One of the things my husband and I most enjoy is when we can visit our adult children and grandchildren that live hundreds of miles away in different directions. 2020 has reduced the opportunity to do that with the pandemic, some medical procedures for my husband, and our son also going through chemotherapy.
We grow more eager as we are well aware of how fast our six grandchildren have been growing up. None of them are babies or even toddlers anymore. Three are in their early 20’s and the other three are in their teens. Despite the distances involved we drive to see them multiple times a year and did so even before retirement. We want to really know each one and encourage them as they move through each season even as we seek to do that with their parents, our children.
Each family has their own traditions and each grandchild relates with us around a variety of things. Yet each one is unique. (I love that!)
Recently we were able to visit our daughter and her family. That potentially gives us time with four of the six grandchildren, but most often only three now. Our oldest grandson is away in his second year of medical school, so we missed connecting with him this time.
While we were there, we watched one of his sisters create an amazing homemade cake with handmade frosting roses that was delicious as well as beautiful. YUM! Another sister and I had a lovely chat over coffee sitting on her bedroom floor. His younger brother was sharing about all his physical training as he prepares to try out for soccer
Visiting with this family (as with our son’s family) invariably involves good food, good conversation, playing games, and usually watching a movie or two.
This visit one of the movie selections was one my husband and I had never seen. (That is often the case.) The movie was Tomorrowland and it included a story within the film that packed a powerful message, one I will remember long after the movie. It is also one that really speaks to the challenges most of us have struggled to face in 2020.
I jotted the story down and later learned it is an Indian parable entitled “The Tale of Two Wolves.” Some of you may know it, but it was new to me.
The story begins as an elderly Cherokee Indian grandfather is talking to his grandson about a battle that goes on inside people. The wise grandfather tells him that there is a battle that goes on inside of everyone (I would guess each of you might be nodding now). He then tells the tale:
He said, “My son, the battle is between two ‘wolves’ inside us all. One is evil. It is anger, envy, greed, arrogance, self-pity, guilt, resentment, inferiority, lies, false pride, and ego.
The other is good. It is joy, peace, love, hope, serenity, humility, kindness, benevolence, empathy, generosity, truth, compassion, and faith.
The grandson thought about it for a minute and then asked his grandfather: “Which wolf wins?”
The old Cherokee simply replied, “The one that you feed.”
What a powerful truth!
We can too easily be tempted to nurse our hurts, slights, biases, and opinions that have met opposition without much thought to the wolf we are feeding within ourselves. News of the day adds to it since there is usually little “good” news reported and the days of news reports have become more opinion pieces than straight news. Our downward mood and dwindling hope point to which wolf gets offered plenty of food.
Feeding the other wolf needs to be more intentional than many of us have been used to doing. It requires us to recognize there is much beauty to discover if we are looking for it. It pops up everywhere – in the cloud formations against the azure sky, the starry night skies, the Monarch butterflies preparing to wend their way south for the winter, the ripening tomatoes just outside our back door, the smile of a friend, the warmth of the cup of coffee in my hand in the morning as I am waking up – the list is endless if we look for it.
I think Paul was nudging us there in Philippians 4: 8-9:
“Summing it all up, friends, I’d say you’ll do best by filling your minds and meditating on things true, noble, reputable, authentic, compelling, gracious—the best, not the worst; the beautiful, not the ugly; things to praise, not things to curse. Put into practice what you learned from me, what you heard and saw and realized. Do that, and God, who makes everything work together, will work you into his most excellent harmonies.”
Philippians 4:8-9 (MSG)
And God wants us to be the changemakers rather than always waiting for someone to come along and relight our candle.
Every day we have a choice of which “wolf” inside of us we feed.
The wisdom of Susannah Spurgeon’s writings suggest these words to exhort us in how to choose the right “wolf”:
“What a revolution there would be in all our Christian circles, if each one of us carried into every thought and word and action of the day the fragrance and freshness of our seasons of sweet communion with our Master! It is good to talk with God; it is far better to walk with Him. About the former, we may be self-deceived, but about the latter – never!”
From A Basket of Summer Fruit