Catching a wave of ridge air above the mountains was one of my favorite pastimes as a 15-year-old. As winds from the bay encountered the mountains east of Fremont Sky Sailing Airport, they created a ridge lift where glider planes could soar for hours, powered only by the strength of the wind. I loved the exhilaration of opening the canopy, feeling the wind flood past my face, and reveled in the freedom and joy of flight. What a gift my dad gave me when he bought me a series of lessons with an instructor!
Knowledge was important in preparing to fly—I learned the plane’s controls, how to read the air currents and weather patterns, and the laws governing flight. But if I never translated that knowledge into the reality of ascending a thermal lift, avoiding a downdraft, or practicing my landing, certainly you would refuse to take a ride with me!
Only knowledge paired with experience made me a competent pilot. Yet, whatever the sphere of life—pilot, doctor, wife, mother—not all who are competent would we call wise. We tend to think of this equation: knowledge plus experience equals wisdom. But often the equation doesn’t factor in grace and mystery. As a 15-year-old flying 1,500 feet above the mountains, it was only a gift of grace that gave me wisdom beyond my years.
God’s invitation to wisdom transcends knowledge and experience. Our own competence does not crown us with wisdom. As a glider pilot, wisdom comes with humility and thoughtful reflection on past flights. My knowledge and experience could embolden me to foolish risks, but attentive humility guides me to respect the power of all the forces beyond my control.
In our relationship to God, knowledge is important—memorizing Scripture, learning theology, and understanding moral principles. Yet, if we’re not careful, that knowledge can contribute to a sense that I’m doing the right thing and don’t need God. Wisdom melts away the arrogance of knowledge and teaches us to acknowledge our limits and fallibility.
My 15-year-old self certainly did not recognize wisdom when I tasted it, but now I appreciate God’s gift. Often, wisdom becomes evident only in retrospect—as we review how the pieces came together in our lives, God expands our understanding of His work in the world. We glimpse His bigger story. We recognize our own vital role, but acknowledge that Christ, in his perfect wisdom, is the center of the story—not us. As we surrender to this truth, wisdom takes flight in our lives.
Where in your life would humble and attentive reflection lead you to grow in wisdom?