Column: Value of wisdom born from a lifetime of experience

Rt Rev Geoff Pearson, Bishop of Lancaster
Rt Rev Geoff Pearson, Bishop of Lancaster

Do you recall the American pilot, Chesley ‘Sully’ Sullenberger’s decision to land a huge plane on the Hudson River on New York?

The story is told in the new film ‘Sully’ starring Tom Hanks which I saw recently.

Soon after take off the plane hit a flock of birds which disabled both engines. Based on more than 40 years of flying experience Sully made the momentous decision that reaching an airport was not possible and a water landing was the best option.

Despite saving everyone on board with his quick-thinking, it was a decision he would later have to justify against criticism from some quarters at the ensuing enquiry.

What did that landing on the Hudson River reveal? Well, what I enjoyed most was the wisdom of the pilot as displayed in various scenes in the film.

In the Old Testament book of Proverbs the first nine chapters are concerned to get people to take wisdom seriously. Wisdom, personified, declares ‘It’s by me that kings reign, that rulers legislate what is right, that leaders govern, that sovereigns and others decide what is right’.

King Solomon’s story illustrates the point. God asked Solomon what he most wanted and Solomon prayed for wisdom. God granted it.

Solomon then demonstrated such wisdom in adjudicating between two prostitutes disputing which was the mother of a baby and then in setting up his administration.

Proverbs affirms the link between the wisdom that enables you to get things done and having a true reverence for God.

Wisdom underlines commitment to faithfulness in the exercise of authority while resisting the temptation to be deceptive or to take oneself too seriously.

I can’t say if Captain Sully exemplifies every aspect of wisdom in the Bible but his 155 passengers know that without the exercise of such wisdom they would not be alive today.

If you read Proverbs 1 – 9 you will see that wisdom is not just for leaders. The writer wants ordinary people to follow suit. The message is ‘leaders rely on wisdom – so shouldn’t you?’

I came out of the cinema full of admiration for the pilot in this true story. However my wife came out with less enthusiasm than ever for flying by plane!