Guide me in your truth and teach me, for you are God my Savior, and my hope is in you all day long. (Psalm 25:5)
Any spiritual journey is, if authentically embraced, a journey towards truth. Significant truths often come to us in pieces, rather than all at once – and that is what is happening with me when I consider a question recently posed.
When on the mini-pilgrimage at the Order of the Sisters of St. Francis, our group paused in front of a statue of St. Francis with a wild wolf that he was said to have tamed. The question that we were asked to consider was: I think the untamed wolf in me is ______. How do I address it?
I found that question intriguing and have tried to answer. But, I can’t. At least not yet. When you find that happening on your spiritual journey, you may need to approach a question sideways, knowing that you’re only chipping away at the surface of the answer. One way to do this is to write about yourself as if you were part of a myth or legend. I tried that technique with the wolf question and here is draft one. If I try this exercise again in a year, my guess is that I will have gotten closer to the wolf. But, for now:
On a mountain, there lived a wolf. He was sleek and sharp fanged, and the mountain was steep and jagged, covered by a thick and humid mist. A woman also lived on the mountain. Each day she gathered plants and collected water from the river for her needs, staying close to what was familiar and safe. She knew that something beautiful existed on the other side of the mountain but, even though she had never seen the wolf, she knew of him – and she knew that the wolf was blocking her path.
If she got too close to him, she could sense him by smell and her chest tightened in fear, so she would scurry back to the safety of her cave.
Finally, though, she decided that enough was enough. She was going to confront that wolf!
She then tried her hardest to get close to him, but never could. Sometimes, terror overtook her and she fled. Other times, she felt strong – but the sly and slippery wolf could not be found. No matter what her plan, it did not work. Finally she cried out to God for help.
God agreed to help her with the wolf and she eagerly awaited the fulfillment of that promise. But, instead of taking her nearer to the wolf, he took her along long and winding paths, where she often stumbled, sometimes fell – and even got injured.
The woman finally called out in frustration, “God, you promised to guide me to the wolf, to where I could finally deal with him once and for all. Why haven’t you done as you promised?”
“I’ve done exactly what I promised,” he told her.
“I’m no better off than before – and, in many ways, worse!” she cried. “So, if you didn’t plan to help me to actually defeat the wolf, why didn’t you at least take my hand and walk me around the wolf? Then, I could have gotten to the other side without harm!”
He was silent for a moment and the woman feared that she had gone too far, that she had angered God. But, when he finally spoke, his words and tone were gentle. “My daughter,” he said, “you have been circling that same wolf your entire life. If I simply retraced your journey, it would only have made you wearier.”
The woman was outraged. “You haven’t been taking me on a path at all! We’ve just been winding around the mountain for days, months – and even years – in meaningless ways.”
“Not so random,” God countered. “This journey has made your stronger, has it not?”
“That strength will help you when you finally meet the wolf,” God promised. “And, after you nearly slipped off the cliff, you learned how to plant your feet more firmly. So this journey has made you wiser, has it not?”
“Well . . . yes.”
“And, when we first began, you hesitated to hold my hand, even when I encircled yours. Now, you sometimes reach out for mine! Is this journey therefore not making you more faithful?”
****This post is an excerpt from Contemplative Light's class, Writing As A Spiritual Practice. Read more about it here. ****
“Yes,” the woman replied, “but it’s all been so hard! If you are all powerful, and if it didn’t make sense to circle the wolf, then why didn’t you just defang the beast?”
Again, she feared God’s wrath. But, instead, she sensed a gentle smile. “If I did that,” he said, “I would just be giving you another way to avoid the wolf. Instead, he needs tamed.”
“Tamed? How on earth can I tame this wolf when I can’t even get near his ferocious teeth?”
“Take a look at your journey, thus far,” God said. “You trust me more now, despite your winding path. Before, you didn’t even talk to me – and now you feel close enough to me to question me! And, the more that you trust in me, the more I’m giving you the gift of trusting yourself. As this grows, you will get closer.”
“Then,” God responded, “you will get close enough to realize that you are the wolf and the wolf is you. When you can fully embrace that truth, you will have harnessed the wildness of the wolf and can use his spirit to fulfill the purpose I had for you, even before you were born.”
What myth or legend can you write about your own life? You can use the question posed by the Sisters or go in another direction. What truth(s) is your story pointing you towards?
God – there are stories in my life that are still too challenging for me to face, head on. Help me to turn those over to you, knowing that healing and wholeness come through you and that you can use all for good. Take what is hurting in me, God, and use it for your glory. Amen.
Prayer of St. Francis
Lord, make me an instrument of your peace:
where there is hatred, let me sow love;
where there is injury, pardon;
where there is doubt, faith;
where there is despair, hope;
where there is darkness, light;
where there is sadness, joy.
O divine Master, grant that I may not so much seek
to be consoled as to console,
to be understood as to understand,
to be loved as to love.
For it is in giving that we receive,
it is in pardoning that we are pardoned,
and it is in dying that we are born to eternal life.
Kelly Boyer Sagert Is an Emmy-nominated writer. She blogs and teaches classes at Contemplative Light. At present, two of her classes are available on the CLASSES PAGE of our website.