Feeding the Inner Child

When I was living in Wisconsin, I remember hearing a Native American Legend known as ‘The Wolves Within’. It goes like this…

An old Grandfather said to his grandson, who came to him with anger at a friend who had done him an injustice, ‘Let me tell you a story.

I too, at times, have felt a great hate for those what have taken so much, with no sorrow for what they do.

But hate wears you down, and does not hurt your enemy. It is like taking poison and wishing your enemy would die. I have struggled with these feelings many times.’ He continued, ‘It is as if there are two wolves inside me. One is good and does no harm. He lives in harmony with all around him, and does not take offense when no offense was intended. He will only fight when it is right to do so, and in the right way.

But the other wolf, ah! He is full of anger. The littlest thing will set him into a fit of temper. He fights everyone, all the time, for no reason. He cannot think because his anger and hate are so great. It is helpless anger, for his anger will change nothing. Sometimes, it is hard to live with these two wolves inside me, for both of them try to dominate my spirit.’

The boy looked intently into his Grandfather’s eyes and asked, ‘Which wolf wins, Grandfather?’ The Grandfather smiled and quietly said, ‘The one I feed.”

Which wolf are you feeding in YOUR spirit? It’s not like we only host one wolf or the other, both live within us. So the question is which one do we nurture? The Cherokee legend is similar to our Lutheran tradition that emphasizes law and gospel within our faith. Both the law (based on fear) and the gospel (based on hope) live within us. There will always be a tension. Which one do we feed?

To keep the law requires perfection. So in the context of law and gospel, we have two options. Either we are perfect or we are guilty of sin. Since no human in history (other than Jesus both God and man) has ever been perfect, we are…guilty. The law convicts us of our sin.

Yet in our human desire to feel acceptable, we like to compare ourselves to others. ‘Look at their sin!’ “Look at their lifestyle!” “I may not be perfect, but at least I’m not like them.” As if our sins are less sinful than their sins. Who are we to judge because someone else sins differently than us?

The Pharisees (the religious scholars of the day) did the same thing when they asked Jesus what is ‘lawful’ regarding divorce. Is divorce really the question for the Pharisees? Or is the underlying question ‘what makes us more acceptable to God?’Jesus reminds those who emphasize the law (with the woman caught in adultery), “Let any one of you who is without sin be the first to throw a stone at her (John 8:7).

And this is where the Gospel message comes in to save the day. The only hope of reaching perfection is God’s grace. Not that we become sinless (as humans on earth we will continue to sin), but rather that when we believe Jesus forgives us, God no longer remembers our sins. “For I will forgive their wickedness and will remember their sins no more (Heb 8:12).” He doesn’t turn us into sinless humans but into reconciled children of God; like a child that receives forgiveness and doesn’t focus on his/her past transgression.

Jesus opens his arms to the little children and tells his disciples, “Do not hinder these children. I tell you the truth, anyone who will not receive the kingdom of God like a little child will never enter it.” Live like children! Trust that our Father loves and provides for us, experience joy, accept others without prejudice, care about creation without taking advantage of it, share generously (well, even little children are human).

Our lifestyles or actions do not gain God’s salvation. We are saved by faith in his grace alone. We aren’t supposed to be worried about keeping a checklist of laws. Jesus calls us to love one another all the time as a result of his love for us. Loving doesn’t save us, but it IS the fruit of the Spirit.

So let’s feed and nurture our inner child. Let’s live and love in the freedom of knowing Jesus forgives us when we confess our sins. And let’s tell others about the amazing gift of love we got from our Father (like children do) that is not dependent on our actions. Amen.