One summer, three friends and I strapped on our backpacks to hike the irrigation trail up the side of a canyon wall. This one canyon is a popular hiking spot because of its proximity to the Foresthill Bridge, the fourth highest bridge in the United States.
Halfway up the mountain, nausea hit. Due to the intermingling of 90-degree heat and a limited water supply, I felt instant regret over suggesting this vertical trail that wasn’t even meant for hiking. (It’s an irrigation trail, after all.) Wisdom sure wasn’t the one leading the charge in this decision; it was my own ego and the myth of invincibility. After we almost passed out from dehydration, two of my friends had to shoulder my body weight and help carry me the rest of the way.
Scripture says that “a person’s wisdom brightens his face” (Ecclesiastes 8:1). At the time when Ecclesiastes was written, wisdom was attributed as coming from a divine source. A bright face was considered physical evidence of wisdom in the wise person’s life, just as Moses’s face shone with radiance after spending time with the Lord (Exodus 34:34–35).
Our faces today may not emit a visible shining substance when we make good decisions or spend quality time with the Lord. But wisdom lingers with us the way campfire smoke stays on your clothes after hours roasting the perfect marshmallows. It favorably directs our steps and will be evident in our lives when we exercise it. Since our thoughts and actions affect those we are in community with, when we use wisdom in decision-making, we can also bring life to our collective environments. In doing so, perhaps our sphere of the world can better operate by kingdom values, such as justice, mercy, and love.
Proverbs offers the encouragement that “remembrance of the righteous is a blessing” (Proverbs 10:7). Those who live from a place of wisdom—whose faces are “brightened” by the Spirit of the Living God—are a blessing. It’s not that the wise avoid folly altogether. They just learn from their mistakes. As Jesus-followers, if our aim is to pursue abundant life, our lives will be marked by years that smell like wisdom.
In the end, climbing a mountain on a 90-degree day probably wasn’t wise. While our faces may have glistened, it wasn’t from nearing the Mount of Transfiguration, but from perspiring pearls of sweat that mocked our foolish decision. You’d better believe we learned from that mistake and will only plan future hikes up paths that are intended for human recreation.
Written by Bailey Gillespie