclesiastes 12:13).

Dr. Monika Ardelt, Associate Professor of Sociology at the University of Florida, has done extensive research in the area of wisdom and how it relates to aging. She states that wisdom is the rediscovery of the significance of old truths through a deeper and more profound understanding of events. She adds that while wise people do not necessarily learn more facts than other individuals, they comprehend the deeper meaning for themselves.

How are we, the Boomers and Beyond, doing at being wise? Are we dispensing knowledge that has been marinated in God’s wisdom found in deep contemplation and thought, or do we give advice similar to Job’s counselors, whose words he describe as “tasteless food?” (Job 12:12).

Dr. Ardelt says that wisdom comes in old age from reflection, assimilating and seeking understanding. The great preacher Charles Spurgeon once said, “To know is not to be wise. To use knowledge is to have wisdom.”

It is our obligation not to simply offer knowledge or advice to the next generations. It is to impart wisdom. This comes through knowing the Word of God, applying and praying it into our lives, wrestling with the dissonance, reflecting, seeking understanding and ultimately finding perspective in light of eternity.

May we be a generation that truly searches for and offers wisdom.
(Written by Leona in her role as Co-Director, Converge Worldwide 2nd 1/2 for Him)
(Photo by Jenn Larsen, shared via Flickr)

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