pastoral/spiritual care

The Wolf You Choose to Feed

“A wise tribal elder told a story to his grandson one evening by the fire.  ‘Inside me, there is a fight raging between two wolves.  One wolf is anger, bitterness, self-pity, jealousy, and sorrow.  The other wolf is love, faith, hope, peace, forgiveness, and joy.  Both wolves are strong, and they battle fiercely – not just in me, but in everyone, even you.’

The young boy thought for a moment and asked, ‘Grandfather, which wolf will win?’

The wise elder replied, ‘The one you feed.’”  -- Cherokee proverb

During the last election, I found it very moving to watch hundreds of people lining up to vote.  Many endured long waits and bad weather to make sure their voices were heard.  We are blessed to live in a country where we are free to choose our own government.  There is much that happens to us, however, that we do not get to choose.  There were people standing in those long lines who did not choose to get laid off from work, did not choose to lose a family member to violent crime, did not choose to get cancer or endure a miscarriage or learn of a spouse’s affair.  When we really look at it, there is so little in life we seem to have any choice over that our lack of control can feel overwhelming. 

But, while we do not get to choose many of the circumstances of our lives, God always gives us the choice of how we respond to those circumstances.  Just like the grandfather told the boy in the story above, it is up to us which “wolf” inside us we feed.  Will we nurture bitterness, wallow in the self-pity that seems perfectly natural in hardship?  Or will we make the harder choice to hold on to hope, to keep loving even when we have been hurt, to trust in the goodness of God even in tragedy?

Carnegie Mellon University professor Randy Pausch certainly didn’t choose pancreatic cancer, but when he learned of his terminal diagnosis, he chose how to spend the time he had left.  He inspired millions with his “last lecture” and book, and created joyful memories for his wife and young children.  He could have decided to lie in bed lamenting his fate, but instead lived by the philosophy that, “We cannot change the cards we are dealt, just how we play the hand.” 

We have all known good people dealt unfairly bad cards.  At times, you may even have been one of those people.  When I find myself being pulled under by such circumstances, I try to remember Randy Pausch and people I have known like him.  I also find strength in the haunting affirmation of faith found in the Auschwitz concentration camp, certainly as near as one could come to hell on earth.  An anonymous prisoner there wrote on a wall, “I believe in the sun even when it is not shining.  I believe in God even when He is silent.”  May we all choose so boldly.

Dear God, in your wisdom, you have chosen to give us life and to love us.   Give us the grace today to turn toward that love and not away from it, to choose the good even when it is difficult.  Help us to trust you to create ultimate good from even the darkest times of our lives.  This is what you have always done, God, for you are the One who brings beauty from ashes.  For that, we thank you.  Amen.

-- Chaplain Stacy Sergent

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