Dear Wise One,
When I was young, I didnâ€™t think much about wisdom. But when IÂ thought about wise people, I thought of anÂ OLD person. Not just old, but male. But today I realize that wise people come in all ages, genders, and circumstances.
I remember Carl Kochâ€™s voice the day he gave our Servant Leadership classÂ thisÂ profound formula: Experience + Reflection = Wisdom. He explained that you can live many years, and have many experiences, but without reflection, or as Viktor Frankl (Holocaust survivor) would say, finding meaning in those experiences, youâ€™d be like a very old toddler.
So itâ€™s true, one needs to have a few years under the beltÂ toÂ evaluate the “gains”Â through each experience. Yet, thereâ€™s a social media video going around of a 7th grade girl reciting the slam poem she wrote. The topic is about why we don’t feel good enough. She shares that we all feel that way and ends by saying that we need to make sure we are true to ourselves.Â She gives voice to her wisdom byÂ creating this thought-provoking message, inÂ spite of her years.
I also hear the voice of wisdom from my two women friends who live in prison. They know their incarceration has given them time to disconnect from the environment that landed them there. The accidental beauty is that they are able to help others because of theirÂ years of reflection, and the rock solid Spiritual connection they have established over time.
After two decades of incarceration, J. told me: â€œWhen you asked me what my day looks like in here, I had a hard time putting in words what can be accomplished from sunrise to sunset. Thinking on this, the best way to describe my day is ministryâ€”not in the so called church sense, but in the daily grind sense. With so many lives here affected by this scenario (being in prison), personal needs on the emotional side, are high. We have established a common â€˜knownâ€™ that we are available for crisis help, hugs, advice or just a sounding board for anyone and everyone.â€ It seems as if God’s workÂ is alive and well through these dear souls.
Itâ€™s true that those who have lost a mother are really the only ones who can understand the devastation of this experience. Only those who have experienced child-birth can know what itâ€™s really like. There are no words, no simulation to either prepare you for the experience, or tell about it with any accuracy. Only a combat veteranÂ can know the devastation of war. Often,Â wisdom arrives on the wings of a painful experience.
I’m convinced of a two fold purpose for our unpleasant experiences. First, learn from them, and second,Â turn around to help someone else inÂ a similar situation. Iâ€™d never wish a problem on anyone, yet theÂ wounds that cause us grief also bond us in human compassion. Meaning is embedded into our lives when we appear to be theÂ most broken.
The Serenity Prayer popped up in my journal today: â€œGod, grant me the serenity to accept the things I cannot change; to courage to change the things I can; and the wisdom to know the difference.â€ Yes, wisdom, because of experiences, guides us.
A few years ago, a YOUNGÂ man, not an old one, gave me a thought to keep forever. The man was Chuck Long, University of Iowaâ€™s star quarterback from years ago, as well as professional football player and now coach. When I asked him about the pressure of winning or losing a game by one last playâ€”all on his shouldersâ€”he said, â€œThe great ones welcome the challenges of their lives as a way to test their character.â€
So my question is: Do I welcome challenges or do I run from them? When I donâ€™t get my way, do I pout, stamp my feet and curseÂ life asÂ one problem after another? Do I host pity-parties for myself? Â Or do I hear the voice of wisdom, telling me, â€œSearch for the lesson. Embrace the meaning.â€
Be a great one. See your life as a tapestry of many wise and lovely colors.
Voice your wisdom,