Wednesday, February 22, 2012

A Story for Lent

You shall not take vengeance, nor bear any grudge against the children of your people, but you shall love your neighbor as yourself: I am the Lord.

You have heard that it was said, ‘You shall love your neighbor and hate your enemy.’ But I say to you, love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you

The Christian season of Lent begins today, with many of the faithful commemorating the occasion by receiving ashes on their foreheads. The ashes symbolize man’s mortality and remind us that one day our physical bodies will return to the dust from which they came.

It’s a rather somber ritual, receiving ashes, but one worth pausing to acknowledge. In our fast-paced modern world, where everyone is multi-tasking and never quite finishing all we need to do, it’s easy to forget that “we’re all on God’s doorstep.” Nobody gets out of life alive, and any one of us could be gone at any moment. Ash Wednesday reminds us of that fact of life.

To make the most of our time on our conflicted planet, we should try to let go of our grievances. Lent is a season that prompts us to work on that lifelong self-improvement project through prayer, good works, and sacrifice.

The following story was printed in my Sunday church bulletin, and it’s timely to the challenge of Lent to become a better person.

A Cherokee story tells of a boy angry over some slight. His grandfather said, “I have known hate. It wears me down.” He continued, “It is like two wolves inside me. One is good, does no harm, and lives in harmony with others. He rarely takes offense. But the other wolf is full of anger. The smallest thing sets him to fighting anyone for no reason. He cannot think for his hate and anger. It is hard with these two wolves trying to dominate my spirit.”

The boy looked intently at his grandfather. “Which one wins, Grandfather?”

The old man smiled and said, “The one I feed.”*

The lesson in both Cherokee and Judeo-Christian traditions is clear that forgiveness, as difficult as it is, is our path to peacefulness. May your “good wolf” win your inner battles, this Lenten season and beyond.