We’ve all been there.
Leaving home for the first time, new life ahead, new friends, new focus. So opinionated, confident, determined, yet so terrified in the wee small hours of the night when faced with something we need to manage – all on our own.
Then we make it out into the world of work. The ‘real’ world, beyond the labs and the lectures and the hypothetical situations to the junior doctor walking the corridors of our largest and busiest hospitals, for whom responsibility hangs heavily from that freshly cut lanyard bearing the title ‘Doctor’.
Some of us face responsibility too young, when mum died age 38 and the far too serious and conscientious eight year old teaches herself capability and an extended reach of watchfulness over her siblings wellbeing.
Life gathers pace. We reach the pinnacle of our careers when, despite the years of training and seemingly endless accumulated knowledge and skills, the imponderables of ethics, fairness, finance and how the judgements you make materially affect the lives of others disturb sleep and peace for many senior doctors.
Often, overwhelming responsibility meets us squarely as we look into the precious, tiny and seemingly helpless face of our firstborn. This responsibility, so carefully designed by God for survival of the infant yet so demanding on parental time and energy leaves us frequently on our knees looking for a script; a trusted formula or just some good old fashioned advice.
I remember well, one senior clinical director offering some pragmatic advice to her trainees at the beginning of a placement year. “Education is key to being a good doctor”, she stated, going on to explain that if we ever did not know what to do, we should seek advice, gather appropriate knowledge, learn the necessary skills and we would become competent practitioners. It was sound advice. We all needed to be humble enough to be teachable, and determined enough to learn what was needed to become an expert in our chosen field.
King Solomon, one of the Old Testament Biblical kings, did not receive any formal training for the job. He had a largely absent and distant father in his childhood, whose exploits would leave him a troubled legacy. He was young and relied on key advisers (Nathan the prophet and Zadock the priest among these); his mother Bathsheba (he even had a throne built beside his for her) as well as instructions from his dying father about how he needed to go about the business of governing God’s people. Building a temple for God, settling scores with his father’s old enemies and dealing with his jealous brother kept him well occupied initially, allowing him to settle into position.
Early in Solomon’s reign, when the pomp and circumstance of his coronation had faded and when his subjects needed more vision and leadership than his wit, knowledge, experience, or his many advisers could provide, Solomon asks God for wisdom. God is pleased with his request, but interestingly does not suggest further education for Solomon. Instead, Solomon receives God’s wisdom, as silently and surreptitiously as if God himself had reached down to make the necessary tweaks in Solomon’s grey matter.
Wisdom and understanding/knowledge are often linked in scripture (Proverbs 3.13; Proverbs 4. 6,7) and most of us would rather take advice from someone knowledgeable in their field.
Wisdom is also linked to having a teachable attitude.( Proverbs 13.1)
Wisdom is something to be sought after, more than a good education, or riches or success. (Proverbs 4,.6,7)
So how do I go about the business of becoming wise? We are told that we can ask God for wisdom and that he gives this as a gift to ‘those who please him’. (James 1.5; Ecclesiastes 2,26).
Wisdom may be best defined as an attribute which is the product of a relationship with Christ, ‘in whom are hidden all the treasures of wisdom and knowledge’ (Colossians 2. 2,3.) and is best seen in those who model Christlike character.
But the wisdom that comes from heaven is first of all pure, then peace loving, considerate, submissive, full of mercy, good fruit, impartial and sincere.
Wisdom is the filter through which we process knowledge, understanding, intuition, dreams and random thoughts.
Wisdom is a higher order process governing the application of our knowledge and skills.
Knowledge is good, but wisdom helps me sift the true from the untrue, the helpful from the harmful.
Insight is valuable. We have so many potential tools to help us find our best career pathway, leadership style, ideal partner etc. Wisdom enables me to embrace good advice and reject the rest.
Wisdom makes me compassionate, honest, humble.
Wisdom begins as a seed, a prayer. “Dear Father, please give me a God listening heart”. And wisdom grows as vigorously as we nurture the “God life’ within us.