Each tattoo tells a story. Each one tells something about the person who wears it. It has a story of some day which they decided to get ink done on themselves. It could be as easily as being young and stupid to a remembrance of a loved one. I saw a tattoo Sunday morning that got me to thinking.
I stopped in for Starbucks on my way to church Sunday morning (I had forgotten to make coffee and needed some caffeine…badly). The barista was a bit tired himself and could have used a cup or two. As I was putting cream in my coffee (yes, I like some coffee with my cream early in the morning), I noticed a tattoo on his forearm that said “Feed the Good Wolf.” And so I did what I always do when I see a tattoo. I ask the question “What does it mean?”
And then the barista told me the story, he said it was Cherokee in origin, of a grandfather telling his grandson that in each of us is a good wolf and bad wolf battling for control of us. The good wolf was purity, goodness, kindness, mercy. The bad wolf was jealousy, anger, pain, ill will. The grandson asked the question “Which one wins the battle.” The grandfather answered “The one which you feed.” So the tattoo of the barista was a reminder to him to feed the good wolf.
I thought about that yesterday morning and it’s been on my mind since. Feed the good wolf. What does that truly mean? Our thoughts lead to our actions, our actions reflect our character. What we put into ourselves in thought becomes deeds which becomes what we act like when no one is looking.
My mind then went to Philippians 4 where Paul writes
“Whatever is true, whatever is noble, whatever is right, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is admirable–if anything is excellent or praiseworthy–think about such things…put it into practice. And the peace of God will be with you.” Philippians 4:8-9
Our thoughts lead to our actions. Our actions lead to our character. Our character leads to whether or not we have peace the peace of God in our lives.
When we struggle, when we feed the bad wolf in our lives, we begin to think such thoughts–resentment, anger at the world or at God, jealousy, ill will, gossip–and we act on the thoughts. But when we focus and mediate on what is noble, and true, and lovely and right and admirable, we begin to put these into practice and live them out.
What does it mean to truly focus on the things that are pure and noble and admirable and lovely and true? It means to focus on Christ, not on the wolf inside of us. Both wolves are corrupt and will eventually led us astray. We cannot trust in ourselves in what we can do. We can only trust in what Christ is doing in us and through us. We can only trust in Christ to truly change us–to change our thoughts, to change our actions, to change our character.
By the power of the Holy Spirit working in our lives can we truly be changed. By the power of Jesus and His Spirit can we be changed. When Jesus lives within us. When, by the power of the Holy Spirit, Jesus lives in our hearts, can we focus on what is true, what is noble, what is right, what is pure, what is lovely what is admirable. And we can put it into practice by the power of the Holy Spirit.
It is a good thought to feed the good wolf. It’s a great idea. But it can only go so far. You can only do so much when you try to feed the good wolf.
I thanked him for the coffee and for the story. And I plan on leaning on Christ who is the author and perfector of my faith. I plan on leaning on him to learn how to think on such things that are true, noble, right, pure, lovely and admirable and to put them into practice in my life so that my thoughts lead to my actions, my actions to my character and my character to experiencing the peace of God in my life.