“Therefore encourage each other and build each other up.” – 1 Thessalonians 5:11
As a grandfather myself, I find great wisdom in the story about the old Cherokee man teaching his grandson about life. “A fight is going on inside of me,” he says to the boy. “It’s a terrible fight between two wolves. One is evil – he is full of rage, jealousy, arrogance, greed, sorrow, regret, lies, laziness, and self-pity.” He continues, “The other is good – he is filled with love, joy, peace, generosity, truth, empathy, courage, humility, and faith. This same fight is going on inside the hearts of everyone, including you.” The grandson thinks about this for a few minutes, and then asks his grandfather, “Which wolf wins?” The old man replies, “The one you feed.”
Part of our time this past weekend was spent cheering on one of our granddaughters who was competing in a gymnastics meet. It is part of what we do as much a possible, attending sporting events, theater, recitals, concerts, and other events our grandchildren participate in. Not that we play much of a role, as most of the heavy lifting is handled by their very capable and involved parents, like getting them there on time, seeing to it that they are prepared, dressed appropriately, and giving pep talks. We mostly just show up to be part of the cheering section.
As passive as that may sound, grandparenting, as we have learned, is not a role to be entered into lightly. Rather, grandparents’ relationships with grandchildren, if taken seriously, can be consequential in their formation. It is the reason we show up as much as possible and be part of their lives as much as we can, not out of some sense of duty, but because we are genuinely interested in their activities, proud of their courage to get in the arena and participate and compete – win, place, or simply show up.
Which brings me back to the parable about the wise old Cherokee grandfather; for our grandchildren have those same two wolves fighting inside of them, as we all do, the one for evil versus the one for good. But if we grandparents play our cards right by showing up and cheering them on as much as we are able, that might provide just the extra nourishment needed for the good wolf to prevail. It is called encouragement. “Therefore encourage each other and build each other up.” And when we do, who knows, we might be feeding someone else’s good wolf too.