Which Wolf Are You Feeding? Reflections on Romans 8:1-11
My yoga teacher says the same thing at the end of every class. After we've all been prone in the dark with our hands at our sides for several minutes, she has us resume the lotus position as she reminds us: "Take yoga with you this week, don't leave it here in class. Especially when you feel stressed, remember your posture and your breathing." That's good advice. I'll try to stand and sit straight all week and not shuffle around or slump at my desk. Then she focuses her advice on our inner worlds. "Remember to stay focused on the positive. Because what you focus on grows."
It reminds me of Philippians 4:8,9: "Whatever is true, honorable, just, pure, pleasing, commendable, excellent, worthy of praise, think on these things." I hear her say it every week, but last week, for some reason, the truth of what she was saying struck home. Her advice, "What you focus on grows," reminds me of the touch screen interface on my smartphone that allows me to shrink or grow images or text on the screen. We have the same power mentally if we would use it. My yoga teacher is absolutely right. What you focus on grows. What you don't focus on shrinks.
The well-known story of the two wolves offers another way of expressing this truth.
One evening, an elderly Cherokee brave told his grandson about a battle that goes on inside people. He said, "My son, the battle is between two wolves inside us all. One is evil. It is anger, envy, jealousy, sorrow, regret, greed, arrogance, self-pity, guilt, resentment, inferiority, lies, false pride, superiority, 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 asked his grandfather, "Which wolf wins?" The old Cherokee replied, "The one that you feed."
The Spirit of God or the forces that would misuse the good gifts of the Creator—the choice of what to focus on is clear.
By the power and presence of God within us, we can choose righteousness and life, both now and forever.
Ernest Best, The Cambridge Bible Commentary on the New English Bible: The Letter of Paul to the Romans
Richard Kearney, On Stories: Thinking in Action
Alyce M. McKenzie is the George W. and Nell Ayers Le Van Professor of Preaching and Worship at Perkins School of Theology, Southern Methodist University.