When I do television, I rather not watch series/box sets. I prefer movies that end in Part 1 and stay that way till another generation decides to do a remake. To be honest, watching television does make me feel guilty a lot of times. I mentally beat myself up thinking somewhere in my mind that there must be something more important to do; and considering you’ll probably spend hours upon hours watching a box set . . . that should give my guilt some real perspective. But another reason I really don’t fancy series and would rather watch a movie that has a definite end is because I don’t have to wait in anticipation for what will happen next, especially when the producers decide to go on a long break only to continue after the holidays.
Designated Survivor, I see you.
But sometime last week, I was boredom-browsing on Netflix and came across a series called UNDERGROUND. I read the log line and it caught my attention. A group of slaves make a daring escape from a Georgia plantation in 1857 and undertake an epic 600-mile trek northward to freedom. It was my kind of stuff. I don’t know why, but I knew I would enjoy it, even though alone, because, of course, Boo of life would rather not watch anything that attempts to tug on his emotional strings. Oh well! But it was a series. And I really mind series. So I passed, for a few days. And the day I decided to hit the play button, I knew I was in for a tedious guilt-long ride of two seasons with ten episodes each. Oh boy! But I dove right in convincing myself that it would be an educational journey to have a glimpse of what slaves might have gone through in the past. Selah.
Apart from the unthinkable violence that rang through every episode, there was another reoccurring theme. I first took notice of it when Jay, a slave owned by Mr. Pullman, a slave catcher, tried to teach Ben, Mr. Pullman’s eleven year old son, a life lesson. Jay told Ben a story of two wolves that dwelt in every man. A good one, and a bad one. He told Ben that both wolves are constantly in battle with each other, trying to snuff out the life of the other. As Jay rounded off the story, Ben asked which of the wolves would survive, and Jay’s answer was this: “The one you feed.“
Yeah. I thought as much.
I’ve heard this story in many forms, told by many people and used in a number of movies.
But does that strip off its powerful meaning?
In fact, when my mind wanted to brand it cliche, I quickly dropped the thought as fast as I could. You wanna know why? Because at that point, at the very moment I was sitting and watching my tv, I was feeding something in me, and my decision to accept it or not (there’s a lesson in there too) didn’t change the reality of the consequences that would eventually present themselves when what I was feeding decides to make an appearance and flex its muscles. So what exactly was I feeding? A good wolf? A bad wolf? My flesh? My spirit? Your best guess is as good as mine. But at that moment, I became conscious of what I was watching and what was slipping through it. The inconspicuous messages that form prejudices. The silent images that shape perception. I became so alert, so that what was going in through my eyes wasn’t feeding the wrong entity.
The author of the Two Wolves story is unknown. But as a Christian who reads my bible, I have noticed the same theme running through its pages. The theme of battle between two entities and how feeding one strengthens it and starving the other weakens it in turn.
So I say, let the Holy Spirit guide your lives. Then you won’t be doing what your sinful nature craves. The sinful nature wants to do evil, which is just the opposite of what the Spirit wants. And the Spirit gives us desires that are the opposite of what the sinful nature desires. These two forces are constantly fighting each other, so you are not free to carry out your good intentions. Galatians 5:16-17
To put this in perspective, I got up earlier than I would usually do to write this post. And my, was it a battle. I could literally feel my body glue itself to the bed trying to deafen its ears because there was this voice telling me it was time to get up. Now there’s nothing wrong in sleeping, is there? But how about when you’re sleeping in a house on fire? That got your attention didn’t it? Of course, my house wasn’t on fire, but my heart was, with a message that needed to get out there. And sleeping at that point would be as wrong as stealing from the poor, or stealing from anyone at all. One entity needed sleep to win the battle, the other needed me up, and of course it won over sleep, not by my will power, but by something I prayed for as I lay on the bed as the battle enraged: GRACE.
There is a saying that life is all about choices. The policeman standing on the road about to take that bribe surely has other choices. The builder cutting corners, using substandard materials and doing a shoddy job certainly had his choices and picked the one. That medical practitioner can choose between upholding the Hippocratic oath and sweeping it under his/her carpet for whatever reason. But in the battle of choices, there are consequences for each, and the only reason one consequence is damned for the other lies in the strength of the entity that has been fed strong when the decision was about to be made.
In November of last year, Boo of life and I decided to go on a diet just because we were missing 5 packs from the 6 we used to have. In all my years, I have never been on a diet before. It was like training for a marathon, not that I’ve ever done that before either, but I suppose it must feel like that. At the start, your body feels like you’re being battered with a sledgehammer, and then you feel like you’re being poisoned as you starve it from the things its been so used to having. But at the end of the start, you’re a new person as your body begins to accept the new regime. It’s like forming a habit.
You might have spent most of your life feeding the evil within you that it feels so strong and unconquerable. But it takes only a decision. It only takes making the choice to stop. To put it on a diet. To starve it to death. Because death is the only way the other can live. You might feel like it’s too late to start again. You might feel like the things you’ve done can never be erased, redone, forgiven. But it only takes a prayer for grace, and then the starting step. Forget the fact that you’re starting AGAIN, strike
again, and just start. Who cares if it’s the 1,469,703,539,506,373rd time? I bet you didn’t read that number, you just couldn’t care. That’s how much it doesn’t matter. JUST. START.
There are many things we hope for in life. To be comfortable. To be rich. To be successful. To be strong. To have power. To matter. Many of the choices we make in life are driven by the things we desire the most. But so are our temptations. Driven hard by our desires that we end up doing whatever it costs, at the expense of our humanity, at the expense of our souls, to get what we want. And it only takes one meal at a time, before the evil eats up every fibre of good left within us and the world is what it is today.
But YOU have made your choice. So tell me, who will win?