If you rubbed a magic oil lamp and Aladdin offered you only one wish, what would it be?
I’d ask for wisdom.
The story of King Solomon, who famously chose wisdom, made a deep impression on my in my youth, and later I prayed often for wisdom as a mother, teacher, and college president.
In my life, however, wisdom has never jumped like a genie from a magic lamp.
Rather, it has trickled in. Gurgled up. Sprinkled down.
Have you ever heard this quote often attributed to Will Rogers?
“Good judgment comes from experience. And a lot of that comes from bad judgment.”
I have learned a lot from my mistakes in life, but, fortunately, I have not had to rely solely on them. I’ve been blessed with an abundance of mentors, wisdom figures, who have shown me what it means to walk humbly while also excelling at the art of living.
Today’s magical memoir moment starts with a birthday party. Daughter Kate and I often celebrate our birthdays together. In the year 1992, when she turned 9 and I turned 44, we threw a multi-generational tea party, complete with candles and party favors at each place.
We invited nine women from College Mennonite Church, all of whom were old enough to be grandmothers. Secretly, I called them the Wisdom Women and told Kate I wanted to give her the gift of being with Wisdom for an afternoon.
I invited each guest to bring Kate a gift of words or a story to light her way.
Mary Eleanor Bender played a song. Pauline Fisher recited a poem and told us about the elocution lessons she took in her youth. Evelyn Kreider gave Kate a print of the famous “Girl with Watering Can” by Renoir. It was a print that hung in her daughter’s bedroom. We framed and hung the print for Kate. The print still graces our walls, waiting to travel to Kate’s new home after renovations are done.
As I look into these faces in the picture below, 23 years after it was taken, I thank God for each Wise one. Each has been blessed by a long life.
I am now close to the average age of the women on this picture.
Ethel and Helen have died, but all others are living today. I dedicate this post to them.
Ever hear the phrase “your presence is our present”? Truer words were never spoken of this group!
Evelyn Kreider, in the light blue print in the back row, celebrated her 100th birthday two years ago!
We are all daughters of Sophia, Lady Wisdom, who speaks powerfully in the book of Proverbs:
Proverbs 8:22-31New International Version (NIV)
22 “The Lord brought me forth as the first of his works,[a][b]
before his deeds of old;
23 I was formed long ages ago,
at the very beginning, when the world came to be.
24 When there were no watery depths, I was given birth,
when there were no springs overflowing with water;
25 before the mountains were settled in place,
before the hills, I was given birth,
26 before he made the world or its fields
or any of the dust of the earth.
27 I was there when he set the heavens in place,
when he marked out the horizon on the face of the deep,
28 when he established the clouds above
and fixed securely the fountains of the deep,
29 when he gave the sea its boundary
so the waters would not overstep his command,
and when he marked out the foundations of the earth.
30 Then I was constantly[c] at his side.
I was filled with delight day after day,
rejoicing always in his presence,
31 rejoicing in his whole world
and delighting in mankind.
I can’t wait to finish the book pictured above, Krista Tippett’s Becoming Wise.
I’ve learned so much over the years from the guests on Krista’s radio program/podcast On Being and from Krista herself. One of the great features of the book is a list at the back naming all the people interviewed so that one can locate the podcast of that show. A compendium of wisdom indeed!
In the meantime, please share some wisdom about wisdom below. If you threw a wisdom party, who would you want to come? Which source of wisdom taught you the most — mistakes, mentors, music or media — books, films, art?