Schedule a Tour
Learn more about living at Bluestem
The Bluestem Post

Wisdom and reflection

by Anita Kehr, Schowalter Villa Health Care & Assisted Living Chaplain

An article by Episcopal priest Carole Johannsen ends with these words, “Regardless of common folklore, evidence shows that we do not automatically grow wise with age. Wisdom comes from the blending of knowledge and experience, seasoned with reflection and reconciliation.” (“Epiphanies of Senior Spirituality,” Reflections, Fall 2023.) 

As we grow older, the work of our lives changes, but it neither ends nor is less valuable than all that has gone before it. In our senior years, we begin to engage in processes of examination: looking for what is important and letting go of what is not; reviewing our lives honestly and facing the hard things; forgiving what and who needs forgiving, including ourselves, and reconciling when possible (it’s not always); and clarifying what we hope our legacy will be—what we are proud of, how we made a difference, and what we want to pass on to those who come next. This is the work of integration, of coming to understand ourselves and our lives and to surround it all with grace. 

For people of faith, there is an understanding that God’s character is gracious love and mercy. But moving from an intellectual understanding of grace (particularly for everyone else) and being absolutely sure that it is also for us is another step of faith. Perhaps most complicated of all, however, is forgiving ourselves, extending grace to ourselves for those things that we so much wish had been different.

Although wisdom doesn’t come simply by adding another candle to the cake, it can be one of the gifts that comes with age if we do the work that gaining wisdom requires. The book of Proverbs describes wisdom as a woman crying out at the crossroads and gates, inviting passersby to listen and to learn from her. The truth is that acquiring wisdom is a process. It is the hard work of integrating the whole of our lives, the good, the hard, and the in between. But it is worth it. As the woman, Wisdom, says, “My fruit is better than gold, even fine gold, and my yield than choice silver” (Proverbs 8:19).

Other Issues