I recently read a blog that referred to wisdom as something the older generations can offer to the younger ones. There was a comment attached from a 20 something, who said that they didn’t find wisdom coming from the older folks in their church, but fear. Now it was a brief comment, without much clarification, so I am not entirely sure what was meant by it. My guess is that they often hear cautionary tales or just advice, and interpret that as fear mongering.
My immediate response was to wonder if they were actually listening to the stories the older ones tell. Granted, not every reminiscence is full of wisdom, but unless you are willing to sit and listen, you are not likely to find the ones that do. As I thought about the comment, a story popped into my mind that I heard once some years ago. I think it can illustrate the process by which we find wisdom by listening to stories. I was talking to an older couple, probably in their 70s at the time. They told me they had raised their nieces and nephews in addition to their own children. When I asked why, the story came out.
Apparently some years ago, the man’s brother had bought a small plane and flew up with his wife to see them, leaving the children at home. The weather seemed threatening, so the man suggested to his brother that they stay the night and wait out the storm. But the brother was quite confident in his flying ability and declined. They left, heading over high mountains into a major Pacific storm system, and never made it home. So the children came to live with their aunt and uncle.
So, where would the wisdom be in this story? Is it fear based? I don’t think so. Here’s what I see. The story was offered not as a cautionary tale at all, but a story of one of those pivotal events that change the direction of our lives. Doubtless it involved much grief at the time, but still no one was saying you should never fly in a small plane, or anything of the sort. If you think about the behavior of the brother for a bit, you can see where he was lacking in wisdom though. Think about it a minute. Isn’t every pilot trained to take careful account of winds and weather before taking off? Surely he checked the weather report, but apparently he felt his skills as a pilot were up to the challenge. Perhaps they would have been, in a larger plane. Did he fail to take that into account, or was he simply prideful?
Then there is the fact that the man here was concerned about his brother. There may have been some family dynamic coming into play here. Perhaps he would never take such advice from his brother, simply because they were brothers. Perhaps not, but the fact remains that it sounds like one of those nudges from God to me. The way I see it, he would have had cautionary words in his head from his training, the bad weather report, and the concern of his sibling. It sounds like God was trying to get his attention, but he was not listening. I can imagine him arriving in heaven and God saying, What were you thinking, flying into a storm like that?
I don’t see that as being about fear, as much as being about listening. Not every warning must be heeded. I know there are those who are afraid of everything, but in general, we should at least pay some mind if our friends and family are concerned that we may be getting in over our heads with some action. It’s okay to listen when given good advice, in fact godly counsel is part of wisdom. No one is suggesting that you make life risk free, but you can certainly take appropriate safety precautions. In this case, the appropriate thing would be to wait out a storm that could include high winds, microbursts, lightning storms, etc. A wise pilot would be patient enough to put up with the inconvenience of having to call home to make overnight arrangements for the kids and so forth.
So listen to the older generation. You never know, there may be wisdom buried in their stories. If not, then you have still probably made their day by paying attention to their stories.