A J-BAR PRAYER
Father, we come before you now on bended knee, hoping to honor you with our integrity. Please make our judgement as sound as steel and be our hands upon the wheel. Give us strength and vigilance on our routes and help us to serve others, as You did, Lord, without any doubts. Remind us to be gentle, humble and kind, and help us when we stumble in body and mind. Please shelter our families whilst we are away and bring us safely back to them at the end of this day.
To benefit from this story, you need to be able to overlook the harsh dualism between “Evil” and “Good”. The point of the story is carried in the last line. So, like all ancient stories, if we are going to benefit from the message, we have to let go of our need for absolutely every detail to fit perfectly into our current worldview.
One evening a Cherokee elder told his grandson, “There is a terrible battle that rages inside the heart of every person”. He said, “My child, that 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 then asked his grandfather; “Which wolf wins?” The Cherokee elder replied, “The one you feed.”
We all experience ” anger, envy, jealousy, sorrow, regret, greed, arrogance, self-pity, guilt, resentment, inferiority, lies, false pride, superiority, and ego”; And we all understand intuitively that these experiences are not the highest and best qualities of which we are capable, but we know they are real and they will not be denied. In the Christian understanding, these experiences do not make us bad people, they are simply acknowledged as a part of the human experience. The Cherokee story is similar to Paul’s description of the human experience in Romans.
“I do not understand what I do. For what I want to do I do not do, but what I hate I do. And if I do what I do not want to do, I agree that the law is good. As it is, it is no longer I myself who do it, but it is sin living in me. For I know that good itself does not dwell in me, that is, in my sinful nature.[c] For I have the desire to do what is good, but I cannot carry it out. For I do not do the good I want to do, but the evil I do not want to do – this I keep on doing. Now if I do what I do not want to do, it is no longer I who do it, but it is sin living in me that does it. So I find this law at work: Although I want to do good, evil is right there with me. For in my inner being I delight in God’s law; but I see another law at work in me, waging war against the law of my mind and making me a prisoner of the law of sin at work within me. Oh, what a wretched creature am I! Who will rescue me from this? Thanks be to God, who delivers me through Jesus Christ our Lord!” (Romans 7:15-25)
The point is not to demonize certain real human qualities. The point is to acknowledge the reality of the human condition while at the same time holding out the luminous vision of beauty and truth for which we were created. Which wolf am I feeding? Do I give energy to “my flesh” or do I give energy to “the spirit”? Do I feed my lower, smaller self, or do I nourish my higher, more true self?
When I ride the waves of negative intensity and drama I am energizing the “flesh”. I am promoting that petty self who lives in a small tight little world of self-interest. I can feel the energy of “sin” growing with the rise of self-centered resistance. When my voice becomes clipped and harsh, when I push too hard, unable to see another point of view, unwilling to open to the possibility I may be wrong, I am stoking the fires of death and the flames will burn everyone with whom I come into contact. Sin is not a list of actions that make me a bad person. Sin is a deadly orientation toward life. At the center of the word sin is the letter “I”. When I put my small needy self at the center of my own narrow little universe, I am feeding the wolf that desires destruction. When my choices and actions are all about supporting my fragile little identity project, I will be unable to emanate the energy of life.
The “Good” wolf is sustained by surrender to the Life that God has Ordained for me: “I am The Way and The Truth and The Life. No one comes to The Father except through me. “ (John 14:6). When I trust that the “Good wolf” is in fact stronger and more real than the “Evil wolf”, I am able to let go of my need to defend and protect the fragile little building of my ego. The power of ” joy, peace, love, hope, serenity, humility, kindness, benevolence, empathy, generosity, truth, compassion, and faith” grows in my being as I nourish those qualities that characterize my true self. Every moment of my life I am confronted with the choice. As Moses said at the end of his long sermon in the Book of Deuteronomy,
I have set before you life and death, blessings and curses. Choose life so that you and your descendants may live. (Deuteronomy 30:19)
When I “choose life” I increase the flow of life-energy in the universe. I pass on to future generations a legacy of life. I enter into the fullness of what it means to be human:”. . . I have come that you may have life, and have it abundantly.” (John 10:10) . The power to choose life in the face of death can never be taken from us, no matter how restricted or painful our circumstances may be. The ability to choose life is the glorious richness and potential that makes us truly human.
We are J-Bar — we are blessed beyond measure. We love — we are thankful beyond measure. We serve, and in so doing become the leaders that God wants us to be.