Which wolf are we feeding?

God’s timing is always perfect. I received an e-mail asking to write about jealousy among siblings right after I received the call from the director of the upcoming young actors’ production. The news came in; Micah didn’t receive a part and his brother Silas did. Micah is the one who has been in a number of productions where he has been in the ensemble as well as main characters. Silas has only auditioned once before. This was setting up to be the perfect scenario for a great article on jealousy. All I had to do was watch and see what happens.

The first day of rehearsal came. Silas got ready to go. Micah got up from his video game, walked him out and said, “Have fun, Silas. You will have a blast.” Wait, what? Where was the drama? Where was the anger? And most importantly, where was the jealousy?

When I had a chance to talk to Micah one-on-one I asked him, “How are you doing it?”

“Doing what?”

“Every day you are watching Silas do something that you love. And you are being so gracious and encouraging. How are you doing it?”

He replied, “I don’t know, I guess I just focus on him more than myself.”

Our conversation led to the old Cherokee legend that talks about the battle going on inside each one of us. In the legend there is the battle between a good wolf and an evil wolf. The battle is won by the wolf that we feed.

As Christians we know this battle. It is the battle between our flesh and the Spirit. One is anger, envy, jealousy, sorrow, regret, greed, arrogance, self-pity, guilt, resentment, inferiority, lies, pride, superiority, and ego. The other is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, and self-control. Which one wins? The one that we feed.

Micah knows who he is in Christ. He gets what it means to love others. He gets what it means to put others before himself. The fruit of this child shows his relationship with his Heavenly Father is living and active. Ah, if only I could “get it” like my 12-year-old son.

This doesn’t mean that tears have not been shed. It doesn’t mean that Micah doesn’t struggle when he thinks about seeing his brother on stage while he will be in the audience. What it does mean is that in these struggles, he knows he has a choice; a choice to walk in the flesh or to walk in the Spirit. Our most important job as parents is to cultivate our children’s relationship with their Savior. The more they know who our God is, the more they know his voice, the more they walk with him.

If only . . .

I remember telling my dad, “My prayer is to never have to say, ‘If only . . .’ when it comes to parenting.” I’ve been parenting my children for a little over 13 years now. I’ve had to say, “If only,” more times than I’d like to admit.

One such time was last summer when I backed into my 10-year-old son with our van. “If only I had checked.” “If only I wasn’t in a hurry.” “If only . . .”

By the grace of God, my son was fine. The fact that he had known I was leaving shortly after I dropped him off didn’t get in the way of his desire to play with his Legos, in the sunshine, in the driveway, behind the van. When I backed up, I felt the resistance and stopped. It was like a slow motion movie scene as I rushed to the back of the van to first see scattered Legos and then see my son.

When I saw him, I screamed, “I’m sorry! I’m sorry! I am so, so sorry!” He was crying too. I looked him over and over. His legs were scraped up pretty badly, however he could stand and nothing looked broken. He then began apologizing to me. He knew he had made a bad choice. But I knew I was supposed to be responsible. I was the mom. I had just hit my son with the van! What mom hits her son with a VAN?!?!

This mom. This mom had to call the doctor and explain to the receptionist that she needed to bring her son in because she hit him with the van. This mom had to call her husband and tell him that she hit his son with the van. This mom had to explain to the nurse, the doctor, and the X-ray technician that she hit her son with the van. This mom had to explain that she hit her son with the van to friends, family, and curious/nosey people who could see the bad scrapes, scratches, and bruises on his legs.

That day I had made an obvious mistake in my parenting. But I had made a not-so-obvious mistake as well. Up until that day, I had put much of my value in my own parenting. I had felt like I was a pretty good parent. Because of that, I had put my self-value, my self-worth into my being a good parent, until I did something characteristic of a bad parent. Then what? I was crushed. In my mind I had lost a big part of my self-worth. But what if I had put my value in being a beloved daughter of the almighty God?

Being a dearly loved daughter who had made a horrible mistake—who could crawl in the lap of her Creator and ask for comfort and forgiveness—changes everything. The same is true for every Christian parent. Our value isn’t in our own parenting skills, but in the God who gifted us with children and loved us enough to forgive our failings. If we find value in who we are as dearly loved children of God, we never have to be good enough. We are enough because God made us so.