A grandfather was talking to his grandson about his feelings. He said, “I feel as if I have two wolves fighting in my heart. One wolf is unforgiving, angry, and violent. The other wolf is loving, kind, and compassionate.”The grandson asked him, “Which wolf will win the fight in your heart?”The grandfather answered, “The one I feed.”
Traditional Native American parable
It seems that almost every conversation over the past four or five months has had some reflection about the pandemic, or about 2020 in general. And the year has been filled so far with very tough stuff for us all to deal with. Thinking about all that has happened this year, all the plans that have been derailed, and all the hopes that are unfulfilled, I am aware of what can be described as two wolves fighting in my heart. One wolf is despairing, helpless, and angry. The other wolf is hopeful, resilient, and joy-full. And I know the one I want to spend my time and energy feeding!
The problem is that there is still the other wolf, the one that is ready to give up in despair and give in to anger. This wolf doesn’t seem to just go away. It remains in my heart, struggling to get my attention and draw my energy. It persistently fights in ways that make it difficult to ignore. Sometimes it rears up as a wave of frustration or hurt, and other times it might be a quiet voice that whispers ‘You can’t control this. You may as well give in to anger, fear, uncertainty, and hopelessness.’ And, honestly, it would be so easy to do…
… Except that there is the other wolf, the one that holds on to hope, that refuses to give up, and that persists in finding things to be joyful about, even in the dark times. I wrote about joy last week, explaining that for me it is a deep, heart-felt connectedness with the One who created me and sustains me.
I remember another story. This story is a real-life one for me. It happened as I was sitting in a cafe (admittedly it was pre-pandemic times) and writing in my journal. A man was having an animated conversation with the barista. It was clear that he lived at a local ‘farm’ that gave safe haven and employment to people with mental disabilities. He was heading out of the cafe when he caught my eye. I smiled to him, and instead of continuing out of the cafe, he moved closer toward my table. He asked, “Do you know me?” “No,” I replied. He said abruptly, “My name’s Dave.” So, I said, “Hello Dave!” His smile nearly broke his face! He turned and bounced out of the cafe and I watched him bouncing down the street for as long as I could see him. It was a simple encounter that Dave probably didn’t remember five minutes later, and that I will never forget.
Why does my heart stubbornly cling to what is hopeful and joy-full? Why am I constantly reminded that I am resilient? Why is it that the despair and anger has not won the fight?
It is because of this: no matter what this year brings, no matter what challenges I will encounter, no matter how difficult things get, the hopeful, joy-full wolf in my heart is fed by the constant whisper of the One who knows my name. And as I listen to God call me ‘Beloved,’ my smile nearly breaks my face and the wolf who would lead me to despair is starved a little more.
May it be so for you, for you too are named and held by the One who calls you… ‘Beloved.’
Blessings and peace,
(Please note: I will be on study leave next week and will not be writing a pastoral note).